YouTube has paid Blizzard approximately $160 million for the three-year deal involving the exclusive broadcasting rights to Overwatch League (OWL), Call of Duty League (CDL), and Hearthstone esports, The Esports Observer (TEO) reported Thursday.
According to TEO, the majority of the pay-out was to cover the rights to OWL, which entered its third season last week and ushered in the homestand matches format. CDL got “lesser but still notable amount” and Hearthstone was almost a freebie content Blizzard gifted to YouTube.
This is the second time a broadcasting platform is paying over eight figures for Overwatch esports. Ahead of the league’s inaugural season, Twitch payed Blizzard $90M two years of exclusive rights, but the deal was never renewed. OWL and CDL going to YouTube also communicates Google’s renewed dedication to be a player on the esports market. Previous endeavors by YouTube have had mixed to negative results, but recently the platform lured all of Lannan “LazarBeam” Eacott, Elliott “Muselk” Watkins, and Rachell “Valkyrae” Hofstetter to abandon Twitch. Counting the loss of Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Michael “shroud” Grzesiek to Mixer, Twitch’s list of high-profile content creators is growing thinner.
Although the OWL has been getting some negative press surrounding the departure of key talent such as Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles, Erik “DoA” Lonnquist, and Auguste “Semmler” Massonnat, among others, it remains a massive esports franchise with significant brand value, ergo a lucrative pick-up for YouTube’s esports strategy. The three-year period is a long one, however, and there’s no telling how much — or whether — the two major leagues will pay off the nine-figure investment.