At the beginning of the year, Activision Blizzard has announced that broadcasts of all of its major competitions will be exclusive to YouTube, surprising pretty much everyone. We are going to summarize the results of the Overwatch League and tell you how the tournament has fared in its first week at the new place.
In our report for the first week of OWL, we will compare the event to the previous two seasons, as well as with the debut of the Call of Duty League. We have already talked about the latter in our blog.
To put it simply, the first week of the third season has shown underwhelming results, including the lowest indicators across the entire series of championships. It can be surmised that the third season of OWL continues to lose viewers in accordance with the negative trends set by its predecessor.
When looking at the individual broadcasts, the decrease shown by the Korean-language stream would be the most depressing one so far. Compared to the previous year, it has lost 73% peak viewers and 60% average viewers. The schedule may be to blame, as in case of Korea the league matches began late at night. However, the second week will feature a timezone that's far more suitable for this particular country, so let's not rush to the conclusions just yet.
The new format of the event could be partly to blame for the negative impact – given that now every week the matches are held in a new location, instead of being limited to a single arena. The frequent changes of venue took extra time, causing the strong drop of indicators for the period of switching between the locations.
The existence of negative results has a lot of reasons, but the change of the streaming platform may just be the chief one. Twitch has provided a wide variety of advantages, including expanded functionality, special sets of competitions, a large number of other events, promotions, unique rewards and so on.
Finally, over a couple of years of broadcasting Twitch became nothing short of a staple for all the fans of the discipline. Upon their switch to YouTube, the organizers couldn't offer even a fraction of the Twitch's aforementioned repertoire. Additionally, Blizzard have also failed to implement the rewards system, while before the audience has received special points that could be using for buying unique in-game cosmetic content related to the OWL teams.
The problems came in all sizes and shapes, including the repeat of the search engine error we saw at the Call of Duty League. To be more precise, the fans could not find the Korean-language OWL broadcast, and could only enter it via a link.
But the story does not end at this. The year 2020 is also marked by the Blizzard's decision to abandon the official Russian and Portuguese broadcasts, something which certainly wasn't welcome by the community. While these particular broadcasts weren't major sources of views, they still had their audience to gather and made the process of watching the tournament more comfortable to the local fans.
Talking about the changes to the Overwatch League, there was an interesting one in relation to the away matches. Unlike in 2019, now the event features a change of venue on the constant basis, with the matches being allocated to the home arenas of the participants of the league. Theoretically, this should impact the interest of the local audience in a positive way. Another positive factor comes from the use of time zones which are more suitable to the fans of particular teams. The second week will be held in Philadelphia, and then the event will move to Washington.
All of this allows to draw some analogies to the Call of Duty League, which had a worse launch compared to OWL. The Launch Weekend had 25% less peak viewers and 43% less average viewers – and that's while the Overwatch League itself has shown much worse performance compared to its two predecessors.
The start of the third season of the Overwatch League wasn't that great, but the organizers are already putting a lot of effort into improving their creation and reverse the ever-declining popularity trend which has been plaguing them for months.