This year was marked by the transition of Overwatch League broadcasts over to YouTube. Simultaneously, the championship was hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting problems. We will tell you how all this influenced the results of the competition's third season.
Earlier this year, Activision Blizzard announced that its esports competition was to undergo a big transition. From that moment on, the competitions in the company's disciplines had all their broadcasts moved to YouTube. This has greatly influenced the championship's viewcount.
Meanwhile, there was a need to quickly rearrange the event for it to correspond to the COVID-19 pandemic guidelines. For OWL this meant the need to cancel the Midseason Tournament, with the matches of the regular part switching to the online format. The worldwide epidemic situation has subsequently caused the organizers to make a decision for switching the playoffs to the online format as well.
What about the championship itself? For starters, the indicators of its regular part weren't that great. The most popular matches of the group stage took place at the start of the league's 2020 season. Afterwards, there was a drop in the audience's interest, although there were the occasional standalone surges of interest – like the one at the Philadelphia Fusion vs Paris Eternal match.
OWL 2020 gathered 138 peak viewers at the Toronto Defiant vs Paris Eternal match, and a total of 41 thousand average viewers overall. However, a situation regarding the results of individual languages is slightly different.
For example, New York Excelsior vs Guangzhou Charge match with its 15 thousand peak viewers was the most popular one in case of the Korean broadcast. Meanwhile, the French viewers spent most of their time on the matches of Paris Eternal. And that's while half of the team consists of Korean players.
The results are rather disappointing compared to the regular part of the last year. OWL 2019 attracted 297 thousand peak viewers, which is 215% more than the corresponding indicator of this year's tournament. As for the average viewers indicator, in 2019 its 295% higher than the one from 2020.
Talking about languages, English shows some noticeable dominance. Obviously we have excluded the Chinese language due to the platform's peculiar features. It is interesting to see that even the league's expansion from last year did not influence the English-language broadcast – despite the league now featuring France as its new representative.
Compared to the previous season, the results of Overwatch League 2020 were much more disappointing. As an example, this year's hours watched indicator of the English-language broadcasts was 77% lower than before, while the Korean-language broadcast was 72% lower.
We should remind you that the Russian and Portuguese languages have disappeared due to the new policy of Blizzard Entertainment. The company has terminated the support of these studios in February 2020. Strangely, the local fans learned about the disappearance of the Russian stream from one of the commentators, rather than from the organizers themselves.
Everything that we know so far suggests that the decision to switch to a new platform impacted the competition's popularity in a quite negative way. Additionally, while the coronavirus pandemic usually enabled the tournaments to attract more viewers than usual, in this case it had a negative impact.
Paris Eternal have achieved the highest average viewers mark (53 thousand) out of all the participants. Following it was Philadelphia Fusion with 51.7 thousand viewers. Closing the top 3 was Toronto Defiant with 51.1 thousand viewers.
It is interesting to see the league's reigning champions, San Francisco Shock, to occupy only the sixth ranking spot. And more: the victors of the London Spitfire debut season are occupying the very last spot among all the Western teams.
It wouldn't be an understatement to say that the entire Pacific bloc of OWL is an order of magnitude behind the Atlantic one – and for a good reason. The organizers were forced to divide the tournament into two distinct parts (Asia and North America) due to a slew of quarantine-imposed and international problems. The matches of the Asian part were much less interesting to the viewers, given that the list of its participants was nearly 2 times shorter than that of the American part.
The representatives of China have turned out to be the championship's most unpopular teams. All the spots at the bottom of the ranking went to Shanghai Dragons, Chengdu Hunters, Guangzhou Charge and Hangzhou Spark.
As for the performance itself, it is definitely not among the reasons for the low popularity – given that the "Dragons" made a miraculous breakthrough this year, making their way from the owners of the last spot in 2019 to the top of the standings in 2020.
The Overwatch League playoffs will encompass two stages and a total of $4 million of prize money to be played. The Regional Finals for North America and Asia will take place on September 3-13, and then its winners will travel to the season's final event, taking place on October 8-10.
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