Overwatch League has reported that its Week 16 average minute audience (AMA) this past weekend was 63K viewers, more than double the prior week and a positive sign in its bid to boost its ratings. The league this past weekend was both experimenting with a new May Melee tournament format, and it was also the first weekend of the season in which token drops were in effect. Token drops are incentives for players of Overwatch to watch OWL action (this year on OWL.com or the league app) by giving them in-game rewards for the amount of time watched. The league switched this year from Twitch to YouTube as part of a three-year, $160M USD deal with Activision Blizzard Esports, and its viewership so far this year has been down markedly – though drops often happen in the first year that a sports property switches networks.
That may be even more so the case in esports because Twitch has become a dominant platform for viewing, so Activision Blizzard took a gamble by leaving the platform. Viewership this past weekend was 63K globally versus 31K the week prior; in the U.S. it was 68K, while Asia was 52K versus 23K for the prior week. The viewership numbers take into account numbers from YouTube and OWL’s platforms, but the league says the comparisons are apples to apples versus prior weeks this season. The boost is an indicator that YouTube and OWL do have some tools and levers to increase viewership.
The new May Melee structure is an experiment in trying to run a month-long regional tournament, instead of more traditional league action like what you see in traditional sports with a handful of pre-set matches for a given weekend. The San Francisco Shock won the North American bracket and the Shanghai Dragons were victorious in the Asia region bracket.
League execs seemed to be pleased by the reception from fans of the tournament, with VP Jon Spector tweeting: “Our May Melee was a ton of fun, and we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from our community.”
Activision Blizzard Esports President & CEO Pete Vlastelica added: “We’re really excited about how the May Melee turned out, and I’m proud of everyone involved for achieving this in a season that never stopped operating during Covid-19. As a league, we have worked hard with our partner YouTube to improve the live esports viewing experience for our fans, making the necessary changes to meet the demands of fans and players alike with the return of viewership rewards and dynamic tournament scheduling.”
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