Overwatch League viewership increases due to tournament model

The Summer Showdown provided excitement and incentives for fans to tune in.

Photo by Robert Paul via Blizzard Entertainment

The Overwatch League is finally understanding that high stakes equal high viewership.

Live viewership on YouTube has seen a marked increase since the Overwatch League’s move to monthly tournaments, according to statistics provided by the league’s public relations. Last weekend’s Summer Showdown tournament delivered several increases and high numbers, proving the tournament model is one that fans will tune in for. 

Overall, the live “average minute audience” (AMA) for the Summer Showdown tournament weekend, or week 22 of the league, was 54,000, which is a five-percent increase from the previous weekend. Week 21 even included a double token promotion for viewers and the bracket weekend still topped those numbers. 

The weekend’s peak viewership happened during the semifinals match between the San Francisco Shock, the May Melee champions, and the Paris Eternal. This was the highest peak viewership on YouTube since the Overwatch League’s move to online-only play and was only overshadowed by opening weekend games in early February. The Overwatch League didn’t provide a specific number for this peak viewership count, however.

This overall uptick can be attributed to the excitement of the tournament model and the Summer Showdown in particular. The weekend began with unlikely upsets against top teams, which raised interest in the tournament as a whole. By the time the San Francisco Shock faced the Paris Eternal in the semifinals, the Shock were expected to take the entire tournament. Paris ended up defeating them, facing the Philadelphia Fusion in a tense grand finals match that led to an Eternal victory. 

“Even in a world where seemingly everything about broadcasting matches has shifted, the constant we’ve heard from our fans is that they want matches that are exciting and have high stakes,” said Jonathan Stringfield, vice president of measurement and insights for Activision Blizzard Esports. “The tournament structure that the team has put in place is clearly meeting that need and is reflected in recent viewership performance.” 

YouTube viewership for matches in the Asia bracket, however, is maintaining a plateau. While North American viewership jumped to 61,000 AMA, Asia held steady at 48,000 AMA. The Overwatch League is still calculating Chinese viewership, which is mostly on sites like BiliBili. 

Considering these numbers, it’s no surprise that the Overwatch League is continuing the tournament model in 2020 and possibly beyond. Jon Spector, the vice president of the Overwatch League, mentioned the possibility of tournaments continuing in 2021 in a recent Twitter post. “Ultimately, we want to find a way to blend the excitement of homestands around the world with the monthly tournament structure we’ve developed for online matches,” Spector said. 

The Overwatch League is taking a break this weekend but will be back on July 17 with the Countdown Cup, the final tournament of the 2020 regular season.