Overwatch League expanding to Paris, DC and across China
NEW YORK (AP) — The Overwatch League has announced six new franchises, bringing the global esport league’s total to 20 heading into its second season.
The league announced clubs in Paris; Washington; Toronto; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Chinese teams in Chengdu and Hangzhou. The league added franchises in Atlanta and Guangzhou, China, earlier this season.
The Paris team will be operated by Drew McCourt, the son of former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. Drew McCourt has worked for his father at the Dodgers. Frank McCourt also owns French soccer club Olympique de Marseille. Frank McCourt’s ownership of the Dodgers ended after the club filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2011. Drew McCourt is branching out from his father’s McCourt Global to operate the esports franchise, and Frank McCourt won’t be involved.
Paris joins London as the only European Overwatch League franchises. The league will have 11 U.S. teams, two in Canada, one in Seoul and four in China, including the existing Shanghai club.
The push into China is critical for the league, which drew much of its viewership from China in its first season despite having just one franchise located there, according to Pete Vlastelica, CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues.
Overwatch has expanded its reach and added potentially pivotal partners in Huya and Bilibili, streaming platforms that purchased the Chengdu and Hangzhou clubs, respectively. The league had agreements to stream matches on NetEase, Douyu and Panda last season — NetEase owns the Shanghai franchise — but Vlastelica said the league is in discussions to shuffle that arrangement for 2019.
London beat Philadelphia for the inaugural Overwatch League championship in July. All the league’s teams are based in Los Angeles currently, with OWL aiming to begin true home-and-away matches in 2020.