Disney Enters the Gaming Arena… Again
For a company as successful and large as Disney, video games have become one of the mediums that just seem unable to crack. During the peak investment in gaming with the Disney Interactive brand, the company lost more than 200 million dollars for 5 straight years. That’s an insane amount of money to be hemorrhaging. They found some brief success in the Disney Infinity brand, but decided to close-up shop in 2016 and with that its ambition to be a major player in the gaming space.
At least as a publisher.
Last year, Disney (mostly through Disney XD) took its first steps into being a company that embraces the eSport world and gaming in general. During the summer of 2017, it aired new episodes of the IGN Show, Parker Plays, Polaris Primetime and more. And while those shows weren’t necessarily ratings hit, they seem to have gained enough interest for Disney to pursue more gaming coverage including a Splatoon 2 tourney, the Nintendo World Championships and most recently coverage of e3 2018.
It seems that these endeavors have really lit a fire under Disney to expand even beyond Disney XD. It begun last month when they announced a partnership with Nintendo to create a brand new competitive family show featuring the Nintendo Switch. A move that looks to expand beyond their Summer 2017 block as it features content created wholly by Disney and a partner company. It will also air on both Disney XD and the Disney Channel.
But if all of that was testing the water, Disney cannoballed into the pool today when they announced they had secured broadcasting rights for the Overwatch League. Not only that but it will air on a suite of Disney-owned channels including ESPN and Disney channel. And will be given primetime slots for live events.
While it is an aggressive play by Disney there is one massive hurdle they must get past first. For the most part, video games and especially eSports have grown up with the internet which means a wide swath of its audience is accustom to streaming the content on platforms such as Twitch and Youtube. They come with few of the restrains of network television and lesser need to take commercial break. But if Disney can position itself correctly, can go after the younger kids market whose parents may find it best to keep them away from problematic chats or an older demo who may have a passing interest in game. It’s a narrow window, but if anyone can find an opening it would be Disney.
This multi-year deal represents the most aggressive play by any of the major network owners to break into the eSports arena, and we’re curious to see how it all plays out for them.