Activision Blizzard and Google have announced a new partnership today that will see all Overwatch, Call of Duty, and Hearthstone esports broadcasts streamed exclusively through YouTube Gaming.
The partnership extends even further than traditional broadcast rights. Google Cloud will be the “preferred partner” for hosting Blizzard games. Google also plans to better the experience for fans and players with infrastructure improvements made to its servers hosting these games.
Last year, Twitch held the exclusive rights for these broadcasts, which allowed their esports leagues to be broadcast on channels like ESPN and ABC. Those rights have expired and YouTube Gaming will now be the home for all Blizzard esports.
“With more than 200 million gamers a day watching more than 50 billion hours of gaming content per year, YouTube provides gamers and their passionate fans with the most popular video gaming platform in the world.” Youtube Gaming executive Ryan Wyatt said. “I couldn’t be more excited for Activision Blizzard to choose YouTube as its exclusive home for the digital live streaming of both leagues. This partnership further demonstrates our dedication to having a world class live streaming product for gaming.”
While Blizzard and YouTube are outwardly pleased with the transaction, the overwhelming majority of fans are not. There are many concerns about whether fans will be forced to pay for YouTube Premium to enjoy an ad-free experience on the platform, which would be on top of an additional fee if Blizzard chooses to maintain its all-access pass like the Overwatch League had last year.
YouTube Premium is a paid service that provides ad-free streaming of all videos and live streams on the platform. It also grants access to YouTube’s original content, audio-only versions of music videos, and offline and background playback on mobile devices. The cost is $11.99 USD per month for the service, which comes to $144 per year. This is more than the annual price of Amazon Prime at $119 per year, which brings with it many more features and perks.
No details about whether YouTube Premium will be the only way to view the matches ad-free have yet been released.