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Overwatch League’s Grand Finals Grows 16% in Average Viewers From Last Year

UPDATED: Activision Blizzard released the viewership numbers on Overwatch League’s season capstone event, the 2019 Grand Finals, on Thursday, showing an increase on its inaugural season.

The league uses average minute audience (AMA) in its measurements, which counts viewers by how many minutes they watch the broadcast. Using this AMA metric, the Overwatch Grand Finals drew 1.12 million average viewers, up 16% from last year. This counts viewers on digital platforms such as Twitch, as well as the ABC broadcast, and the data counts live and first 24 hours rebroadcast viewing.

Additionally, U.S. AMA viewership came in at 472k, representing a 41% uptick from last year, and the 18-34 demographic in the U.S. was 182k, a 13% year-over-year increase.

The season altogether was up 11% in viewership for the 18-34 demographic, and during a conference call with journalists on Thursday, Activision Blizzard chief marketing officer Daniel Cherry touted the fact that OWL was the only major sports league to show a rise in the demo this year. “Two years [after OWL launched], we’re in conversations comparable to the biggest sports leagues in the world,” he said.

Cherry and Blizzard Entertainment strategy and analysts lead Kasra Jafroodi also addressed concerns about viewership numbers being goosed by Twitch embeds on various websites. Jafroodi said while the embeds impact certain metrics, like uniques and views, it has a minimal effect on the AMA measurement in particular. “The reason we use AMA is because it can’t be driven up by embedding,” he said.

“One of the things that’s important to us is that we want to have a pure viewership metric,” added Cherry. “We want to count every fan who watched and did so credibly.”

The past weekend’s Grand Finals saw the San Francisco Shock and Vancouver Titans go head to head, with the Shock proving decidedly victorious in a 4-0 sweep. Zedd served as the event’s headlining performer at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, and was joined by Kehlani for a surprise performance during the pre-show.

Next season will see OWL moving from the Blizzard Arena to a home-and-away format. Pete Vlastelica, president and CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports and commissioner of OWL, told Variety in an interview last week that the format “unlocks what we think is special about this league.” “It can’t be the Overwatch League without being in home markets,” he said.

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