6 big numbers to know ahead of the 2021 Overwatch League season

by Mitch Reames

As the Overwatch League enters its fourth season, the story of the league from its highs to its lows can be told by the numbers around it. Here are six numbers to keep in mind while watching the league this year.

$600 million (approximately)

The combined franchise fees teams are paying to join the OWL

According to reports by Jacob Wolf while at ESPN, the initial franchise slots for the 12 teams in OWL Season 1 each cost $20 million. For the eight expansion teams that followed starting with Season 2, those slots reportedly cost between $30-$60 million. If the eight expansion teams all averaged out to $45 million, the 20 teams would make up a combined entry fee of $600 million. In 2020, Activision Blizzard announced it was talking with team owners to restructure fees due to the pandemic.

Read more: Overwatch League Preseason Power Rankings


Players who were rostered by an OWL team in 2020 who retired to play VALORANT

On April 12, Terence “SoOn” Tarlier, who played for the Paris Eternal in Season 3, became the latest Overwatch player to announce his retirement to play VALORANT. His retirement brings the list up to 17. Below are all the other players who were rostered by an OWL team during Season 3 who moved over to VALORANT. These players all experienced various levels of success from league MVP to replacement-level.

  • Jay “Sinatraa” Won (San Francisco Shock)
  • Corey “Corey” Nigra (Washington Justice)
  • Andrej “BabyBay” Francisty (Atlanta Reign)
  • Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty (Houston Outlaws)
  • Jung-woo “Spyder / Sayaplayer” Ha (Florida Mayhem)
  • Zachary “ZachaREEE” Lombardo (Dallas Fuel)
  • Damien “HyP” Souville (Paris Eternal)
  • Luis “Greyy” Perestrelo (Paris Eternal)
  • Thomas “brussen” Brussen (Boston Uprising)
  • Jun-ki “Bazzi” Park (Hangzhou Spark)
  • Sang-beom “Munchkin” Byeon (Boston Uprising)
  • Benjamin “uNKOE” Chevasson (Dallas Fuel)
  • Ashley “Trill” Powell (Dallas Fuel)
  • Dylan “aKm” Bignet (Dallas Fuel)
  • Kang-jae “envy” Lee (Shanghai Dragons)
  • Seon-chang “ANS” Lee (San Francisco Shock)

Read more: Here are 5 Rookie of the Year contenders this Overwatch League season


The reported increase in viewership for the grand finals in China from 2019 to 2020

Although China’s viewership data is notoriously hard to verify, Activision Blizzard has announced that the viewership for the grand finals between the San Francisco Shock and the Seoul Dynasty in 2020 represented a 260% increase over the 2019 grand finals between the San Francisco Shock and the Vancouver Titans.


The amount of total viewership for the grand finals that came from China

China’s reported Average Minute Audience (AMA) was 1.39 million according to Activision Blizzard. The global AMA was 1.55 million. The gap between those numbers is just 160,000 viewers, the AMA for the rest of the world outside of China. Considering the final was between a team in South Korea and a team in North America, that viewership shows an esport struggling to gain traction in every other country.


The decline in viewers in North America from the 2019 finals to the 2020 finals

Activision Blizzard announced 472,000 viewers were the AMA for the 2019 finals. Assuming all 160,000 viewers outside of China in 2020 were based in the US (highly unlikely), that would still be a massive decrease in North American viewership year-over-year. This data is backed by Esports Charts, a leading esports viewership metrics provider that doesn’t factor in data from China, which found that the average audience for the 2020 OWL finals was 103,000. It’s worth noting the 2019 finals aired on ABC, which was incorporated into the viewership while the 2020 finals only aired on digital channels and was broadcast early in the morning in North America.


Number of teams based in Western cities competing out of Asia this year

Due to the pandemic, the Overwatch League has separated the teams in the league to East (Asia) and West (North America) regions. Part of that restructure means the New York Excelsior, Philadelphia Fusion and Los Angeles Valiant all will be operating their teams out of Asia this season. The NYXL and Fusion will be based in Seoul, South Korea, this year while the Valiant will be competing out of China. This brings the division split to eight teams in the East and 12 in the West. It’s a balancing of scales that could continue even after the pandemic subsides considering viewership growth in China.

Lead image credit: Overwatch League

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