Activision-Blizzard's Overwatch League faces broadcast talent exodus

'We chose not to offer new contracts to everyone'

Activision-Blizzard’s Overwatch League is pushing back on criticism of its operations following the departure of several high-profile broadcast personalities, some of whom said they chose to leave the e-sports organization after they were asked to take a pay cut.

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At least five Overwatch League broadcasters have left in the weeks ahead of the group's 2020 season, which begins in February. The exiting hosts included Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles, one of Overwatch League’s original casters, and Erik “DoA” Lonnquists.

Mykles said in a lengthy Twitter thread that his departure was motivated by creative differences, while several other reports have suggested financial issues contributed to the exodus. E-sports site Dexerto reported some Overwatch League casters were asked to accept lower salaries ahead of the 2020 season despite a demanding travel schedule.

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“We greatly value the contributions of the talent team from last season, and we did make offers to most of that team to return this year,” the Overwatch League said in a statement. “We prefer not to comment on individual negotiations, but we can confirm that we chose not to offer new contracts to everyone from the 2019 roster. We wish all of our departing talent the best of luck in their future endeavors.”

The league has “worked hard to put together the best possible roster of talent for the 2020 season” and expects to announce lineup additions in the coming days, the statement added. An Activision-Blizzard representative declined to comment further on pay.

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The Overwatch League is among the most prominent e-sports competitions. The league’s championship event, the 2019 Grand Finals, drew an average minute audience of 1.12 million viewers, up 16 percent from a year earlier, according to Variety.

Overwatch League casters serve as match hosts and in-arena announcers. The 2019 season aired on ESPN and streamed on Twitch.

Not all of the casters' departures have been contentious. One of the exiting hosts, Chris Pickett, said he was leaving Overwatch League because his wife had gotten a promotion across the country in New York City.

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Overwatch League Commissioner Pete Vlastelica pushed back on the notion that casters had opted to leave. In an interview with Sports Business Journal, Vlastelica said the league decided not to renew their contracts.

His remark drew a harsh rebuke from Mykles, who said the commissioner was “lying” about why hosts left.

The departures occurred as Overwatch League prepares for a pivotal third season that will include a home-away schedule at venues around the country for the first time. Dexerto reported the expected travel exacerbated pay disputes.

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