“The time has come to stand out,” states Blizzard’s announcement. “The Overwatch League All-Access Pass on Twitch [for the 2018 OWL season] is for our super fans: an evolving VIP badge that you can wear in game and in Twitch chat, and that offers a premium viewing experience and behind-the scenes access.”
Here’s a full run-down of features:
- Overwatch League content (dubbed “Command Center”)
- Second-screen stream with “alternate in-game camera angles, backstage cameras, player POVs, and real-time stats.”
- Behind-the-scene VODs, which this season is a weekly series called “Behind the Screens.”
- Match-day AMAs with pro players held post-match.
- All above features will be available for free through May 15 to promote the All-Access Pass.
- Twitch content
- 23 global chat emotes, including “gold team emotes and character ability emotes.”
- A global chat badge, and within the OWL stream, a subscription icon with additional features for Twitch Prime subscribers.
- An All-Access Pass-exclusive Twitch chat room.
- Ad-free viewing on Twitch for OWL broadcasts.
- Overwatch in-game content
- OWL-themed skins for multiple heroes.
- An OWL-themed spray and player icon.
Twitch is selling the All-Access Pass for $29.99 ($19.99 for Twitch Prime subscribers) and it will be available through the 2018 season. The Command Center will be available until the next season starts, in which case subscribers will need to resubscribe to retain access, while the rest of the content will be permanently added to the subscriber’s Twitch and Overwatch account.
In many ways, the OWL All-Access Pass is modeled after traditional sports second-screen and exclusive content offerings. The NFL’s Sunday Ticket, for example, offers exclusive channels, embedded player stats, and shortened game recaps. As another, MLB.tv lets viewers access multiple game broadcasts and one of the slickest UIs available in streaming. By borrowing these elements from traditional sports, and by integrating other esports-exclusive features, Blizzard and Twitch are hoping to activate a new level of following for OWL.
To be clear, this new addition to OWL fandom is an important and necessary step forward, for both Twitch and Blizzard. For Twitch, the case is simple: after establishing its exclusive streaming of the league, now it needs to proving value add-ons that push OWL fans towards its bread-and-butter revenue source, Twitch Prime. By offering the Pass at a lower cost for Prime members, and by giving additional bumps to Prime Passholders, it reinforces the use of Prime to OWL superfans.
For Blizzard, the need for this Pass is more dire. Blizzard’s business model for the OWL has always been suspect—the franchise buy-in cost of $20M is now reportedly increasing to between $35M and $60M. Teams will eventually expect this value to come back to them, but to date the revenue sources for the league have been relatively limited, with the Twitch exclusivity deal being the primary driver. Additional revenue sources like virtual jersey sales seem pale in comparison.
That’s why obtaining significant, repeatable revenue sources like the All-Access Pass are so important. With viewership stabilizing, OWL now has an opportunity to give its dedicated followers additional content for a relatively low price.