Drone Racing League Announces Partnerships With Twitter And NBC/NBCSN
Social media and technology are already integral pieces of the sports landscape. They impact every aspect of the industry, from the in-game experience, to how fans interact with their favorite players, teams and leagues. This is why it is no surprise that on March 12, the Drone Racing League (DRL) announced its new streaming and broadcast partners – Twitter and NBC/NBCSN – bringing its innovative property to the social space for the first time.
“For us, this is an amazing combination to bring fans of our sport the content they want on great platforms,” Drone Racing League Founder and CEO Nicholas Horbaczewski told The Sports Biz. “We spent the last three years on linear distribution, which was awesome for us. They gave us a lot of engagement and reach. But we’ve received a lot of feedback from fans who wanted to watch us on digital platforms.”
DRL, the global leader of First Person View (FPV) drone racing, was founded by Horbaczewski in 2015 and partnered with ESPN in 2016 on a media distribution deal. In 2017, it partnered with Munich-based insurance company Allianz to create the DRL Allianz World Championship Season. The 2019 campaign kicks off August 11 on Twitter and NBC.
In Horbaczewski’s view, partnering with one of the nation’s most established linear platforms on a two-year agreement while also striking a one-year deal with a preeminent social platform that continues to propel itself into the daily conversation of not only sports, but current events altogether, is like striking gold. The NBA, NFL, MLS, WNBA and other prominent leagues have all partnered with Twitter in some capacity within the last few years. And according to an eMarketer forecast from last year, the number of cord-cutters is expected to rise to 55.1 million Americans by 2022.
“Linear is still the most powerful distribution platform for sports,” Horbaczewski said. “To be on a network like NBC showing sports content, there’s really noting that can quite parallel that in today’s world. But I do think what you’re seeing is that sports are not immune to the trends that affect all other parts of content-based entertainment… What’s interesting and kind of groundbreaking about this deal is that it’s true, simultaneous linear and digital distribution. And hopefully this serves as an example of what sports broadcasting can be in the future.”
Allowing itself to be flexible across multiple platforms will enable DRL to showcase fresh content in more places, which in turn can attract additional fans. Horbaczewski spoke of planned features around the individual pilots, from their strategies while competing to their lifestyles while away from the races. There will also be pieces on the drones – which has already driven tons of curiosity from spectators – about the creation and design of the quad-copter aerial vehicles that can reach speeds of up to 120 mph.
This, along with the fast-paced nature of Twitter, is a perfect storm for the platform. “The fast, non-stop action of the Drone Racing League fits perfectly with the always-on nature of Twitter,” said TJ Adeshola, Head of US Sports Partnerships at Twitter, in the March 12 press release. “We’re excited to bring live video content from this futuristic robotic sport and pair it with the already active conversation around DRL all in one place on Twitter.”
While Twitter appears to fit a new generation of fans and align well with their consumption of sports, the NBC/NBCSN angle opens up DRL to an entirely new wave of fans – those already watching traditional motorsports.
NBC has a storied history with racing, dating back to the 1970s when it began broadcasting NASCAR. After a couple of hiatuses, “NASCAR on NBC” returned in 2015 and is scheduled to continue through 2024. NBC is also the home of IndyCar and Pro Motorsports.
“NBC can very credibly say they are home of motorsports in the U.S. I think that fans understand it that way and they’re excited about it,” Horbaczewski said. “We have fans who come from all different backgrounds, who crossover from Esports, but we also have fans who crossover from traditional motorsports. It was very exciting for us to be able to team up with the network who has the most authentic history in the motorsports distribution space.”
Ultimately, while Horbaczewski noted a general goal to increase DRL’s fan base due to these partnerships, he said he will actually be measuring the success of these deals based off fan feedback. He noted how honest and straightforward they were when asking for additional ways to view DRL and interact with the product. “As long as they feel we’ve achieved the kind of distribution access they want, it will take a huge step forward.”