The Drone Racing League (DRL) has struck rights agreements with NBC and Twitter in the US, a move the circuit’s founder has described as “the next phase of evolution” in its media distribution strategy.
Under the terms of the new contracts, NBC, NBC Sports and Twitter will air the entire 2019 DRL Allianz World Championship season, beginning with the league’s season four launch on Sunday 11th August.
NBC, which replaces ESPN as the DRL’s US broadcast partner, will air more than 44 hours of coverage in each of the next two seasons alongside an existing motorsports programming line-up that also includes Nascar, Indycar and Pro Motocross.
Twitter will meanwhile show professional drone racing for the first time, showcasing the DRL to a potential audience of 47 million US users.
Speaking exclusively to SportsPro, DRL chief executive and founder Nicholas Horbaczewski said the league was drawn to NBC due to its “incredible heritage in racing”, adding: “They scored the rights by convincing us as that the future was about innovation in the same way that we thought about the future being about innovation.”
The new deals continue the DRL’s shift from linear TV to digital platforms, and come in the wake of a recent three-year partnership with Youku, one of the largest streaming networks in China.
According to official DRL figures, more than 57 million fans have tuned in across the league’s first three seasons, which were exclusively broadcast on linear channels.
“We are entering our next phase of evolution,” said Horbaczewski. “We’re advancing what we’re doing, we’re expanding the reach of who we’re getting to. I think you’ll see us making these changes around the world.
“Fans are getting clear about where they want to consume content. People are getting used to the options being more diverse, and the onus is on leagues like us to stay ahead of that curve.”
Horbaczewski added that the DRL is already seeing strong engagement rates on Twitter, where its official channel has amassed more than 34,000 followers.
“It’s currently where the conversation goes on about DRL racing as it’s being broadcast, so it makes so much sense to be able to bring the racing there as well,” he continued.
“Twitter has built a very unique and effective platform for bringing sports content to fans as they’re watching. They manage to be both the conversation and a really compelling form of digital distribution at the same time.”
Commenting in a statement, TJ Adeshola, Twitter’s head of US sports partnerships, said “the fast, non-stop action” of the DRL “fits perfectly with the always-on nature” of the social platform.
“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,” he added.