Eurosport, Discovery Communications Inc's European sports broadcaster, announced on Monday it has signed a deal to broadcast drone races, joining a number of networks to televise the fledgling sport in which pilots navigate remote-controlled aircrafts at high speeds through aerial obstacle courses.
Eurosport has signed a one-year deal with DR1 Racing, a Los Angeles-based drone racing organisation, to broadcast the Drone Racing Invitationals on Nov. 8 as well as three additional races next year in 70 countries.
The pan-European sports media group, which Discovery bought last year, has 228 million subscribers in 93 countries in Europe, Asia and Australia and hopes drone racing will help it reach a younger audience, Peter Hutton, chief executive of Eurosport, told Reuters.
For Eurosport and other networks, drone racing represents an opportunity to combine the live-event attraction of NASCAR and Formula 1 with the digital-age appeal of what has become known as eSports, in which video game players compete while millions of viewers watch online, usually for free.
"We think the space has gotten interesting ... and we like the idea of having storylines around individuals that we can build up as heroes," Hutton said of the drone pilots. "We see this as a journey toward a younger demographic."
Reuters reported earlier this month that Eurosport was in talks with potential partners to broadcast drone racing.
Eurosport, like other networks experimenting with drone racing, will broadcast the races on TV after they have occurred on a post-produced basis in order to show edited clips, Hutton said, adding that other footage will be available online.
Eurosport joins Disney Corp's ESPN, British broadcaster Sky Plc and Germany's ProSiebenSat.1, all of which have recently signed on to broadcast races by the 15-month-old Drone Racing League. Sky also agreed to invest $1 million in the league.
(Reporting by Jessica Toonkel, editing by G Crosse)