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The World Surf League has to be “digital first” by default based on how its events rely on wave patterns and weather conditions. As a result, it can’t have a regular programming schedule with a traditional broadcaster.
So after experimenting with Facebook Live over the past year, the WSL and Facebook announced this week that the surfing property would live stream its 2017 Championship Tour men’s and women’s events and Big Wave Tour events via its Facebook account, which has more than six million fans.
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“Surfers have always been pioneers. They’re always looking at the next wave, the next location or the next big thing,” said Tim Greenberg, WSL Chief Community Officer. “Surfers have always been willing to adopt new technologies.
“As a digital first company, when we started having the conversations about what the future looks like, we jumped at the opportunity with Facebook to take a different look and a different approach of how we were distributing our content.”
Greenberg explained that the WSL had to “cut the cord early on” because of surfing’s unpredictable nature. The new partnership with Facebook will see the league provide over 800 hours of live content in 2017.
“What really attracted me and the company to Facebook specifically was the interactivity and the in-the-moment audience,” said Greenberg, who added that the WSL’s average audience age is 32 while 81 percent of its audience is under 44. “We have a fairly large audience of engaged and loyal fans on Facebook across the globe, so it felt like a natural fit for us.
“It’s sort of in our DNA to be mobile first and think digitally.”
For the 2017 season given the new Facebook Live relationship, fans can expect tighter camera shots, different angles and other new broadcast elements as part of the digital initiative. They’ll be notified via push notifications and Facebook alerts when competitions begin in order to tune in, with the first live stream scheduled for the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast from March 14-25.
“We’re excited for the World Surf League to deliver its full season of live events to a global audience on Facebook,” Dan Reed, Facebook Head of Global Sports Partnerships, said in a statement. “Thanks to its innovative video strategy, highlighted by a consistent and creative use of Facebook Live, the WSL has built a highly-engaged community of fans on the platform. Enabling these fans to watch the Championship Tour together is yet another example of the league’s forward-thinking Facebook approach.”