Eurosport's latest TV network looking to pilot drone racing

Tue Oct 4, 2016 1:20am EDT
 
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By Jessica Toonkel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Eurosport, Discovery Communications Inc's European sports broadcaster, is in talks with potential partners to broadcast drone racing, making it the latest network looking to experiment with the fledgling sport in which contestants navigate small, remote-controlled aircraft at high speeds through aerial obstacle courses.

For television networks and advertisers, 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.

Eurosport would join 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.

On top of that, the league has partnered with MGM Television, run by Mark Burnett, to develop a reality series about the pilots.

"We think it's an area worth us paying attention to and to test on audiences," Peter Hutton, chief executive of Eurosport, told Reuters in an interview.

Eurosport, a pan-European sports media group that Discovery bought last year, has 228 million subscribers in 93 countries in Europe, Asia and Australia.

While the network typically focuses on traditional sports like tennis and soccer, drone racing has "potential for sporting credibility," Hutton said, declining to elaborate on discussions with drone leagues.

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A drone pilot prepares his drone before the first SPARK Multirotor Challenge in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina September 10, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo