ESPN to Air Drone Racing Games

ESPN announced it has partnered up with New York-based Drone Racing League (DRL) to broadcast first-person-view drone racing competitions, beginning Oct. 23, offering the nascent sport its biggest potential audience to date.

The 10-episode Drone Racing League 2016 season will see more than two dozen pilots competing with custom-made drones on closed courses (including subway tunnels and football stadiums) in New York, Los Angeles and Cincinnati, with ESPN airing the DRL 2016 World Championship across two episodes beginning Nov. 20.

Along with a multi-year broadcast agreement with ESPN, DRL announced that Sky in the U.K. and ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have also signed on to carry the races on both pay TV and digital channels. In 2017, DRL and Sky will debut the U.K.’s first professional drone race in London, while ProSiebenSat.1’s 7Sports will help host a first-ever pro drone race in Germany.

“Coverage of DRL lets us merge storytelling, technology and competition into compelling weekly content that we believe will appeal to a growing audience,” Matthew Volk, ESPN’s director of programming and acquisitions, said in a statement. “We look forward to delivering events and programming to passionate fans of this emerging sport.”

In addition to the broadcasts, DRL is working with MGM Television to produce unscripted drone racing shows, covering the technology and pilots, with Mark Burnett (Survivor, Shark Tank) producing.

“Having distribution and strategic agreements with ESPN, Sky and 7Sports will bring DRL to tens of millions of viewers around the globe while reflecting a collective commitment to DRL from the world’s best sport broadcasting companies,” said DRL CEO and founder Nicholas Horbaczewski. “Our partnership with MGM Television… will introduce new audiences to the sport.

“With their expertise and our industry leading technology, media production and development of the best competitive racing, we believe we can truly grow a global franchise around this futuristic, high-speed racing sport.”