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World Surf League strikes major distribution deal with ESPN+ ahead of 2024 CT season


World Surf League has commenced a new distribution agreement between the sport’s global governing body and ESPN+ in the United States.

ESPN+ will provide live coverage of the 10 World Surf League Championship Tour events in 2024, along with the highly anticipated nine-day US Open of Surfing Challenger Series contest in August. Expanding beyond livestreaming, the agreement will offer surfing fans an exclusive behind-the-scenes perspective with a new docuseries WSL: Inside Pro Surfing, set to air on the linear cable channel ESPN2.

As of September 30, ESPN+ boasts 26 million paying subscribers, while ESPN2 reaches 70.2 million US households. Prior to this collaboration, WSL’s North American distribution was confined to smaller outlets such as beIN Sports (8.97 million subscribers) and KCBS-TV, a broadcast affiliate serving 5.84 million homes in the Los Angeles market.

This partnership marks a significant shift for WSL, especially after experiencing challenges with ABC during the summer of 2021. The eight-part competition series The Ultimate Surfer aired on ABC but was subsequently cancelled after averaging 1.28 million viewers. The move to Disney-owned platforms signifies a turnaround for WSL, especially considering that negotiations with Netflix fell through around the same time as The Ultimate Surfer.

In addition to the media-rights pact with ESPN+, WSL has secured new sponsorships from prominent brands like Lexus and Eventbrite, joining returning partners Apple Watch and Red Bull in supporting the growth and visibility of professional surfing.

Surfing made its Olympic debut in Tokyo three years ago and has retained a spot on the schedule for the Games in Paris this July-August.

Image credit: Leo za1

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