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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Thu, 25 January 2018

World domination is one step closer after the WSL and Facebook announced a historic partnership yesterday for exclusive streaming rights. Spike wonders if the hashtag is justified.


DISTRACTION: The WSL press release came with this amazing photo. Photo WSL / Kirstin

So Facebook, which is a social media platform, will now be the exclusive digital home for events on the men’s and women’s Championship Tour, Qualifying Series 10,000, Big Wave Tour events, and the World Junior Championships. Does exclusivity mean cannabilising the WSL website or app by denying the live streams or heat replays on the website or mobile app?

I asked Dave Prodan ("Senior Vice President of Global Brand Identity" at the WSL) and he said: "once the live viewing experience is as good if not better than the current experience, it will migrate exclusively to the Facebook platform and no longer be available on the WSL site or App. Until then, however, it will continue to be available on the website and app. The digital partnership with FB will not impact the linear broadcast partnerships so those will remain intact."

According to the press release, the deal "builds upon the non-exclusive live rights agreement that Facebook and WSL struck last year" when CT and BWT events "were simulcast on Facebook and WSL’s website and mobile app". It obviously did very well. Apart from the WSL channels "more than 13.9 million people watched a World Surf League event on Facebook in 2017" and "from countries all over the world".


DOLLAR DELETE: Perhaps the deal is not a big deal? The fans think differently.

Guess who were the biggest? Well, the US and Brazil are obvious contenders, with Mexico in an interesting 3rd place. No place for Australia even? The rather British CEO of the WSL, Sophie Goldschmidt, hinted at the almost imperialist blueprint to colonise the world with surfing. An inland wave pool was one way to do it. This is the clincher. She and ISA President Fernando Aguerre must have been chatting about overlapping strategy.

“Facebook fosters a global community and, as surfing is a sport that celebrates and centres around community, we are proud to announce our media rights partnership with the platform,” she said. It was “game-changing for the sport” because as a free service it would attract new fans and “deliver the world’s best surfing to even more people on Facebook’s platform.”

Facebook Head of Global Sports Partnerships Dan Reeds (yes that is a job description) was understandably thrilled. Of course he is, the numbers the WSL delivers are spectacular, and right up with the big sports. In fact, according to a late 2017 analysis of social engagement by Sports Business Journal and data-mining company Hookit, the WSL ranks in the top three sports leagues in the world, with the NFL and NBA. To closeted Saffas unaware of the ways of the world, that's football and basketball respectively.


SOCIAL TANGENT: Are fans correct in thinking events will screen only on Facebook?

Reeds days it's “a natural next step in our terrific partnership" after the WSL "expertly used Facebook to distribute content and build community". There is much patting on the back and recriprocal ego tickling, with remarks about the relationship being a "model example of a flexible, innovative and collaborative relationship".

If this means I have to have a FB account to watch WSL, you just lost a viewerAmericans will use Facebook Watch, a video platform where content, conversation and community converge. The partnership also calls for additional Facebook Watch programming, such as Surfing Sundays, which recaps each week’s top surfing action, with more programming planned in 2018 on this platform.

However, not everyone is happy. There is a third party in this deal - the fans - and judging from comments on the WSL instagram account, they are pissed off. The irritation mostly stems from concern about whether the live streams will ONLY be available on Facebook.

Fikser says, "Absolutely hate Facebook. If this means I have to have a FB account to watch WSL, you just lost a viewer."

ash__1991256 says, "@rayzasharp they obviously don't care about the surf community- not a big enough target market. They want the social media flogs who know nothing about the sport watching instead apparently ??"

The first events of the 2018 WSL Championship Tour are the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast in Australia from March 11 to 22.

2018 World Surf League (WSL) Men's Championship Tour:
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, Australia - March 11 - 22, 2018
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, Australia - March 28 - April 8, 2018
Margaret River Pro, Australia - April 11 - 22, 2018
Oi Rio Pro, Brazil - May 10 - 19, 2018
Bali Pro, Indonesia - May 27 - June 9, 2018
Corona Open J-Bay, South Africa - July 2 - 13, 2018
Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o, Tahiti - August 10 - 21, 2018
Surf Ranch Lemoore, California/USA. September 5 - 9, 2018
Quiksilver Pro France, France - October 3 - 14, 2018
MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal, Portugal - October 16 - 27, 2018
Billabong Pipe Masters, Hawaii/USA - December 8 - 20, 2018

2018 World Surf League (WSL) Women's Championship Tour:
Roxy Pro Gold Coast, Australia - March 11 - 22, 2018
Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach, Australia - March 28 - April 8, 2018
Margaret River Pro, Australia - April 11 - 22, 2018
Oi Rio Pro, Brazil - May 10 - 19, 2018
Bali Pro, Indonesia - May 27 - June 9, 2018
Corona Open J-Bay, South Africa - July 10 - 17, 2018
Vans US Open of Surfing, USA - July 30 - August 5, 2018
Surf Ranch Lemoore, California/USA. September 5 - 9, 2018
Roxy Pro France, France - October 3 - 14, 2018
Hawaii Women's Pro, Hawaii/USA - November 25 - December 6, 2018

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