If you want WSL barrels head to 'The Book'.
Last week pay-per-view was the big discussion topic on the WSL after WSL Deputy Commissioner Renato Hickel conducted a candid interview for a Portuguese-language, media outlet.
Today all the attention is on Facebook after the WSL formally announced a deal, which hands the digital screening rights to the world’s largest social network.
“LOS ANGELES, California/USA (Wednesday, January 24, 2018) - World Surf League (WSL) and Facebook announced a historic partnership today that makes the social media platform the exclusive digital home for the top live events in surfing in 2018 and 2019. This includes all elite men's and women's Championship Tour events, the Qualifying Series 10,000 and Big Wave Tour events, as well as the World Junior Championships.”
One can easily engage in a philosophical debate about Facebook’s increasing control over our lives (they also own instagram, the other preferred portal for many surfers) but, in this context it seems what most WSL fans want to know is how will the quality of the broadcasts be affected? According to the statement released by the WSL last year all men's and women's Championship Tour events, as well as Big Wave Tour events, were simulcast on Facebook and WSL's website and mobile app.
It’s obviously anything but a dry run, but I for one didn’t view a single WSL event through the Facebook platform. However, according to the WSL more than 13.9 million people watched a World Surf League event on Facebook in 2017.
The only time I used facebook as a viewing platform was to watch the twin fin exhibition heat hosted at J-bay. On that occasion it seemed like they fudged it. Mind you I was floating on a boat in the Maldives on a twin fin trip with dubious net coverage. All I can remember is Tyler Warren screaming at the screen because we couldn’t get the link to work. Tyler, a twin fin tragic, was desperate to see how the WCT heavyweights performed on his preferred craft.
Most reports suggest we will still be able to see the events on the WSL site until any Facebook glitches are ironed out, but the ultimate aim seems to be to make Facebook the home of surfing.
The good news for fans, many of whom had become increasingly concerned they may have had to shell out cash to maintain their WSL viewing rights, is that the Facebook deal seems likely to confirm that there will continue to be a free, viewing option for pro surfing.
It’s not clear what Facebook may have paid for the digital rights to surfing, but the WSL statement did contain the following weighty statement.
“When recently analysed in late 2017 by Sports Business Journal and third-party social measurement company Hookit, the WSL ranked in the top 3 sports leagues in the world in social engagement, alongside the NFL and NBA.”
It seems Facebook want a piece of pro surfing because as an audience we love to debate results, bitch about heats and celebrate the special moments – and talk about it all on social media.
According to the statement, American viewers will also have access to Facebook Watch, “a video platform where content, conversation and community come together.” Ha. Call me petty, but I hate it when the Americans get a better deal than everyone else.
The further intricacies of the relationship will no doubt become apparent when the events get under way, but from here on in pro surfing’s future will be intrinsically linked to Facebook algorithms. Can’t wait to see Zuckerburg take on the wave pool.