Sailboat Racing: Illuminating the Rapid Evolution of Livestreaming in Sports Broadcasting

At Native Frame, we are obsessed with live streaming video.  We are deeply involved in building the best tools for bringing live video to any device and see sporting events as positioned at the crossroads of traditional broadcast TV and innovative video live streaming.  We are excited to be a part of this ongoing transition to a new live event viewing model.

In the U.S., NFL football leads TV viewership by such a large margin that it can be easy to forget there are other major sporting events to watch.  According to Nielsen, the ratings company, 160 million people watch sports on TV in the US, and 113 million of them watch the Super Bowl.  Earlier this year, Sportico evaluated the Nielsen ratings and determined that 82 of the top 100 most watched TV broadcasts in 2022 were NFL football games.  

Football dominates, but basketball, baseball, golf, auto racing, soccer and tennis have also built large followings, especially on live TV.  However, due to rights agreements and other industry calcification, these events are still not readily available to livestream on the internet.  The cable bundle is in perpetual decline from its peak in 2013 of 100 million households to about half of that now.  We are seeing manifestations of the chaos caused by the reorganization of sports broadcasting all around us now, including the bankruptcy of the Diamond Sports Group and the implosion of the Pac 12 Conference.

Out of this mixed-up soup of sports fans looking for streaming content, and broadcasters clinging to the past, we are seeing an entirely new category of sporting events.

Photo Credit:  Nico Martinez / 52 SuperSeries

Major League Rugby, Major League Cricket and Major League Pickleball are three new entrants working fast to fill this void in the U.S.  Worldwide, sailboat racing is becoming significantly more popular as an up and coming spectator sport.

Historically, sailboat racing only found its way onto TV during the Americas Cup and the Olympic Games.  SailGP, now in its fourth season, has steadily grown its audience of over 110 million viewers worldwide (season 3).   Following SailGP’s lead, other sailboat racing events are stepping up and delivering quality livestreams to their fans.

Here are a few racing events you may want to check out:

1.) Allianz Sailing World Championships

Every four years, in the year preceding the Olympic Games, World Sailing hosts a world championship event for the types of boats that will be featured in the Olympic Games.  In addition to a world championship title, competitors can see how they stack up against each other, and the event is also one of the final opportunities for countries to qualify for a spot at the Olympic Games.  The 2023 event was held at The Hague this month and was also an opportunity for the production team to practice producing the event.  London based Sunset + Vine did the production and Shirley Robertson, Niall Myant-Best, and Nic Douglass did an excellent job commentating.  There are helicopter and drone overheads, on the water cameras, on boat cameras, virtual reality trackers on the boats, and good graphics.  The event was streamed on YouTube and Facebook with about 75,000 views each day. Allianz Sailing World Championships on YouTube

2.) Rolex TP52 Superseries World Championships

Meanwhile, in the Mediterranean, another World Championships, this time for much bigger 52-foot boats, were held in Barcelona.  Andi Robertson, Stuart Sreuli, and Tor Tomlinson did the commentary.  Also equipped with drones, on the water cameras, on boat cameras, and excellent graphics, the team told a terrific story.  They were helped in the end by a spellbinding finish where the world champion was crowned in the last 10 seconds of the week-long event. Rolex TP52 Superseries on YouTube

3.) Rolex Fastnet Race at Hurst Castle

The 600-mile Fastnet race is an iconic offshore event where the boats race from Cowes, England and around a rock off the coast of Ireland—and back.  It is a significant contrast to the inshore short race-course events above, particularly this year in very stormy conditions.  This livestream is also quite a bit different.  It is just a camera showing the boats sailing past.  No commentary, very little expense, but nevertheless: 395,000 views!  RO Video of the Fastnet Race on YouTube

These three events livestreaming on YouTube demonstrates how quickly the world of televised sports is changing.  Sailboat racing will never be the NFL.  As the patterns in sports broadcasting are re-established after the current chaos, sports fans will be able to watch their favorite sport anytime and anywhere. Event owners like SailGP, World Sailing, the TP52 SuperSeries are bringing great content online.  These livestreams do not need to be emulating the production model of the NFL to be successful.  Rod Ormston, who put up the Fastnet video, is showing that a tripod in the right place at the right time can also attract viewers.

The exploding interest in all things livestreaming is the key catalyst behind the surging live streaming movement.  We at Native Frame are proud to play a role in its proliferation.

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