The Drone Racing League seems to keep getting bigger and bigger.
DRL this week announced partnerships with three international sports broadcast and media companies: ESPN, Sky and 7Sports. DRL will also partner with MGM Television to develop reality shows, developed by executive producer Mark Burnett, who is otherwise known for his work on “Survivor,” “The Voice” and “The Apprentice.”
The broadcasts will air starting this October and will feature 25 FPV pilots competing for a professional contract in the 2017 season and the title, “World’s Greatest Drone Pilot.”
In the U.S., the 2016 season will air as ten, one-hour episodes covering five races on ESPN/ESPN2 beginning with an “Intro to DRL” episode tonight, Thursday, September 15 at 11 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
DRL also announced the close of a more than $12 million investment round, led by RSE Ventures and Lux Capital. DRL first made major news in January 2015 when it raised more than $8 million in funding including investment from Miami Dolphin’s owner Stephen Ross’s venture-capital firm RSE Ventures.
DRL isn’t the only racing league to make a major commitment to drone racing. Another league, the Aerial Sports League, has plans to open a full-scale, drone racing entertainment complex in San Francisco this year. A racing series called DR1 was the first drone race to stream on popular social gaming platform Twitch, which was sponsored by Mountain Dew.
But it’s also still a fringe sport, and it’s unclear if it will really fly high. Even most of the top racers aren’t making enough money to do it full time, and the audience is still relatively limited.
Big names like ESPN or Mountain Dew could change that and bring drones to the mainstream.
“Having distribution and strategic agreements with ESPN, Sky and 7Sports will bring DRL to tens of millions of viewers,” said DRL CEO/Founder Nicholas Horbaczewski. “Our partnership with MGM Television, led with the keen eye and creativity of Mark Burnett and his team, will introduce new audiences to the sport.”