Facebook nabs exclusive streaming rights for pro surfing

Facebook is now the only place you can stream World Surf League events.

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Baz Ratner / Reuters
Baz Ratner / Reuters

If you're interested in professional surfing, there's no higher competition than the World Surf League (WSL). Hawaiian John John Florence is the current men's champion, while Australian Tyler Wright dominates the women's division. At the moment, you can watch championship events for free on Facebook or through the WSL website and mobile app. But that's about to change — Facebook has inked a "historic partnership" that will make it the exclusive platform for WSL streaming. It covers all men and women Championship Tour events in 2018 and 2019, as well as the Junior Championships, Qualifying Series 10,000 and Big Wave Tour events.

In the US, you'll find the streams on Facebook's Watch service. If you live anywhere else, well, it'll be the usual 'find the appropriate Facebook page' routine. Surf fans who despise Facebook will, inevitably, be disappointed with the decision. For the WSL, however, it's clearly about cash and helping its niche sport survive. It's unclear, however, how surfing fits into Facebook's larger sports strategy. The company has bought some streaming rights — MLB baseball matches and Champions League soccer, for instance — but remains a bit player in the wider industry. It'll be hoping its latest hire, former Eurosport CEO Peter Hutton, can change that for the better.

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