Drone Racing League raises millions from big-name investors
14 June 2017 - Autoblog
Drone Racing League has closed on $20M in funding, led by U.K telecommunications company Sky, Liberty Media Corporation (which owns the Formula One racing brand), and Lux Capital.
This new funding means the league has now raised over $32M in three rounds. Allianz (who is also the title sponsor of DRL) and World Wrestling Entertainment also joined the round as new investors in the startup.
As a refresher, Drone Racing League was founded in 2015 to capitalize on the trend of amateur drone racing - and is now by far the most established player in the space. Last season over 75 million fans tuned in to watch DRL races, either online or on TV via their broadcast agreement with networks like ESPN.
While the new funding is certainly a benefit to the young startup, Nicholas Horbaczewski, founder and CEO of DRL, emphasized that that the funding round materialized as a result of wanting to work strategically with some of the investors.
For example, Liberty Media is deeply entrenched in the world of sports entertainment and broadcasting - it has a stake in Live Nation, Sirius XM, and the Atlanta Braves. The group also just purchased Formula 1, the popular international car racing league. While DRL didn't have anything specific to announce today, DRL and Formula 1 have such similar business models it's not difficult to see a future where the two work together strategically on at least some level.
DRL's 2017 season starts on June 20, and besides being broadcast on ESPN will be shown on SKY Sports, DisneyXD and other networks that will give the league distribution in over 75 countries, up from the 40 countries where DRL aired in last season.
The races aren't broadcast live, which Horbaczewski explained was actually a benefit for the young league. By broadcasting races at a later date and time, DRL can make sure that its content airs at times convenient for users in different time zones. Also, the league can be sure to schedule strategically so it won't get bumped by a bigger sporting event airing on its partner channels like ESPN and Sky.
That being said, all races are essentially filmed live to tape, so the league will be ready to go when the sport eventually gains enough momentum to support a shift to live broadcasts.