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ESPN is betting that you want to watch drone racing

(Photo: Drew Angerer)

The programming executives at ESPN seem to be under the impression that there are millions—or at least hundreds of thousands—of people out there who are amped to sit and watch tiny, little robots fly through hoops, The New York Times reports. They might be right that drone racing is going to be the next big television phenomenon. After all, it is “an exciting, real-life experience mixed with video-game like dynamics” and the “thrill of a 100-meter dash or horse racing,” according to Nicholas Horbaczewski, chief executive of the New York-based Drone Racing League, which recently received a $12 million investment from the owner of the Miami Dolphins.

You have to admit, it does look pretty cool, given the proper editing, music and sound effects:

But will this sport—in which the athletes sit in chairs with Xbox controllers in their laps and electronic devices strapped to their faces—take off as well some of ESPN’s other interests, like CrossFit or BattleFrog? Matthew Volk, director of programming and acquisitions, is of the belief that there’s ample space for all three of these sports on his network, explaining to The Times that, “We think that they are emerging sports with emerging audiences because they’re the kind of activities that any fan can go out and do.” Yes, like speedwalking, or taking out the trash.


On October 23, ESPN and ESPN2 will begin airing pre-recorded and heavily edited drone racing events from locations like the hallways of Dolphin Stadium and a paper mill in Hamilton, Ohio. On the off chance that that you need to get up to speed on what drone racing is all about, ESPN2 will show an introduction to the sport and its world class pilots tonight.

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