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Volume 21 No. 1
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Surfing tour consolidates media rights, seeks broadcast partner

The Association of Surfing Professionals is in discussions with a half-dozen international media outlets for rights to its programming and hopes to complete a broadcasting deal in the coming weeks.

It’s the first time the ASP has sold its media rights in a single package. In years past, each individual surfing competition sold the media rights to its event. But the tour was bought last year by ZoSea Media, a group headed by surfing agent Terry Hardy and Paul Speaker, and they’ve consolidated the rights into a single package.

The TV package includes men’s and women’s competitions and shoulder programming.
In the U.S., ASP executives have pitched the package to Red Bull Media House, NBC’s Alli Sports division and ESPN. Those outlets declined to comment on the meetings.

The package includes 27 hours of men’s competition, 15 hours of women’s competition and 10 to 20 hours of shoulder programming, which the ASP will produce to supplement the live programming.

Sources familiar with the talks said ESPN has been the most aggressive in negotiations and offered the ASP a multimillion-dollar rights fee and a chance to retain some advertising inventory to sell to sponsors.

ESPN declined to comment, and ASP leaders said it continues to speak with multiple broadcasters.

“Since we’ve gone to market, we’ve seen tremendous response and interest from broadcast entities in their desire to showcase the sport of surfing,” said Michael Lynch, the ASP’s chief marketer, in an email. “We’ve been in fairly intense discussions with over half-a-dozen potential international partners and will likely have a decision made in the next few weeks.”

The ASP has been building its own broadcast and production team to cover its events in 2014. Its goal is to produce its own events and digitize 30 years of content that will be accessible to its broadcast partners in the U.S. and other outlets worldwide.

“Our approach to content in 2014 and beyond is to ensure that the audience, both current and future, is serviced to the highest levels in terms of quality, access and entertainment,” Lynch said.

The media package is a central part of ZoSea’s vision for taking what has been a factionalized tour funded by endemic sponsors such as Quiksilver and Billabong and turning it into a nationally recognizable brand with a large fan base.

The tour will hold 115 events in 15 countries next year, and it claims 78 million fans. The majority are based in Australia, Brazil, France, Portugal and the U.S.