From The Horse’s Mouth
WSL CEO Erik Logan says digital reach up 62%, revenue up 20%, partnerships up 35%.
In an interview with Boardsportsource, WSL CEO Erik Logan proudly divulged the WSL’s bottom line is increasing. “The numbers speak for themselves,” said the former President of the Oprah Winfrey (TV) Network who initially joined the WSL as Head of WSL Studios before taking over the role of CEO in 2020. According to E-Lo, since 2019 the WSL has seen a:
- 62% increase in digital audience
- 25% increase in watch time
- 20% increase in the WSL’s revenue
- 35% increase in roster of partners
- 95% increase in Challenger Series viewership numbers compared to QS10000’s
“When I joined the company, my intention was to try and find ways to create more storytelling and narratives around this great sport we have. The intention of doing that is to appeal to people who may not be completely familiar with the sport of competitive surfing or even aware there is such a thing… Our strategy is to grow the audience in the biggest ways and when you look at our digital reach across Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and combine it with the linear partners that take it, Sport TV, Globo etc. We have a really large and wide distribution footprint and our model is to build and grow the largest audience, which we can then leverage for our surfers and partners to expose and grow to create a sustainable organization perpetually. And to do this we need to meet the audience where they are,” said Erik.
Since his tenure as CEO, notable changes E-Lo has overseen are: the release of The Ultimate Surfer (TUS), Make or Break (MOB), the Superbowl playoff format changes, reinstating the mid-year cut, and the formation of the Challenger Series.
While ‘core fans’ have long grumbled that the WSL seemed lost, swinging and missing without ever really finding their footing on myriad platforms, it appears their senses have merely been lead astray by evil demons. “We are very happy with how healthy we are at present,” Logan remarked, “this tells us we are focusing on the right things strategically.” Rumour has it with current projections the WSL may even be operating at a profit as early as next year, meaning Ziff may have to find another struggling sport to pour his taxable income into.
For context, the Superbowl playoffs at Lowers last year broke every metric ever set by the WSL previously, surpassing the second most viewed event, the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters — the World Title showdown between Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira, by miles. The cut, though opposed by 57% of the CT, saw the Margaret River event and following Snapper CS net unprecedented levels of engagement courtesy of big names in the mix. MOB received sunny reviews from many if not most endemic and non-endemic surf media outlets.
Okay TUS not so much.
The takeaway? There can be pros to being a savvy business outsider. Something Sam Mc alluded to in Stab’s most influential people of 21′.
“There can be benefits to being an outsider. Especially in the highly conservative world of surfing. You can document your SUP sessions in a non-ironic way. You can pose for non-ironic booming shaka selfies with Kai Lenny. You can invite Lewis Hamilton and Tom Brady to your wave pool and again non-ironically weave these guys into the storytelling around your surf league. You can reimagine a new world because you’re not connected to the old one. You have the keys to the best wave in the US, you have Kelly Slater in your favourites and you can steamroll surfing’s tribalism and counter-culture roots with a baby blue blazer and a dream. No cultural cringe is out of bounds.”
And it just might have helped E Lo move the needle commercially for the WSL.
Erik informed Boardsportsource that WSL Studios won’t be shuttering it doors per se, “but focusing on fewer and better” including the vast un-mined field of Kelly Slater. Logan clarifying, “The example I like to use is Kelly Slater, probably being one of the single greatest athletes ever. And a lot of people may not even know; he’s 50 years old, still competing at the highest level and has won 11 world titles – he’s broken every record in competitive sport. We think there are some really great stories – like this one – to tell and connect to the broader eco system, or people who are interested in wider sports.”
Just last week the WSL’s announced it will give Box to Box “the exclusive, first-look opportunity to produce original unscripted and scripted projects from the five-decade archive of the world’s best surfing.”
Whether you like condition of the WSL or not in its present state, it is drawing more heads than it is turning away. “I want to look back and know we’ve had a team of people who have created the world’s largest, sustainable, equal and profitable surf platform ever, will be a job well done. And I think we are well on our way to that,” concludes E-Lo.
To the stars and beyond.
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