Are you ready to pay to watch professional surfing?
Considering how much attention the recent New York Times article on the WSL paid to the organization’s assocaition with YoutTube I was surprised to notice, after the feed went down during Slater’s first sound heat, that the contest was actually being streamed via something called NeuLion.
What is Neulion? It’s the web player used by the NFL, NBA, NHL and UFC. It is, “the premier solution for delivering live and on-demand sports in an unrivaled interactive digital video experience that gives fans an action packed experience anytime, anywhere.”
Why the switch? ZoSea made a big deal about their “partnership” with YouTube last year, part of an announcement that was disingenuously touted as big news prior to the lackluster reveal. Sure, every moron teen on earth can stream via YouTube, but like they demonstrate time and again when they release their laughable viewership numbers, ZoSea doesn’t shy away from polishing a turd ’til it gleams.
Why was the switch made silently? Wouldn’t a move to a broadcast platform used by mainstream sports be something to crow about, a reason to make one more completely manufactured and largely imaginary claim of legitimacy? The unlisted nature of the YouTube stream combined with the fact that Neulion is flash-based only served to create headaches for viewers on mobile devices, including those owned by the WSL’s own Samsung-ian overlords.
Two minutes on Neulion’s website turns up a pretty likely answer. Monetization is the name of the game, and Neulion provides a platform that excels at locking content behind a paywall. Call it a pay-per-view, season pass, or subscription, the move to Neulion is a ZoSea dipping its toes in the water before making another grab at some cash.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The WSL has plans to start making actual content to fill the broadcast gaps currently filled by mindless blather and their 6000-square foot studio in Santa Monica ain’t gonna pay for itself. The big question isn’t if, but when the WSL will go full retard and lock everything down.
I expect we’ll see slow rollout. Low effort bonus content sometime around the end of this season; take a look at Medina’s house, watch the Roxy B-team frolic in paradise with nary a surfboard in sight. Next season will see a VIP subscription, higher quality bonus content hidden from free views until it’s ripped and reposted elsewhere. 2017 will bring the season pass, and I’ll be watching an illegal stream on firstrow, or just not watching at all.