The IFSC has announced a three-year broadcasting deal with Discovery Sports. All IFSC World Cup and World Championship events will now be livestreamed on the subscription-based channel discovery+, the Eurosport App and Eurosport's linear channels in the lead-up to Paris 2024.
discovery+ is available in a number of countries across Europe. For countries outside of Europe, there will be no change in the way viewers will be able to watch IFSC events.
European viewers would be required to sign up to the discovery+ 'Entertainment & Sport' subscription package, priced at £6.99 per month or £59.99 per year.
In a press release titled 'IFSC capitalises on climbing's soaring popularity to agree three-year deal with Discovery,' IFSC President Marco Scolaris said:
"More than anything, our agreement with Discovery will raise the profile of our sport and our athletes, which should result in greater sponsorship opportunities for all climbers around the world. We are confident that partnering with Discovery will help solidify our position as one of the fastest-growing Olympic sports and, thanks to the greater exposure, will lead more and more people to become interested in not only watching Climbing, but also trying it out."
Trojan Paillot, VP Sports Rights Acquisition and Syndication at Discovery Sports, said: "Sport Climbing proved incredibly popular with audiences watching across our platforms during the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year, proving attractive to new and different audiences than some of those who already enjoy watching the sport and demonstrating its potential for engagement and growth.
"We are delighted to be able to showcase the best of the sport for the next three years on discovery+ and Eurosport's channels and platforms. Discovery has built an enviable reputation for helping to grow sports and events and taking them to wider audiences and we look forward to taking this sport to more people across Europe in the lead-up to Paris 2024."
Previously, all major IFSC events were available to watch live and free on the IFSC YouTube channel, which has 223K subscribers and 53,121,281 views in total to date, or via the Olympic Channel.
In 2017, the IFSC faced a backlash from athletes and fans when they announced a 3-year subscription-based deal - charging viewers $20 per month or $150 per year - with US sports livestreaming company Flosports, just days before the first World Cup of the season was due to take place in Meiringen, Switzerland, without consulting athletes, governing bodies or viewers.
Those opposing the decision voiced concerns that a paywalled livestream would make viewing climbing competitions less accessible by preventing some spectators from watching the events due to financial reasons.
A petition against the decision attracted over 12,500 signatures and athletes staged a protest at the opening ceremony of the event, holding up red cards. The IFSC responded by making the first World Cup event available to watch as a free trial, and ultimately backtracked on their decision to outsource broadcasts to a subscription-based streaming platform. An IFSC statement read:
"It was a mistake and we apologize for that.
The live streaming for IFSC will remain free of charge, the same as it was at the 1st World Cup in Meiringen, Switzerland and in previous years.
The deal - despite having been announced - has not been signed and thus has not been concluded.
Any possible future variation of this policy will be discussed inside the IFSC and subject to the approval of our key stakeholders.
Let's keep climbing together."
Concerns are once again being voiced on social media about the impact that this latest deal with Discovery Sports may have on athletes, sponsors and the sport's core audience.