A deep dive into World Curling’s broadcast

Commentators Kevin Martin and Sander Rolvaag at the World Mixed Doubles 2023 © WCF / Stephen Fisher

Alison Umlah, from Halifax, Canada, is one of this year’s winners in the Sports Media Trainee Programme, and has traveled to Gangneung, Korea to take up journalistic and social media duties with the World Curling Media Team.

In her role, she’s been looking at broadcasts done by World Curling TV (WCTV). How the footage is produced, which broadcasters are sharing it, and how the World Curling Federation is making quality products available to curling fans all over the world.

Watching a game of curling on TV may appear simple to most. But, how much is going on behind the scenes to produce this ‘simple’ product that you get to enjoy? The answer may be more than you think. 

On average, it typically costs $500, 000 USD to broadcast an entire World Curling championship. In order to get to the end product, many people are involved, and it’s a team effort to get the games from the ice to your streaming devices.

“On a basic crew, it would be about 40 people,” explains Belinda Bantle-Carboni, WCTV Production Manager. 

Within that group is the director, two video operators, several camera operators, commentators, and audio specialists – just to list a few.

© WCF / Eakin Howard

This TV crew works together to put out live broadcasts of the matches to millions of people worldwide. Prior to COVID, in the 2018-2019 season, WCTV achieved a cumulative audience exceeding 578 million.

WCTV produces three different levels of broadcasts. Fans will notice this based on whether not they watch a live stream or a full TV production. 

‘Level 1’ [full production] is the highest, containing moving cameras, commentary, replays, interviews and live graphics. This product gets sent to media partners around the world, where it’s distributed for local viewers. 

“Level 2 is produced with fewer people. It is a computer-based production,” says Sylvie Aubrit, the Distribution, Booking and Servicing Manager for WCTV.

© WCF / Stephen Fisher

Finally, a third level is offered, which only consists of static cameras directed at either end of a sheet. “This is mostly for the fans, so they are able to follow the games,” explains Aubrit.

Until last season, the fully produced games were uploaded to the World Curling Federation’s YouTube channel.

A decision was made by the Federation to move its streams onto a new, UK based, platform called Recast

The move to Recast

Christopher Hamilton, the Head of Communications and Marketing for the World Curling Federation, explains, “The Federation had reached a point where streaming on YouTube was causing significant contractual and technical complications with our broadcast partners.”

The Federation selected Recast for their ‘pay per view’ model. 

“It allowed the audience to pay for the games they wanted to watch, without the overhead of a monthly subscription,” says Hamilton. 

There has been some criticism from viewers regarding this switch, and understandably so. They are now paying for a product that once was free. 

But in reality, it’s not uncommon to pay for subscriptions to American football or golf, so why should curling be an exception?

Recast offers two different payment methods to gain access to streams – one is free, one is paid. Fans can either pay to watch the individual game they want, or they can watch advertisements to gain free credits.

For example, a curling match at level 1, costs 100 credits to watch. Recast offers a package of 200 credits for $2.50 USD, working out to be $1.25 USD per game. If fans want to enjoy the games for free, they can watch 12.5 minutes of advertisements on Recast.

The future of streaming

The switch to Recast solved many complications for the Federation. It has also allowed them to test new ways of streaming, seeing who is interested in which games and events. 

Hamilton says, “As the partnership has progressed and the income increased, we’ve also been able to fund experiments in the way we stream. Previously, we could logistically only manage one or two games per session. Now, because we’ve tested static streaming with our audience, we know there’s an appetite for more coverage.”

Every game now available

This season, WCTV has been able to stream all sheets at their World Championships and provide static coverage of events they would not have previously been able to show, giving curling fans more to watch than ever before. 

© WCF / Céline Stucki

The Federation has big plans for where Recast can lead them. 

“We are still very early in our growth with the channel with just over 44,000 subscribers, but if we keep producing high quality broadcasts and refine the model we use to price our games then there’s no reason that it can’t continue to grow,” says Hamilton. 

“Ultimately, our ambition for the channel is to make it the primary location for curling coverage around the world,” explains Hamilton.

Apart from the live games, all replays are available to watch, so those in less desirable time zones can stay up to date with all of the curling action.

Engage with the World Curling Federation during the World Senior Curling Championships 2023 on TikTokTwitterInstagramFacebook and Weibo and be searching the hashtags #curling #WMDCC2023

Gangneung, South Korea

28 April 2023