DCL sees quantum growth in first virtual season

DCL viewership numbers have climbed almost as fast as the drones themselves.

When the Drone Champions League – the World Championship of professional drone racing teams – shifted from real-life venues to a virtual format for the 2020 season, nobody knew what would happen. And now, with only the season finale left to go, the championship is still up for grabs. But one thing is certain: People are watching. Lots of them.


2020’s virtual season took off in July, at the Breitling Virtual Drone Grand Prix Vaduz, Liechtenstein. Two days of racing on four tracks in the virtual heart of the city drew well over 400,000 live stream viewers. That was just the start.

The audience was even bigger in early August for the next showdown. At DCL’s first-ever completely bespoke location, “Proptown, USA,” viewership increased a full 45 percent.

Then, at the season’s third stop, the snowball became an avalanche. Compared to the race in Proptown just two weeks earlier, the Virtual Drone Grand Prix at the Great Wall of China delivered stats including:

  • 122% increase in minutes watched (reaching 7.1 million total)
  • 72% increase in live viewers (1.2 million) and unique viewers (805,000)
  • 545% increase in average concurrent viewers (8,400)

The surge shows no sign of stopping. The season finale – the McDonald’s Virtual Drone Grand Prix Lake Zurich, Switzerland on 3-4 October – is the most highly anticipated event of the season.

All races are broadcast live, worldwide on TV and online via exclusive live stream partner Twitch, with iQIYI now also partnering to bring the action to Chinese-speaking countries. Co-streamers additionally share the live experience with audiences speaking German, Spanish, French and Russian. Given the intense fascination with esports and drone racing worldwide, and the devoted fans of DCL pilots and teams who stretch from California around the globe to Japan, engagement is high. The race in China saw a 233% increase in unique chatter and 70% increase in chat messages.

DCL ramped up quickly for the virtual season thanks to DCL – The Game. Even before the virtual season, the simulation game hosted Qualifying for each real-life Drone Grand Prix, and aspiring pro pilots play the game to earn a spot in the DCL draft. The tracks created for each Virtual Drone Grand Prix, which are subsequently released in DCL – The Game, include features branded for global partners Breitling, IQONIQ and myWorld, as well as the iconic Red Bull Finish Gate.

“Because our pilots wear virtual reality goggles when we’re racing at real-world venues, DCL has always been an innovator that blurs the lines between virtual and reality. So it’s gratifying to see how many fans are watching our events in this virtual season,” says Drone Champions League CEO Mike Höhsl. “Along with our partners, we’re excited about the season finale this October, and we are already planning for 2021, when we intend to merge the thrills of our real-life and virtual formats for the most gripping season yet.”

Keep up with the DCL all year long at www.dcl.aero and DCL social channels.





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