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On The State of Live Streaming with Corrine Malcolm

Discover the present and future of live streaming in trail running with Corrine Malcolm. Get an insider's look into the sport's growth and changes.

camera istria 100 by utmb
Finish line live stream set up at Istria 100 by UTMB

Trail running participation has grown by +231% in the past 10 years globally, establishing itself among the hottest sports in the world. Professionalism was born, new brands entered the space, new products and materials became the norm, races attracted larger crowds, and technology allowed fans to follow the races. A lot changed. A lot is changing.

On trail running’s path to growth live streaming is one of the hot topics at the moment. If you host a race with any ambition to attract sponsors and media you must offer a live stream. What did not exist is ten years ago, it is the norm now. 

2023 could go in the books as a pivotal year for trail running fan’s consumption. UTMB improved its live coverage, not only in terms of hours streamed but also in languages. Aravaipa proved to be at the technological forefront when it comes to races hosted in remote areas and lasting long. The Cocodona 250 live stream was a first-time and a success. The Golden Trail World Series and Eurosport deal. Viewership and engagement numbers indicate that the sport is pointed in the right direction. But the live stream puzzle is far from being completed for trail running.

Corrine Malcolm microphone
Image: Ryan Thower

We sat down with Corrine Malcolm to reflect on the present and future of live streaming in trail running. She is a pro athlete running for team adidas Terrex and a regular commentator when she is not at the start line. From Western States to the World Championships, she established herself as one of the prominent voices of the sport. Who better than her could give us an insider’s look into the sport?

Right now, the video coverage of ultra-running events lives on YouTube due to its length. Do you think the sport needs to land on television to further advance? 

I think the next step for ultra-running events is to ultimately land bigger television deals and with the influx of non-endemic sponsorship money that is more and more likely. But the sport is also still much more a participation sport than a spectator sport so I do think it’s further off than many of us think or would like. As you mentioned, the sheer length of ultramarathons is a bit of an issue - only the more die heart fans are tuning in for all 10, 20, or 30 hours of coverage… however, high-quality recap videos and live streaming of the later stages of an event plus pre and post-race coverage might be the most palatable for mainstream media to pick it up. A lot of sports have to change dramatically to conform to the needs of being televisible - think mountain biking, climbing, or skimo to make themselves Olympic eligible. 

Corrine malcolm Dylan Bowman commentating The Canyons by UTMB
Corrine and Dylan Bowman commentating The Canyons by UTMB. Image: Ryan Thrower

Having done live stream commentary for various races, did you notice any differences among people commenting in the chat? Western states vs UTMB? 

There is a difference between the YouTube chat when it comes to races that bring more of a European audience vs a largely North American audience. Obviously, WSER and UTMB are big global events in trail and ultrarunning but they decidedly have somewhat different audiences. The North American audience is not without trolls but it’s generally a more positive chat experience. You can even feel that when we are broadcasting during less ideal European hours - most of the American races happen during the European night. That being said both WSER and Hardrock had some strong French ties this year and we definitely felt the influx of a European audience in the chat. Obviously, I’m talking in broad strokes and generalizations here. 

They also operate in dramatically different technological conditions, where at WSER even with Starlinks we have large sections without service - which also means we generally can’t use follow-cams either because they need a much larger bandwidth to operate. Because of that it’s easy to expect a UTMB-style imagery experience at WSER, and you’re not going to get that, we just don’t have the bandwidth for it. 

Despite the ultra-running community claims to be inclusive and diverse, in reality, women and minorities are still under-represented. Post UTMB, you raised a great point about women’s coverage during the live stream and how all the other commentaries - the Spaniards waited for the 5th woman to come in being the Spanish Maite Maiora - left the room and did not cover the top 10 women. In your opinion, what are some actions that could change and incentivize equal coverage? Holding the women's and men's events at different times? Having separate live streams?

We, the English commentary team, made the decision early on that we would stay to cover the women’s top ten if we covered the men’s top ten - trying to make it as equal as possible where we had control to do so. It’s not going above and beyond, it's just doing the minimum to show the women and the audience that we respect and value their race as much as the men’s race. 

Corrine malcolm Dylan Bowman interviewing Ruth Croft at Western States 2022
Corrine and Dylan Bowman interviewing Ruth Croft at Western States 2022. Image: Ryan Thrower

I don’t think two streams is the best option, I’ve toyed with the idea of them happening on separate days or even starting them at slightly different times - like starting the women 2-3 hours before the men - but that is actually more complicated than what actually could be done to effectively cover both races better. I think you can have one live feed and one main studio but then allocate resources on the ground independently. For example, having two completely separate camera teams - that will come with the cost of doubling the team - and if you are going to use on-course correspondents like we have done at some races in the US, having two teams again so that one can follow the men’s race and one the women’s race. Finally, in the studio adding one person who is in charge of making camera calls of the women’s race means we won’t miss them because no one was watching for them - particularly at an event as big as UTMB.

[...] many of us came to the sport because of its oddities, which include very remote races and the interesting characters that come with it.

Some of the biggest events in ultra running are hosted in remote locations which makes it impossible, with the current technologies, to cover 100% of the course, a situation that doesn’t happen in other endurance sports like cycling and triathlon. Do you think that to grow the sport further we should focus on events that we can cover for the entirety or just consider this limitation as part of the sport?

I think there is technology coming down the pipeline that will continue to help improve coverage. From data coverage to better and lighter mobile tools to cheap dynamic tracking solutions. I don’t think it’s about waiting for it to arrive. I think we keep putting out the very best possible product with what we have and continue to adapt and iterate as new technology comes onto the market. I don’t think that is limiting the growth of the sport, many of us came to the sport because of its oddities, which include very remote races and the interesting characters that come with it. 

champagne utmb live stream
Corrine celebrating after UTMB Week. Image: @corrinemalcolm

When you look at other endurance sports and how they are covered in media, what would you steal from them and apply it to ultra-running?

Oh, I think what I’d add is better live information. What I mean by that is live graphics, things that are additive to the viewing audience to help quantify or explain what they are seeing. These are things that we are often already talking about as commentators but add a great deal visually. Road cycling and triathlon already offer these features. This past year they added armband heart rate sensors in some track meets and I thought some of that live data was also interesting. I also really love the high-quality post-production recaps, interviews, and previews. They add a lot of information and introduce us to the characters helping us invest. 

What do you think is the next big thing/innovation/change that will happen in ultra-running live coverage? A trail-running-focused streaming platform airing the big races? 

While a trail-running-focused streaming platform is super intriguing I’m not sure if it’s financially viable just yet. I also really worry that part of what is so cool about watching trail running is getting to interact with others in the live chat feature. When UTMB tried to move away from YouTube and to streaming on their platform there was an uproar over the lack of a chat feature. We are a very specifically odd community. I do think if we moved to more normal streaming like a television deal while many would watch on TV I think a lot of people would watch muted and then follow their favorite commentators via Youtube, Discord, Slack, etc. in order to have an interactive experience. Basically, I think watch parties could be the future.

I do think more of us are watching from home than we tell ourselves because the FOMO is real and it feels like everyone is there.

With the sport becoming bigger, more sponsors, wider coverage, and people traveling from all over the world to crew or create content, do you think all of this can cohabitate with the sustainability intrinsic to the trail running community?

I think we are at a crossroads and that people are consciously grappling with this right now. I do think good live coverage allows many of us to stay home and experience the race from there in high quality. What this could mean is that if we are not actively crewing, running, or volunteering at the event we can experience, sometimes better than in person, from the comfort of our own homes. Is that me being idealistic? Probably, but I do think more of us are watching from home than we tell ourselves because the FOMO is real and it feels like everyone is there.


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