Figure Skating's Popularity Decline In The US

Discussion in 'Great Skate Debate' started by Philly2034, Feb 1, 2013.

  1. Philly2034

    Philly2034 Banned Member

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    In 1993, Figure Skating was the SECOND most popular spectator sport.

    In the 1993 National Sports Study II, considered by the Associated Press as the largest study of spectator sport popularity in America, ladies' figure skating was the second most popular spectator sport in America, just behind NFL football out of over 100 sports surveyed.[85] The 1993 study found that three figure skaters – Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming, and Scott Hamilton[86] were among the eight most popular athletes in the United States, out of over 800 athletes surveyed.[87] Dorothy Hamill was statistically tied with Mary Lou Retton as the most popular athlete in America. The Tonya Harding scandal in 1994 increased interest in figure skating.[88] The first night of the ladies' figure skating competition in the 1994 Winter Olympics achieved higher TV Nielsen ratings than that year's Super Bowl and was the most watched sports television program of all-time, to that date.[89]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Figure_skating


    In 2001, figure skating was the 4th most popular sport beating out college basketball.
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/1786/more-americans-fans-pro-football-than-any-other-sport.aspx


    Now, figure skating does not even make the top ten.
    http://www.therichest.org/sports/most-popular-sports-in-america/

    What happened and what can we do to change this?
     
  2. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    This has been discussed in a number of different threads very recently.
     
  3. MR-FAN

    MR-FAN Kostner Softie

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    Yu-Na Kim was born in South Korea
     
  4. carriecmu0503

    carriecmu0503 Member

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    What happened? I can list a few:

    2002 Olympic pairs scandal. More than ever, it made people feel as though skating was a pageant with fixed results, as opposed to a sport.

    The resulting international judging system (IJS), which is not understood by the general viewing audience. US TV commentators did little to nothing to educate the public about the judging system.

    The programs of many skaters began to look the same- lack of creativity with the IJS constraints

    Over saturation- from the mid 90s to the mid 2000s, skating was on just about every weekend all winter. The problem was it was largely the same skaters skating the same programs.

    US Figure Skating "Cheese Fests." These were largely made to capitalize on the popularity of Michelle Kwan, but didn't do much to lend to skating's image and validity as a "real" sport.

    Lack of a female star. After Michelle and Sasha retired, we haven't had a female step up to carry on where they left off. For the first time in over a half century, we have not had a female star. With the US having had no lady skater with a realistic chance at winning worlds since the rise of Yu-na Kim and the Japanese skaters in 2007, many people may just not care.

    To bring back the popularity of figure skating in the US, an American lady needs to at least medal at the Olympics next year to bring back the interest. Further, the Olympics will bring a guaranteed audience. The US needs to capitalize on that by finally educating the viewing public about the scoring system.
     
  5. PeterG

    PeterG Argle-Bargle-ist

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    FYI, there are five or six other countries on the planet other than the U.S.A. Maybe even eight! :p
     
  6. misskarne

    misskarne #ForzaJules #KeepFightingMichael

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    And there are other disciplines of skating other than ladies. I will NEVER understand this obsession with a "female star"? What is so wrong with having a male star? Or a pair star?
     
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  7. carriecmu0503

    carriecmu0503 Member

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    Obviously I know that, Peter! The person who wrote the thread was speaking about the popularity of figure skating in the US, and studies conducted in the US. That is why I responded regarding figure skating in the US. If you want to write about the popularity of figure skating in other countries, you are welcome to do so. I made it clear in my thread that I was talking about skating in the US, so please don't assume I don't know there are other skating countries in the world. Thank you.
     
  8. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Well-Known Member

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    I think you need to qualify which countries it is popular in. It might be true in the US but if you are looking at the Asian countries from what I understand it has never been more popular. The judges I know comment about the full houses, dedicated fans and how fantastic the atmosphere is when they go and judge in Japan or Korea.

    If you are looking at the US, I definately agree that there isn't a skater who just grabs the attention of fans any more. But also the Tonya and Nancy thing did more to raise the profile and interest in the sport than anything else.

    Plus skaters knew how to do gala programs back in the 90s and early 00s. Christopher Bowman, Scott Hamilton and Kurt Browning come to mind - they were so entertaining and knew how to have fun. Candeloro was engaging (before he decided to strip his clothes off, then it just became gross. Plushenko doing Sex Bomb captured people's attentions. I had so many non-skating fans send that clip around to me.

    These days skaters are so boring, all that ballardy stuff.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
  9. carriecmu0503

    carriecmu0503 Member

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    I think that's a great question. Look at dance in the US. Why the US public doesn't seem to embrace the likes of Tanith and Ben and Meryl and Charlie is beyond me. Heck, Evan won the last Olympics, and not even that was enough to recapture a US audience.
     
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  10. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Well-Known Member

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    Well actually the thread title was pretty general. And the original post kind of made the assumption that everyone reading it would latch onto the fact that is about the US.
     
  11. carriecmu0503

    carriecmu0503 Member

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    It's pretty obvious the original post was about the US. The post discussed American athletes and who was most popular in America. And, I think many people know the Super Bowl (which skating was being compared to) is an American event. Let's not be so picky here.
     
  12. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Well-Known Member

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    No it wasn't. Maybe have a look at my first response to this thread title.
     
  13. carriecmu0503

    carriecmu0503 Member

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    Here is the original post:

    In the 1993 National Sports Study II, considered by the Associated Press as the largest study of spectator sport popularity in America, ladies' figure skating was the second most popular spectator sport in America, just behind NFL football out of over 100 sports surveyed.[85] The 1993 study found that three figure skaters – Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming, and Scott Hamilton[86] were among the eight most popular athletes in the United States, out of over 800 athletes surveyed.[87] Dorothy Hamill was statistically tied with Mary Lou Retton as the most popular athlete in America. The Tonya Harding scandal in 1994 increased interest in figure skating.[88] The first night of the ladies' figure skating competition in the 1994 Winter Olympics achieved higher TV Nielsen ratings than that year's Super Bowl and was the most watched sports television program of all-time, to that date.[89]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Figure_skating


    What more do you need in this post to make it obvious it was about the US?
     
  14. aims

    aims New Member

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    So, are we to respond to the VERY generic topic title, or the first post which is so obviously only about the US scene????
    In the generic sense, the popularity of figure skating in Japan is at an all times high. Sad about the US, but all it needs is a like six or seven skaters who can compete competently on the international level, and the fans keep on rolling in, like it's happening there.
     
  15. servin

    servin New Member

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    In Sweden figureskating is more popular than ever before. So no decline here.
     
  16. Iceman

    Iceman Well-Known Member

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    Fans don't understand and argue ad infinitum about the results. What can you expect of some casual observer? It doesn't look like a sport with the show girl costumes, etc. To a casual observer the competitions are the same----same music, same costumes, same programs: I've already seen that , let's watch something else. Competing with too many other sports. Too few competitions being shown on tv to hook new fans.

    To those who say it is still popular in their own country, that probably is true, but the most successful sports have worldwide appeal.
     
  17. Willowway

    Willowway Well-Known Member

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    In the Sports section of the New York Times there is a little box each day listing sports on TV for that day, which channel and when. Helpful when you're looking for a particular event.

    They no longer list most figure skating competitions, not even our own Nationals, among the sports broadcasts. Yes, they do have the occasional article in the Sports section but the fact that figure skating isn't even listed in sports broadcasts of the day sort of tells me exactly how fs is perceived as sport...not really. It's sad and I think quite wrong but it is what it is.
     
  18. pingu

    pingu Well-Known Member

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    Same for Italy. The national tv broadcasts the whole Grand Prix series, European, Four Continents and World Championships.
    By the way, in my opinion you should have specified in the thread title that you were talking about the USA; I agree with Aussie Willy.
     
  19. morqet

    morqet Active Member

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    Skating does have worldwide appeal - Japan, China, Korea, Russia, Canada, good coverage in many European countries, maybe not the detailed coverage that you would hope for in the US but it stil gets regular highlight packages on national television. Just because a sport isn't at the top in the US doesn't mean that it's reputation is damaged worldwide - just ask any football fan!

    It's true that there are problems & a decline in the US but you can't extrapolate from that that the whole sport is suffering.
     
  20. Sylvia

    Sylvia On to GP & U.S. Sectionals!

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  21. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    Very true

    There have been many of these discussions in the past, and to me the constant theme is US skating fans project their own issues with the sport onto the general US public, and think that explains decline in skating popularity. Casual fans don't care about judging protocols--they really don't. When a casual viewer tunes in to watch Olympic diving, they aren't fretting over the judging system--they're just enjoying being entertained. Ditto with gymnastics, aerial jumping, etc. If the announcers bring up judging controversies, that's the first most viewers will have heard about it, and they'll only be interested in it as far as it relates to the human drama angle.

    Similarly, casual viewers aren't refusing to watch skating because it's not a "real sport." People are assuming if only skating was shown more in the US, then people would watch it. What they aren't contemplating is skating *has* been shown in the US, and ratings steadily declined. The reason it's not shown so much anymore is because people aren't watching. Why? Because people simply are more interested in other things.

    It reminds me of the political climate a few months ago where conservatives couldn't envision that anyone would actually want to willingly vote for Obama. So it had to be the case that polls were wrong, votes were bought, the media was brainwashing people, etc. But the reality was quite a bit simpler--more people liked Obama better. Similarly, there isn't some grand marketing problem with figure skating that could be remedied with competent people in charge at the ISU. And there isn't some harboring resentment of IJS or anything else. It's simply that people find other sports and television programming more interesting. The whole point of reality tv is to show live human drama, and viewers tend to eat that up. With Harding/Kerrigan, you had live human drama, so people ate that up.

    Now, there isn't that external live human drama piece, so viewers are tuning in because they just want to watch skating. And there's never been all that many of such folk relative to the general population. There are so many options for people WRT sports, skating has to compete with crew, dressage, moguls, archery, rhythmic gymnastics, women's basketball, etc. Skating is a niche sport with a niche fanbase in the US, and always has been. People generally enjoy it when they see it at the Olympics, but they aren't going to go out of their way to view it anymore than they'll plan their schedule around the next speed skating comp.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
  22. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

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    I agree with agalisgv, in the US people just aren't particularly into watching figure skating. It has a niche audience. Someone can check on the stats for this but I believe that the Winter Olys has declined in viewership a great deal over the years, especially since cable gave people more tv choices. So most people don't even see the Winter Oly figure skating which in the days of Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill were what got people interested in skating stars.

    Okay but let's pretend that's not true and think about how figure skating could be popular. Figure skating is lacking the identity and loyalty issue of team sports where people identify with their city or university team. It also lacks the long-term identification that a team provides as skaters skate competitively for only a few years.

    Okay so I'm thinking what about other sports that lack these advantages that team sports have? How about NASCAR? Maybe figure skating should seek to be more like NASCAR. It seems to me a lot of what generates long-term interest in NASCAR is cultural identification. People feel like they are a part of a cultural grouping and identify with one another as NASCAR fans. So how does this translate for figure skating? We need people to want to in a sense wave their banner as figure skating fans for the world to see because it connotes something about them as part of a cultural group.

    So how do we go about making this happen?

    without cracking ourselves up too much :lol:
     
  23. ioana

    ioana Well-Known Member

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    I completely agree with worldwide skating popularity being ok, but the difference when compared to football is there is no demand and hardly any rinks in South America and Africa. For skating, having a country like the US that used to pay quite a bit of money for its broadcasting rights become a smaller player will hurt the sport more (since the world-wide market for it was smaller to begin with). Football was never a big market sport in the US and it's actually getting more popular now -nowhere near the coverage the rest of the world gets, but still. Skating got quite a bit of revenue from US TV contracts after 1994. I seem to remember prize money for the ISU Grand Prix Final being closer to $60-80,000 for winners about 10 years ago, not the $25,000 they got this time around. I do think this amount will eventually start to go up again, but that will take a while.

    Otherwise, I do agree skating is huge in Asia now and since other posters mentioned countries like Sweden and Italy getting more coverage, that's a very good sign for the future.
     
  24. Iceman

    Iceman Well-Known Member

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    What kind of tv ratings did Nationals get?
     
  25. purple skates

    purple skates Shadow dancing

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  26. Sylvia

    Sylvia On to GP & U.S. Sectionals!

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    I'm American and I also think the thread title should have included "in the U.S." This forum is international and so it's not uncommon to see complaints almost every time a thread title does not specify the U.S. and assumes people should. ;)
     
  27. manhn

    manhn Well-Known Member

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    NBC's ratings for the Vancouver Olympics were the highest for a non-US Olympics since Lillehammer.
     
  28. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

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    Figure skating and NASCAR already have much in common: falling attendance, events in suck-hole locales, ancient fans whining about event shuttles, closeted competitors, trashy concession food and hideous competitive uniforms.
     
  29. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    To someone in their twenties or to someone who just got interested in figure skating in the 90's skating in the US may seem to be on the decline. But to someone like me who has been involved since the 1960's there is way more interest in figure skating now than there was in previous decades (with the exception of the few years after Tonya whacked Nancy when figure skating was the fad of the moment). This is due the availability of information on the internet, and also due to the huge increase in the number of year-round skating rinks in the US thanks to the expansion of hockey.

    I don't think figure skating will ever be a mainstream sport in the US because it is not as accessible as football, soccer, or basketball either physically or financially. The increased emphasis on tricks has turned it into a child sport for either children or physically child-like adults. A lot of adults just don't identify with the skaters they see on tv and adults are the ones spending the money and the ones that sponsors go after.

    As far as other countries are concerned maybe some of the FSUers who live there can comment.
     
  30. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

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    I think we need a hit TV show about a crime-fighting adult figure skater, probably a returning child skater, who's good enough to be interesting to watch on the ice but not too good, so average audiences could see the adult skaters and kid skaters in the rink scenes and think that this is a sport they could try for themselves if there's a rink nearby.

    Then there could be occasional guest appearances by elite skaters.