Figure Skating's Popularity Decline In The US

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

  1. algonquin

    algonquin Well-Known Member

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    That is a lot of pressure to put on Gold's shoulders.

    During the broadcast of the Canadian Nationals on TSN & CTV, host Brain Williams kept repeatedly saying, "Figure skating is back and back in a big way" .
  2. PeterG

    PeterG Argle-Bargle-ist

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    My post had nothing to do with your post. I would have quoted you if that was the case. My post was in response to the original poster who is either lazy in regards to naming his/her thread, or is someone who does think that the USA is the center of the universe. To name a thread (only) as "Figure Skating's Popularity Decline" might make one look like quite an a** in Japan, Korea and who knows how many other countries. :D

    I was so disappointed to see how empty the building was during Davis and White's SD at US Nationals. They could very well be Olympic champions in less than a year. When Tracy Wilson mentioned they were skating to a polka, I couldn't help but think "yawnfest"!!! But darned if it wasn't a wondrous program. The place should have been packed to see it live.
  3. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

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    Sure, but that half-full arena represented the entire population of Nebraska. :lol:
  4. spikydurian

    spikydurian Well-Known Member

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    Brilliant idea! :cheer:
    Call the hit show 'Ice Angels' starring Gracie Gold, Meryl Davis and Marissa Castelli, with Jeremy Abbot as 'Charlie'. :D
  5. PeterG

    PeterG Argle-Bargle-ist

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    I am sure I read that Nebraska does indeed have an airport however. Are my sources wrong??
  6. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

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    Might not. The reason you don't get Ohio Star Ball on PBS any more is they lost funding as there weren't good enough ratings. (All right, mostly ballroom doesn't tell a story, and it's probably more confusing as multiple couples are on the floor at once, but there is music and there are lots of sparkles....) DTWS is crap dancing in general, but people like it because they already know the 'stars.' And gymnastics is harder to find on TV than figure skating!
  7. Alex Forrest

    Alex Forrest Banned Member

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    I was supposed to meet a friend at Nationals, then I looked at the cost. I was seriously taken aback by the price of tickets, and my FSU friend and I would for years buy the cheapest and work our way down. I just want to cut through the bs and buy the good tickets and enjoy my seat and go from there. I thought tickets were crazy. Then airfare and hotel, since I only wanted to be in the host hotel since alot of fun stuff happens with that...., and I just thought, shit I could go to Paris or the 'real' London on this, and not some bs in Nebraska. So I ended up not going. Plus I still haven't been to a competition since CapnCrunch died and there was still some bittersweet feelings there.

    I do think these tickets need to be cheaper. I get it, airfare sucks, but do I want to spend hundreds upon hundreds to have a good seat that will NEVER be filled? Nope. Not anymore.
  8. manhn

    manhn Well-Known Member

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    Well, I'll compare figure skating with DWTS. In terms of amount of coverage, DWTS is really only 3 hours per week with a lot of filler and fluff pieces. And the west coast *still* doesn't get to see it live. I don't see why we want figure skating covered like DWTS.

    In terms of costs, unless Skate Canada is right next to my condo or is in a location that appeals to me or I become an uber of a Canadian skater (and you'll know when I uber), I will try to make Skate America an annual thing. Flying anywhere in the US from Seattle is almost always cheaper than flying from Vancouver to some other Canadian city. And SA tickets are darn cheap. SA is great value for a lot of skating fans.
  9. aims

    aims New Member

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    I agree absolutely. The popularity might be declining in the US for myriads of reasons, but no way is it a global phenomenon. The title misleads people to assume that.
    Can't anyone else edit the title i/o the thread poster:confused:
  10. TheIronLady

    TheIronLady New Member

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    Does Canada count as one of the eight countries? First it is ruled by Britain's queen. Secondly, it's kind of just a freezing version of the USA, except for that one province where everyone speaks that ugly French patois.
  11. TheIronLady

    TheIronLady New Member

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    Skating has lost some popularity in all the Western countries.

    Ask Australians on here, and I believe they will tell you skating enthusiasm has dwindled there. It wasn't always like that. Even is a summer sport country like Australia, skating had a serious following. I don't know if this is true now, and it looks like only a few can afford to train for the top levels there anymore.

    The skaters we've seen from Britain over the past fifteen years lead me to ask: Is popular support for skating in the Queen's islands almost dead? It was less than 20 years ago that the UK experienced power outages during the Olympic free dance final because so many Britons who were watching Torvil and Dean simultaneously went to their stoves to warm a pot of tea to calm their nerves down. The sport hopefully retains flickers of this excitement--and pride since the UK invented ice dance as a social activity and a sport-- but it seems dormant as of late.

    I also think in Europe, skating is considered less newsworthy than in past decades. I think in France skating remains beloved, but I could be wrong.

    I don't know what the trends are in Canada and Russia, but the sport seems at least more popular there than in the United States.

    It's nice to see the Baltic countries, the Czech and Slovak Republics, along with Poland and perhaps Hungary continue to field athletes who are notable at Europeans and Worlds. I don't know how popular the sport generally is perceived to be in those central European and former communist nations.

    Japan, Korea, and China seem to be the promising areas. It would be great for Chinese interest if they get in some singles skaters, like Lu Chen, who are competitive. The Asian countries seem to have a long, long way to go before they are good at dance.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013
  12. snoopysnake

    snoopysnake Well-Known Member

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    Yes, and the increasing difficulty emphasis is resulting in more injured skaters who miss seasons, can't sustain their level of excellence, and/or retire before they have peaked and lose fans as a result.
  13. ItalianFan

    ItalianFan Member

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  14. loulou

    loulou Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure what athletes can standard adults identify with, though. Any athlete at top levels is by definition a non standardly built person.
  15. dewey

    dewey Member

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    Isn't the airport actually in Iowa?
  16. MacMadame

    MacMadame Internet Beyotch

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    I don't believe figure skating's popularity is declining even in the US. I believe it was declining but at some point it hit stasis and is now holding steady by most measures of popularity.
  17. Susan M

    Susan M Well-Known Member

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    Your post lists a lot of contributing factors to the decline of skating viewership in the US, but this particular statement is only half right.

    The cheese fests that so overpopulated the US TV airwaves arose post-94 and didn't have much to do with Michelle Kwan. That year, the CBS network lost their contract to broadcast National Football League games on Sunday afternoons, so hit on the notion of counter-programming with figure skating. So every week there was another made-for-TV competition for pro skaters, mostly featuring Kerrigan and Baiul, with fairly inexplicable judging and eventually even audience voting. Add to that the usual pro events and some other new ones capitalizing on the boom and there was total saturation. The best of the pro skaters were flying around the country competing somewhere almost every weekend. Even the skaters could not keep them straight and came to not much care who won (except for Landover/World Pros). Eventually even the USFS got into the act and added a couple cheesefest-style competitions a year. (These would have been the only ones with Kwan back then.) By about 97 or 98, the boom was starting to fade, but pro skating was still getting better TV ratings than ISU competitions here. It was Speedy's annoyance that World Pros outdrew Worlds that year that caused the ISU to go on a mission to kill pro skating.

    I still think that the demise of the pro events, with no technical rules giving us more interesting, varied, creative and artistic programs has been a large factor in the decline of skating's popularity here overall. While the popularity star skaters achieved during their ISU competition years and the attention from the 94 Olympic season fed the popularity of the pro skating events, it was the popularity of these events that in turn drove interest in skating as a whole, helping viewership of the ISU events. The death of pro and show skating and skating TV specials in the US has, in turn, caused interest is skating as a whole to dwindle. (It's the "rising tide raises all boats" principle - the popularity of one fed the other, but without both healthy, the level was going to fall.

    It did not help that the US produced no real Scott-Dorothy-Peggy-Kristi-BrianB level stars for this circuit (in spite of some OGMs) and that Kwan and some others chose to spend their whole careers in ISU competitions rather than adding their luster and new energy to pro events. Lots of factors worked together, but part of the decline is simply that skating's popularity here in the mid 90s was a bubble that was going to burst sooner or later.

    The real problem is not just that it fell, but that it has fallen even below the pre-94 level of interest. (Actually I think it is probably even down to the pre-88 level.) That is where you have to look back at ISU for failing to fuel the system.

    I guess folks from other countries are asking why we think this topic is important. The answer is money. While skating enjoys great popularity in Russia and reached new heights in some Asian countries and maybe elsewhere, none of that makes up for the revenues the ISU looses from the US TV contract.

    For folks who have been watching skating for 25 years or more, I think it is probably also fair to say the entertainment value of ISU skating events has declined a lot in the last decade. The non-intuitive scoring produces results that look even more wrong than back when they were determined by protocols and judging deals. Changes in choreography and poor music choices driven by COP requirements and what it rewards and penalizes has caused skating to loose a lot of it's grace and elegance and, frankly, its watchability for me.
  18. PeterG

    PeterG Argle-Bargle-ist

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    Hmm. I dunno. But I checked a map and Texas is just a few inches below Nebraska. Maybe there's a shuttle??

    Oops, sorry about that. I did not mean to imply that Canada was a real country. There are so many countries that are bigger and more important. Sorry again! :eek:
  19. algonquin

    algonquin Well-Known Member

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    :rolleyes:
  20. Judy

    Judy New Member

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    It is good to hear that other countries are experiencing increasing popularity with the sport!

    With North America (and I'll group the U.S. in there as key) I think the huge ratings after the Kerrigan fiasco led to gaining new fans but also lost a lot of fans when the scandals hit. I know that I lost interest for a number of years and have only slowly come back. As well I agree that people got sick of the contrived competition in the show skating .. pretty fixed right from the beginning!).

    In the U.S. it's huge that there isn't a woman star. There always has been but not anymore. Why is that? Is it that the women have had trouble adapting to the new requirements in the programs? Are the technical requirements too demanding and difficult now that it makes it impossible for a star to emerge? They used to pump them out year after year.

    And one thing that I think overall is more minor but in the "old" days you could tune to NBC or CBC and watch skating. Now sometimes it's on satellite and at odd hours. Likely it's a lot cheaper to broadcast this way but it might be at the expense of the viewers or the casual skating fan who doesn't think to do the work to find out what hour, week or month a competition is being broadcast.

    As for the galas - yes I agree with whoever posted that there doesn't seem to be a lot of effort put ino the galas anymore. That's why I don't do SOI .. perhaps one reason for the skaters is the technical requirements leave not much time to practice exhibitions.

    And yes the new judging system is hard to follow although I like it and prefer the technical requirements especially in dance now. I used to watch dance and think wtf? what is that? lol
  21. spikydurian

    spikydurian Well-Known Member

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    :wuzrobbed My Australia is not a country! I am 'stateless'. :( Down with the Monarchists, way to go Republicans. :p

    Brings back ancient school day memories where we had to use a thread or compass to measure the distance between two points. :D

    Sports like figure skating, diving, gymnastics will never over-take manly sports like football, rugby, hockey, baseball etc. Maybe, 'sports' tend to attract more men then women? Just guessing. And figure skating, I believe, attract a larger female audience than male. Oh well, this topic has been discussed several times over different titles.
  22. misskarne

    misskarne Spirit. Focus. Ability. Tenacity. Aussie Grit.

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    BUT WHY!?

    No seriously, this is driving me nuts. Why is there such a huge emphasis on a woman star? Max Aaron seems like a nice enough kid and he's got the big jumps, why not promote him? Why does it always have to be a woman!?
  23. MacMadame

    MacMadame Internet Beyotch

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    And Davis and White are World Champions and skate very accessible dances. Why not promote them?
  24. snoopysnake

    snoopysnake Well-Known Member

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    Naah...you gotta have Charlie White as Charlie! PJZ can play the David Doyle guy, updated to reflect that PJZ is P!
  25. TheIronLady

    TheIronLady New Member

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    I am not a marketing person, but it comes down to the audience for the sport being overwhelmingly women and girls. I will say men I think were interested in watching Tanith Belbin and, to very limited extent, they seemed entertained by Johnny Weir. I think the Tonya-Nancy saga is something that mixed gender audiences related to well and shared enjoyment of.

    It seems the lady is the role model and the icon because, in the United States, skating is always assumed to be a feminine sport. In other cultures, like perhaps in Russia, where male athleticism is expressed through dance, I think there may be more room for maneuver away from this iconic fixation on ladies.

    I think women and especially young women often identify with aspects of the lady-- having to get the job done while maintaining an image of outward beauty. I think a lot of gay men involved in skating identify with the ladies skaters, for the sport emphasizes their beauty-- they are actresses basically-- but also hyper competitive and striving for perfection. There is an artistic, individualistic temperament combined with a competitiveness and fondness for hierarchy in gay American culture, and ladies skating meshes in so many ways with this.

    Okay, I know nobody asked for my thoughts on gender, gay culture, and skating, but there I went.

    I think men like Evan Lysacek's marketability rests on their appeal to women, and this includes hetero-normative* sexual appeal. I think this is why you find sexuality is still a taboo subject in skating.

    *Yes I used this pompous word.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  26. iarispiralllyof

    iarispiralllyof Active Member

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    *round of applause*
  27. whoa

    whoa Member

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  28. A.H.Black

    A.H.Black Well-Known Member

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    My friends and I discussed this topic at Nationals.

    I think one factor in the U.S. is the absence of Dick Button. Not the only factor, of course, but Dick gave a stability to the viewing public who trusted his opinion. For most people over a certain age, 95% of what they know about figure skating was learned from Dick Button. Dick was not afraid to be critical and opinionated. If Dick told us someone was good, we believed him. Dick also had the authority of being a 2 time gold medalist and a pioneer in the sport. His voice and presence were distinctive. If you heard his voice as you were clicking through channels, it would be familiar and you might stop to watch for a while.

    Also Dick's company, Candid Productions, produced some very popular shows for their time. I think this gave Dick a greater influence with network officials. I wonder how much more skating we got to see because of that influence. Now that Dick is no longer on TV very often it makes a difference in the audience that watches. There is certainly a transition going on.
  29. Iceman

    Iceman Well-Known Member

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    Brain Williams? His brain must have been malfunctioning when he said that. lol
  30. IceIceBaby

    IceIceBaby New Member

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    :rofl:
  31. Ozzisk8tr

    Ozzisk8tr Well-Known Member

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    Personally I blame Angry Birds.
  32. Frau Muller

    Frau Muller President of Dick Button Appreciation Club

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    Gordeeva did not capture the general US public's imagination until her husband died. Sad but true.
  33. Frau Muller

    Frau Muller President of Dick Button Appreciation Club

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    Because Max Aaron cannot be visualized as a Miss America with sash, crown, roses and skates. America adores only the female soloists - it's all about the Queen of the Ice, preferably pretty in pink.
  34. sarakimm

    sarakimm New Member

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    It is not AMERICA who wants that -- it is the American media and the PTB in USFS who want that. So in the absence of that recently, instead of publicizing the really great ice dancers, or men, they try to create an "Ice Queen" a la Rachel Flatt. Now they think they have it in Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold, so they are virtually the only ones we hear about from the mainstream media, which is spoon-fed all its stories by the USFS. (those that actually still even mention figure skating; SI.com did not have one thing about US Nationals that I could find.)
  35. professordeb

    professordeb Well-Known Member

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    This and then some.

    PeterG -- you can deny that Canada isn't a real country all you want but *I* know better, you little stinker :p We could pretend that the country you live in doesn't exist except for here at FSU ;)
  36. snoopysnake

    snoopysnake Well-Known Member

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    Wrong! She got a lot of attention in the US during the 1988 Olympics, and in my opinion, this did a lot to break down the anti-Soviet attitude of American skating fans.
  37. ros01

    ros01 New Member

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    And G&G were quite popular in 1994, but this was in large part due to skating's huge bounce in the US due to Harding-Kerrigan. I agree that her HUGE success, with endorsements, etc., came after Sergei's sudden death. But otoh I suppose you could argue that it wouldn't have been big news if people hadn't already had some idea of who they were.
  38. aemeraldrainc

    aemeraldrainc Active Member

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  39. Paul

    Paul New Member

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    It sounds wishful. Here are the ratings

    Fri Jan 18, Women’s & Pairs Short (3-5pm), TSN: 99,000
    Fri Jan 18, Men’s Short (8-10pm), TSN: 306,000
    Sat Jan 19 (2-4pm), CTV: 362,000
    Sat Jan 19, Men’s & Pairs Free (5-7m), TSN: 196,000
    Sat Jan 19 (7-10pm), CTV: 686,000
    Sun Jan 20, Women’s & Dance Free (2-4pm), TSN: 363,000

    Skate Canada International

    Men’s Free, Oct 27, CTV: 679, 000

    In Canadian sport, these are decent total numbers... although I couldn't get the age breakout which is critical for sponsors and advertisers. Skating almost inevitably skews older which is not what advertisers generally want as older people tend to be more set in their buying patterns and harder to get to switch (for example to a new financial institution) thus reducing the value of the broadcast to the broadcaster.

    The big night is saturday on the CTV network and it is well down from the 90s where it was well over 1,000,000 consistently. And yes its hard against hockey (especially this year with the start of the season) but in the 90s it was up against hockey as well. And teh Skate Canada number is not against hockey due to the strike so should have been way up but it wasn't. So the trend is down (despite 2 reigning world champions) and I agree down for many of the reasons mentioned. Lack of stars, similarity of programs etc. etc. And the live audience is in decline as well. Things must change if skating is to stay relevant. Yes there are pockets of strength such as Japan but that won't necessarily last forever. Declines in a winter sport country like Canada with a long history in skating should be cause for great concern as it illustrates the weakness and risk. Unfortunately, I'm not so sure those in power both in federations and at the ISU are taking these trends seriously enough. But eventually they will be forced to because the economics will collapse.
  40. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    For the Vancouver Olympics coverage in the US, television coverage was definitely skewed older. IIRC, in the men's figure skating competition, Olympic coverage came in third of the top four network broadcasters in the coveted 18-49 demographic.

    And that's because as you say, figure skating skews very old. When I hear all the comments about skating needing to be on tv more so people channel surfing would find it easier, I think back to studies which show that type of television watching is mostly represented in the oldest age demographics. Younger watchers just don't watch tv near as much as older folks do, and they don't tend to flip around channels the same way.

    So the very suggestions offered here reflect the older demographic of skating, and why those suggestions are very unlikely to appeal to younger folk who aren't already fans (which sorta reiterates the point that people are projecting their beefs with skating onto the general population and thinking if skating was changed to more appeal to them personally, it would gain larger audiences in general). But that's very skewed thinking just as the fanbase of skating is very skewed demographically as IronLady pointed out (older, white, wealthy women and gay men).