Figure Skating's Popularity Decline In The US

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

  1. manhn

    manhn Well-Known Member

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    Commentary is the most overrated part of a skating broadcast. If one network aired 10 skating programs but the commentary was done by the "legitimate rape" guy, and the other network aired 9 skating programs but the commentary was done by someone everyone likes (and who is that, btw?), I will take the network showing 10 programs. Quantity over quality--every single time.
  2. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

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    For non-rabid fans though commentary is important. I found that at my party where I was the only one watching Nationals, but everyone else watched because it is a normal think to point your head towards a TV people really wanted to know what the jumps were. They had no idea the difference between an axel and a salchow, but it was important to them to hear which one they did. (They kept asking me.) I also got asked if there was a difference between the spins skaters did? So non-skating fans really are that obtuse that they can't SEE a sit spin and a camel are different and want to be told that... maybe because they are football fans, and even though they fully understand those rules (and argue about referee rulings as much as we argue about GOE and PCS) they are used to being told what is happening- so much so that many go to live games with radios in their pocket to hear commentators.

    Personally, as a CW skater I have a hard time telling flips and lutzes apart when done CCW, just because I have to reverse my skating, so I like commentators when they actually call things (and even more when they call URs or edge calls) but I hate when they tell me "she has such a lovely quality on the ice".
  3. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

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    Has this been confirmed, given that BOLD has been sold?
  4. WildRose

    WildRose Well-Known Member

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    This. I avoid US coverage as much as I can, but I do tune in for US Nationals and to me its obvious why so many US fans hate COP and have stopped watching skating. For whatever reason, the commentators don't provide any technical information - its no wonder casual viewers are often frustrated by the results.
    CBC gives us much better technical analysis in Canada. Tracy and Kurt talk about levels, they tell us what is difficult and what isn't, we hear about ice coverage, where the jumps are placed, speed, entrances into jumps, landings, cheated jumps, etc, etc. Kurt will often explain the technical reason why a jump didn't work or why a skater might be having a problem with it. It's interesting, and it helps the audience to understand why programs are scored the way they are.
  5. Cherub721

    Cherub721 YEAH!

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    Does anyone think the return of fluff pieces would help US viewership? Please don't :lynch: me. ;)

    As skating fans, we always want to the network to try to squeeze in that extra program. But perhaps for the casual fan, getting to know the skaters as people would draw them in. Whatever fluff pieces we do get today are of the "walking on the beach, contemplating my future, giving generic statements about how I am competing with myself and I just want to do my best" variety. There is very little actual personality shown. I remember the days when they used to go to Joubert's freaking house in France and interview his mom and we'd get to see his baby pics and find out his embarrassing nickname. There was Pasha the actress wannabe, Oksana the alcoholic orphan, karate loving Elvis, bad girls Tonya and Nicole vs the glamorous Nancy and Michelle, etc. If a pair or ice dance team was a couple that was generally highlighted.

    This does nothing to enhance skating's credibility as a sport, but it probably helped people relate to the skaters and actually invest in their performances. When I talk to people who don't really watch skating except for the Olympics, this is the kind of stuff they remember. I feel like it's more disconnected now. Like in Vancouver, I can't really explain it, but it felt like NBC kept telling us: look, "Yu-Na is really really popular in her country. See these magazine covers? A lot of people like her!" But I, as a viewer, didn't really get to know her at all.

    I don't think CoP has hurt that much, but I do not think it helped either. If there was any speculation that fans would come back to the sport upon their perception that the judging was now "fair," it clearly hasn't happened (either the fans don't perceive it as being any more fair, or they don't care that much). In fact, the 6.0 system was better for the entertainment aspect of skating. OMG, how could that Russian judge put Sarah in 10th place! Ohh, the French judge, the Ukranian judge, they're all so evil! And who could forget that stupid map showing how the eastern bloc judges voted for Oksana? :lol: A large segment of the public eats that crap up. It's the same reason they watch reality shows despite "hating" the judges.

    But the question is, as skating fans should we support focusing on the entertainment side of skating if it will increase the ratings, and perhaps result in more coverage, even if it damages the sport's credibility? Or honestly is it better to just watch a feed from some foreign country that shows all the skaters and is drama free (if only because you can't understand the language) so you can concentrate on the sport aspects?
  6. manhn

    manhn Well-Known Member

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    The biggest skating human interest story at the 2010 Games was the death of Joannie's mother. Not sure if that compelled people to watch. I think it did, at least it did in Canada. There were enough stories of patrons in bars and restaurants stopping what they were doing to watch Joannie skate, and I don't think they would've done that just because she's Canadian.
  7. rvi5

    rvi5 New Member

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    I recall reading an article by a British writer, who said he would not typically watch figure skating. He joked..."who would want to watch it?". However, he did mention he tuned-in specifically to watch Joannie, and was praying..."please don't let her fall". Joannie's human interest story definately affected people, even outside of Canada.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2013
  8. AndyWarhol

    AndyWarhol Well-Known Member

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    i like the fluff pieces! bring them back
  9. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

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    Without having done a careful study, I think that the numbers of competitors at U.S. regionals (juvenile through senior levels) peaked around 2004 or so; i.e., skaters who had started skating during the boom ears of the mid-late 1990s. Some large regions needed qualifying rounds for intermediate men around that time, and two levels of cuts for the juvenile and intermediate ladies.

    The numbers are down a bit since then. Several possible reasons would include a natural decline in new skaters taking up the sport as the television coverage declined; the state of the economy making it harder for parents to afford ice time and lessons for their kids; skaters of average and below-average ability (because of limited training time just as much as limited natural talent) choosing not to compete in qualifying competitions because IJS is too demanding or because they dislike IJS-style programs and choose to compete in other types of events instead. There has been a growth in participation in events such as synchronized skating, Theatre on Ice, Showcase, Solo Dance, competitive test track which caters more to recreational competitors who spend less time training. Some of these disciplines didn't really even exist 10 years ago, much less 20 or 30.

    Without having checked the actual numbers, I would not be surprised if the overall membership of USFS is comparable to or higher than it was 10 years ago even though the numbers at regionals are somewhat lower. There are more different ways to participate now.

    Certainly membership in my own club is at an all-time high -- synchro skating seems to fuel a big part of that. This will vary by location, especially the state of the economy and availability of rinks in various parts of the country.

    Also I think there are more clubs and more club competitions, although that may fluctuate.

    Numbers of adult skaters might also be slightly lower, but plateaued at a higher level than 20+ years ago before adult skating really took off.

    So in general I don't think participation is really hurting, but I don't think USFS can afford to get complacent about serving the needs of different groups of members, not just elite-track competitors.
  10. Iceman

    Iceman Well-Known Member

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    I didn't see any promo ads on tv about US Nationals this year? Did anyone else?
  11. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I

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    Where do they get their money to serve these needs? Are they taking whatever TV money there is and using that? Is most of the their money from membership fees? Do they get any revenues from Skate America and US Nationals?

    I'm trying to figure out the impact of a decline in the popularity of championship figure skating.
  12. TheIronLady

    TheIronLady New Member

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    Oh come on. America would never have found the 1988, 1992, or 1994 Olympics interesting or exciting had they had some Chinese announcer. It was all about the storytelling. In 1994 Connie Chung and David Letterman were even in on it. It was never just the showing that made skating a ratings success, though the producers and camera technicians deserve full credit for the sport's fan base for their brilliant work.
  13. spikydurian

    spikydurian Well-Known Member

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    Now I am convinced that tragedy or drama is required to make figure skating popular. :D
  14. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

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    Ah, where is Tonya Harding when you need her :D
  15. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

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    I'm far from an expert on the financial aspects. Would have to do some research to answer any questions definitively. Maybe someone else here knows more than I do.

    Most of the stuff that happens at the grassroots level such as club competitions are funded by the clubs and the participants, and Headquarters or the top volunteer leadership don't get involved at all. E.g., once the decision to was made to add the Competitive Test Track option and the rules for it were developed by the appropriate volunteer committee and incorporated into the rulebook, it doesn't cost the association anything. Clubs can offer it at their nonqualifying events, and skaters pay their entry fees to compete in those levels instead of in IJS levels if that's what they prefer. Probably the largest numbers of participants in that track are at lower (non-IJS) levels anyway. So the main financial impact would be attracting new members at an earlier point in their skating development and retaining some skaters at middle/upper levels who might have quit if they felt they couldn't keep up with the qualifying level requirements.

    Solo dance and National Showcase now have national championships, so that one event each per year would get some funding from the USFS, but the qualifiers to get there all happen at club competitions.

    Synchronized skating has been around longer and has a more developed competition structure, with sectional and national competitions and some top teams being sent to international events, which the federation funds.

    Competitors (teams in the case of synchro) do pay entry fees for qualifying competitions, but I don't know if that alone is enough to cover the costs of running those competitions.
  16. Paul

    Paul New Member

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    Impacts in two ways. First, as i understand it, US TV revenue from the Skate America and US nationals would go to USFSA. I heard through the grapevine that the organizers of the GP get a contribution from the ISU if there is TV revenue for the ISU in that market. So there is a financial impact. Secondly, if you look at membership statistics in Canada which are reported by Skate Canada in their annual report, they tend to go up after success by a Canadian skater. So visibility and profile of the elite skaters helps drive kids to the rink to learn to skate. This makes sense to me. For sure there are many other factors such as affordability etc. I think to take the view that there is no connection is not realistic.
  17. loulou

    loulou Well-Known Member

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    I would chose otherwise, every single time. A good commentator is like a good teacher, or a good parent, or a good pal, the person that can make what's good even better, more interesting, more fun. Someone that sometimes complements you, sometimes meets you. You need that if you're a newbe, it adds to the event even if you're experienced.

    -- Are you asking me who is the commentator everyone likes? I mentioned no commentator everyone likes, but I did say a good commentator imo adds to the coverage, and I did mention a former skater, current coach, who needs no help to understand, that would take pleasure in a specific commenting.
  18. manhn

    manhn Well-Known Member

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    How do people survive attending an event with no commentary?

    Practically every commentator these days is a former skater and no one is universally beloved. And a current coach? Yeah, Igor commentating during D&W or V&M's competition would turn out great.
  19. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

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    Many buy the skate bug radios so they can listen to commentary.

    It also seems like most of the serious fans at baseball and football games wear radios in their ears to listen to commentary too!
  20. WildRose

    WildRose Well-Known Member

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    LOL, I record it and watch it on TV again when I go home because the commentators often provide information that isn't available even to the most diehard fan.
    As for current coaches, Tracy Wilson coaches with Brian Orser - I've never heard anyone complain about her commentating on events that her skaters or former skaters are in. Personally I think it's an advantage when the commentators are skaters, coaches &/or choreographers who are still actively involved in the sport.
  21. loulou

    loulou Well-Known Member

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    When talking about commetators, we're of course speaking about some kind of broadcast or coverage.
    Attending an event live is a completely different scenario.


    When I mentioned: "former skater, current coach" I wasn't referring to the commentator, but to the person that enjoys listening to the commentator, although not in need of explanations.

    As for you narrowing down the field to see who that person might be, just trust my word: somewhere in the world this thing is real.

    I think good commentators aren't so hard to come by, we should keep an open mind for that talent, which (in my experience) often isn't perfectly ovelapping the skating talent or the coaching talent. Some mediocre skaters, mediocre coaches, or even fans could sometimes make very good commentators.
  22. leesaleesa

    leesaleesa Active Member

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    I remember a fluff on Tonya Harding in Lillehammer-She was making Old El Paso tacos. In Norway. Where good stuff like salmon is plentiful, Tonya was mixing up some fatty ground beef with a monosodium glutamate powder base. I really liked that one, because it underhandedly illustrated how trashy and laissez faire she was, with out going into the whack.

    Nancy always got the Mother with her nose pressed into the monitor (No disrespect meant to visually impaired Mrs. Kerrigan), Kristi was born with a club foot, but Tonya got the good fluff-"I'm gonna whip her butt" and white trash tacos.

    Yeah, fluff can be good.
    AndyWarhol and (deleted member) like this.
  23. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I

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    Not with Skate Radio. The commentators, at the Olympics were better than anyone except PJ Kwong (when she's on BOLD), but CBC/BOLD didn't have Olympic rights for Vancouver, and she was the arena announcer. Their commentary was what you generally hear from sports commentators in sports from baseball to curling to diving: technical analysis -- one of the commentators is a certified ISU technical specialist -- overview, background, context, and some good-natured goofing around. They announced during the practices, too. (Maybe the first was their dress rehearsal.)

    I used to laugh when I heard that huge numbers of people in the stands at Dodger Stadium brought their portable radios/Walkmen to listen to Vin Scully's announcing during a live game. Then I was sitting in Vancouver, all :wuzrobbed because the reception went dead temporarily :slinkaway

    From that, you'd have expected her to come from someplace in the US where food is white, corn is a green vegetable, and, if you ask for an order of the garnish, kale, you're asked, "Would you like cheese on that?", but she lived in freaking Oregon, where fresh salmon is the regional dish, not anything remotely exotic.
  24. Artistic Skaters

    Artistic Skaters Drawing Figures

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    I have watched politicians, high ranking military leaders, doctors, lawyers, CEO's & PhD's mix up their taco kits for many years. Industrialized & highly processed food in the US was not under the same scrutiny 20 years ago that it is today. It may not be my choice for dinner, but for many I'd consider it some type of comfort food rather than attribute it to their trashiness.

    Athletes don't have to be continental sophisticates in my world. They can be comfortable in foreign countries if it helps them with their competition. Many athletes choose to bring their own food for different reasons rather than partake of offerings, so I can't say I'd fault Tonya Harding for it anymore than I would for the rest of them.
  25. AndyWarhol

    AndyWarhol Well-Known Member

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    ooh, that sounds amazing!
  26. Iceman

    Iceman Well-Known Member

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    I prefer no commentary while a skater is skating. It distracts from the performance for me, just as it would if someone were commentating during a ballet performance. I don't see why they can't save their comments for playbacks being shown while the judges are coming up with a score. It would help too if they kept their comments restricted to the performance. I don't need or want their personal reaction to a skate. Every time Scott pipes up it is like fingernails on a chalk board for me. As far as content, I like the British guys who commentate for Euro.
  27. Susan M

    Susan M Well-Known Member

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    Actually, viewers did understand it, they just didn't think it was very fair or right. Besides, it really didn't happen all that often. Most of the time, a skater who was 1st or 2nd in the free won the event, especially after OBO scoring was adopted.

    It's not so much that the new scoring system is itself incomprehensible, but that the results too often are. A lot of the places the skaters lose points (edge calls, underrotations, noncredited elements, dance levels) are not very apparent to the audience. For the scoring system to work for casual fans, there needs to be a correlation between the results and what they thought they saw on the ice. What audiences find incomprehensible are results like the multi-fall wins of Chan's or Flatt's Nationals win several years ago over a more impressive Nagasu (due to multiple underrotation calls not obvious in real time across the arena).

    When the system was new, US broadcasters did try different approaches to explaining the scores, but I think they have largely given up trying to explain the scoring in any but the most general terms. They do comment on levels in dance, but less often in the singles elements. The only time they start getting very detailed is in after-the fact explanations of controversial results. For example, I remember seeing an element by element breakdown of Lysacek vc Plushy FS at Calgary showing the advantage Lysacek gained due to GOE.

    One thing I think would help a lot is for the broadcasters to also show the results of the FS portion before they move on to the totals. So often now a skater wins due to a large advantage in the SP followed by a flawed free that finishes 2nd or 3rd. I think folks would feel better about the outcome if it was clearer the skates that looked better really did score better in that portion of the event. It would make it easier to see why the winner came out ahead and to accept the result as logical.
  28. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

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    Did you ask all the viewers? I sure as heck didn't understand 6.0! Each judge essentially got to pick what they valued about skating and score based on their own little criteria, not to mention the inane issues that moved skaters around to random places, and then the fact that if you had a bad short program no matter how good your long was you couldn't move up at all, and how much 6.0 relied on a 'wait your turn' ranking of skaters.
  29. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I

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    Considering how few SP/SD's are shown in the US, it would be helpful to talk about the SP and put the FS into context before the viewer's blood pressure is raised, when they're not likely to be swayed by reason.
  30. Susan M

    Susan M Well-Known Member

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    Sure, there will always be folks who don't, won't or can't grasp the fundamentals of any system. One of the Ordinal System precepts you seem not to like is that the absolute score was indeed meaningless, so there was no right or wrong about a judge giving 5.6/5.7 rather than 5.8/5.8. What mattered is whether that was a better or worse score than he gave to other skaters.

    For the most part, though, viewers did fine for decades with the idea of ordinals and the idea of a skater winning because 6 judges gave them the higher score while only 3 thought the other skater was better. I think the fact that skating was so popular here for those years supports the proposition that audiences were not put off by the scoring system.
  31. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I

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    People had thought they understood ordinals, or that 6.0 was perfect/5.9 was close to perfection, when at least 5.9 meant "better than 5.8," but how many actually remembered what had come before, or that 5.9/5.7 wasn't better than 5.8/5/8 in the FS, but was in the SP? Most people had a sense that a bunch of 5.8's and 5.9's was better than a bunch of 5.3's and 5.4's, but among the top skaters, unless there was a string of 6.0's, they waited for a string of ordinals to show on the screen, and wouldn't have been able to have made heads or tails out of the numbers themselves, especially when they were close.
  32. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

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    OBO did diminish the amount of place switching in the same phase of the event compared with majority calculations. But it had no effect on how often a skater who was 1st or 2nd in the free won the event, because that depended solely on the factored placements, which worked the same regardless of how the results of each phase were calculated.

    Yes, this is true. Better commentary would help viewers anticipate where skaters might gain or lose points. But even with the best knowledge and experience, it's still impossible to appreciate on TV everything that the judges or tech panels can see up close sitting rinkside. And aside from that, sometimes people including other experts will just firmly disagree with the judges' opinions. So no matter what there will be results that are hard for even the best commentators to explain with conviction.

    As I mentioned earlier, this happened under 6.0 as well. There were plenty of results that commentators disagreed with. The explanations offered typically boiled down to politics in some form or other.
  33. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Well-Known Member

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    Do you think that results were any more comprehensable under 6.0? And I am sure there were lots of results under 6.0 that bamboolzed the casual fan as well.

    Having judged with 6.0 it is purely a placement system. If you are judging a large group of skaters the marks mean nothing because all you are trying to do is squeeze skaters into the position you feel the skater should be in. Quite random really.

    However I don't think the casual fan really cares nor has the inclination to want to understand the detail of the sport. They just watch it. If they like what they see well and good and if they don't they turn off.

    I think some people are reading too much into how much of a role the system plays in attracting fans. It might be one factor but it is not the only factor.
  34. rvi5

    rvi5 New Member

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    Perhaps it has already been mentioned (I haven't read the entire thread), but copied below is my opinion which I previously posted in another thread. It was mostly aimed at Canadians, but likely also applies to other countries...

    As some have mentioned, the "general public" does not know anything about how scores are calculated in either the new or old system. The "general public" base their opinions of skaters on how they like the music, overall skating performance (not necessarily the details re: deep edges, transitions, etc. ... what's that?). They also count mistakes ie. skater A fell two times, skater B fell three, therefore skater A wins unless the other skater has a much more likeable overall performance. Don't expect the "general public" to know that a Lutz is more difficult than a Flip, and should have a higher score. From the "general public" view, all jumps look alike...jump up, spin around, land. They hear the commentator mention the jump names, but have no idea why they are different.

    It has been argued elsewhere that the old 6.0 system provides an upper limit which allows people to know how the skater performed compared to perfection, but I don't think the "general public" cares enough for it to be a deal breaker re: figure skating popularity decline. The "general public" are more interested in how skaters rank compared to each other in that current competition. ie. who will win in the here-and-now. They are less concerned with how skaters rank compared to other skaters in the figure skating universe...skaters who's names they may not know (that is more of a concern for "avid" fans). Other popular sports such as Baseball, Soccer, Hockey, Football, Basketball, etc. are not suffering without it.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2013
  35. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

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    I think the two systems had one problem in common--when they see a cleaner problem visually lose to a skater who looked messier (Mirai comes to mind--my parents are the casualest of casual fans and watch if they notice skating's on, usually to ask "Is anyone you know [from SCOB] competing?" and they couldn't understand why she lost to Flatt, or why she got so badly marked this time. In fact, seeing a skater with no falls lose to one WITH falls had my dad saying "It's still fixed, huh.") without any kind of explanation, whether it's 6.0 or IJS, they don't like it.

    I disagree with rvi5 that the casual viewer isn't interested in the 'close to perfection' thing--having a "perfect score" gives them at least some benchmark to gauge the performance, like a 10 in gymnastics. I doubt 90% of the people who went wild over Nadia's perfect tens had any idea why in detail she got them or what was so great about her gymnastics (I have no idea; rather like jumps to a non-skating fan, about all I can tell is "fell off apparatus or didn't") but they knew the 'authorities' of her sport had just said it was as perfect as it could humanly be. People like having absolute numbers. You can't compare it to direct-competition sports, where the goal is to score points off the opposing team--there you know who's better because they're directly beating their opponents. (And those sports care more about rank for teams than most skating fans care about seasonally ranking skaters--baseball fans know where in the league their team is ranked in relation to other teams all the time.) They don't know what the jump is, but they like seeing a judge say it's a perfect score.

    Where 6.0 was a problem is that ranking scores are hard to do when everyone goes one at a time. IJS means you use total points, the confusion for the viewer is when points are given with pluses and minuses on values that aren't explained (to the casual viewer, if you don't finish the jump on your butt, there's no difference between one lutz and another besides triple > double) and when deductions severe enough to make a good-looking program score low are given for things like URs the viewer can't see.
  36. rvi5

    rvi5 New Member

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    Fans of those sports get the rankings from newspaper, television, and in this modern age...from the internet. They don't attempt to build it into the scoring system.

    But is it a deal breaker? Has figure skating really declined because it isn't as easy to determine from the score how perfect a skater is?

    In my opinion, as stated in my previous post, the biggest problem is the lack of home grown heroes to cheer. This has been evident in Canada re: women's single skaters. Now with Osmond, people are becoming much more interested in that discipline. Shockingly, the Toronto Star even dedicated two full pages to figure skating. Complete with a large picture of Kaetlyn. In the Gala TV recording when Kaetlyn was exiting the ice after her performance, you can see her briefly hold up her finger while looking to the side. A little girl was shouting for Kaetlyn to autograph that photo on the newspaper page.


    P.S. the little girl eventually got the autograph when all the skaters were taking turns doing lifts, jumps, etc. Kaetlyn happened to be standing along the boards near the girl, and took a moment to sign the page. :)
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2013
  37. MacMadame

    MacMadame Internet Beyotch

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    And you know this how?

    And they weren't before? There was never controversy before? :rofl:

    This is what I am getting from this discussion:

    I don't like ISJ and viewership has declined therefore it must be IJS's fault! I will now make up a bunch of reasons why IJS must be causing this decline in viewership.

    The problem with this "logic" is that viewership was in a decline before IJS was around. Therefore, IJS can't be responsible for the decline. It may or may not be contributing to it and it sure hasn't reversed it, as Speedy had hoped, but it certainly didn't cause it since it wasn't even here when viewership started declining.

    Therefore, it really doesn't matter what you think of IJS or what reasons you pull out of your butt for why it supposedly is incomprehensible and "casual" viewers supposedly don't like it.

    What I find interesting is that in other countries, the TV shows made a real effort to explain ISJ and in many of those countries viewership is not only not declining, but growing. Which pokes yet another hole in the "ISJ is causing the decline in viewership" theory.
  38. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

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    It could be the case that US viewers in aggregate would hate IJS regardless of the quality of commentary because Americans in general just don't like analyzing performances in numerical terms and will never accept a performance sport where the numbers matter as much as or more than the overall effect of the performance.

    I don't think that's true, but if the decline in interest is culture specific then there could be culture-specific reasons for that decline.

    Still, if that were the case, then there would be no way the ISU could please every culture all the time. So who says US preferences should take precedence?

    Sucks for skating fans in the US who want more skating on TV, especially those who want old-style skating on TV. But broadcast TV needs multiple millions of viewers to be cost effective in the US, and there just aren't that many skating fans who care that much.
  39. MacMadame

    MacMadame Internet Beyotch

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    I don't think it's true either because Americans in general love baseball. ;)
  40. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

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    I figure there are at least three or four different potential audience groups for figure skating within the US:

    *Sports fans, who want clear objective standards that are as black-and-white as possible, rewarding athletic risk and success. They would likely be interested in numbers insofar as they correlated to higher scores for higher difficulty and higher penalties for obvious mistakes but would have less patience for anything subtle and qualitative that's a matter of opinion and/or not obvious on TV. This probably also includes a lot of officials in the IOC and the speedskating side of the ISU, who think that skewing skating to appeal to these potential fans will increase viewership for figure skating.

    In the US, however, I think this contingent largely consists of people who tend to be turned off by the qualitative aspects that are inherent in very concept of figure skating scoring and/or by the external trappings (sequins, classical music) that they can't bear to watch, or can't bear to watch men doing it. And that is a cultural preference.

    *Arts fans who especially enjoy the expressive possibilities of skating movement along with the external glamour of the way skating has traditionally presented itself. Their primary interest is in the overall aesthetic effect of the performances; they may not be interested at all in technical difficulty and technical correctness, or only insofar as bravura feats and security of execution enhance the aesthetic experience. Holistic scoring a la 6.0 would resonate best with how these fans experience skating contests, more as a performing art than a sport.

    *Skating fans who are turned on by the inherent specifics of skating itself and the ways different aspects conflict with each other (speed, glide, technical precision, explosive athleticism, beauty, musicality, etc.) enough to want to learn more and to analyze the fine points of why results come out the way they do.

    That's us, folks. :D Of course, we each have different areas that we think are more or less important -- some of us lean more toward the sport side or the art side, some of us like the juxtposition of the two, some of us who are skaters ourselves focus more on fine points of blade-on-ice technique than on obvious athleticism -- we often disagree with each other and with judges, which makes for spirited discussion here. But we love the basics of skating itself enough to follow it even when the emphasis swings toward the areas we're less interested in.

    And then there are also
    *Casual viewers who really aren't interested in skating except to root for the home team during the Olympics or occasionally be entertained by watching pretty girls, or pretty boys depending on preference, and on the human drama of high-stakes competition. But people gliding and twirling on (and above) ice is not something that grabs their interest on its own merits.

    The Harding/Kerrigan scandal pulled some members of the last group into the other groups -- once they had a reason to watch, they found the actual skating was more interesting than they anticipated.

    I wonder if there's anything the sport can do to encourage more viewers in the first two groups to join the third. And if appealing more to the first group would necessarily chase off members of the second, and vice versa.