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  1. #1

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    Is lack of quality media coverage worldwide holding figure skating back?

    TV coverage of the European Championships this year was almost none existent. Eurosport provided no coverage of the short programs/dance, and the 1 hour long advertised live coverage for each of the free programs/dance was mostly cut in half, with the winners/top finishers programs often being missed out completely. All in all, the coverage was to say the least, extremely poor.

    Canadian fans have also encountered similar problems as this article points out, and as Phil Hersh highlighted in this article a few months ago, there have been problems with American coverage as well. In fact, the only part of the world that is defying the trend towards deteriorating coverage is of course Asia. But how long will that last?

    The problem with deteriorating coverage is the missed opportunity to inspire a new generation of fans. The core audience ages, and the two trends combined produce an even smaller audience. This in turn makes it even less likely that TV companies will be interested in covering the sport. Consequently, the sport is locked into a vicious circle and a downward spiral. This is something that the ISU needs to address as a matter of urgency, and proactively tackle. One idea would be for the ISU to provide an online subscription service in those areas where events have no coverage. That way, at least there is coverage, and the ISU can make a bit of much needed money out of it at the same time.

    So, is the lack of TV coverage worldwide holding the sport back? Would an online subscription service provided by the ISU for those areas that have no coverage plug the gap?
    Last edited by Maofan7; 01-29-2013 at 04:44 AM.

  2. #2

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    This article was posted earlier in this GSD thread: Figure skating fans deserve better
    "Randy [Starkman (1960-April 16, 2012)] lived by the same motto as the rest of us. The Olympics isn’t every four years, it’s every single day. He just got it." --Canadian Olympic kayaker Adam van Koeverden

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sylvia View Post
    This article was posted earlier in this GSD thread: Figure skating fans deserve better
    Thanks
    Last edited by Maofan7; 01-29-2013 at 05:27 AM.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maofan7 View Post
    The problem with deteriorating coverage is the missed opportunity to inspire a new generation of fans. The core audience ages, and the two trends combined produce an even smaller audience. This in turn makes it even less likely that TV companies will be interested in covering the sport. Consequently, the sport is locked into a vicious circle and a downward spiral. This is something that the ISU needs to address as a matter of urgency, and proactively tackle. One idea would be for the ISU to provide an online subscription service in those areas where events have no coverage. That way, at least there is coverage, and the ISU can make a bit of much needed money out of it at the same time.

    So, is the lack of TV coverage worldwide holding the sport back? Would an online subscription service provided by the ISU for those areas that have no coverage plug the gap?
    I agree with your point about the lack of coverage holding the sport back and reducing the core audience. I was speaking to a couple of ladies from the UK watching the free dance in Zagreb, and their complaint was that they just didn't know who any of the skaters are these days - and this is from people who had bothered to travel to see the competition, so what hope is there for the casual fan? Eurosport coverage here is so poor that it's impossible for anyone to follow the season without having to go hunting for streams and youtube videos, and so far the BBC hasn't even offered their usual 1h30mins of competition highlights, even though there was a British team in the top 5 in dance.

    However, I don't think that an ISU subscription stream would solve the problem. It would make things easier for the already committed fan, but it's not the way to pick up new viewers, which is what the sport really needs. Setting up subscription streams would have all sorts of implications for selling broadcast rights to tv channels, and would make broadcasters less inclined to purchase them -why bother when presumably many potential viewers would just watch online? This would then reduce the exposure of the sport to the general public even further, turning it into even more of a niche sport.

    It shouldn't be like this in the age of cable tv, when time can be found to cover almost anything, even fishing competitions. The BBC covered bowls competitions every afternoon last week, but no skating & you have to wonder why they aren't bothering with regular season coverage of what is always a marquee event at the Olympics. I think the main problem the ISU has no idea how to market itself. In Zagreb, all the ISU pre event videos, official pictures, marketing - it all features skaters from 2002-2008ish, like Cohen, B/A, D/S, Weir, even completely random ones like Preaubert... yet in the actual competition they have 3 charismatic, personable men taking medals, exciting battles between the veteran Kostner & the up & coming Russian girls, the top 2 pairs in the World facing off for a gold medal. So many great stories to pick up on, and the media that does bother to show up does a good job of covering it, but the ISU itself doesn't seem to know how to make the most of selling the stars it has competing at the moment. Build up personalities and the coverage will come, like we've seen in South Korea with Yu-na or Japan with Mao & Daisuke, or in the UK with the increased coverage of cycling after Team Sky built a strong brand & pushed forward Wiggins & Cavendish.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by morqet View Post
    I agree with your point about the lack of coverage holding the sport back and reducing the core audience. I was speaking to a couple of ladies from the UK watching the free dance in Zagreb, and their complaint was that they just didn't know who any of the skaters are these days - and this is from people who had bothered to travel to see the competition, so what hope is there for the casual fan? Eurosport coverage here is so poor that it's impossible for anyone to follow the season without having to go hunting for streams and youtube videos, and so far the BBC hasn't even offered their usual 1h30mins of competition highlights, even though there was a British team in the top 5 in dance.

    However, I don't think that an ISU subscription stream would solve the problem. It would make things easier for the already committed fan, but it's not the way to pick up new viewers, which is what the sport really needs. Setting up subscription streams would have all sorts of implications for selling broadcast rights to tv channels, and would make broadcasters less inclined to purchase them -why bother when presumably many potential viewers would just watch online? This would then reduce the exposure of the sport to the general public even further, turning it into even more of a niche sport.

    It shouldn't be like this in the age of cable tv, when time can be found to cover almost anything, even fishing competitions. The BBC covered bowls competitions every afternoon last week, but no skating & you have to wonder why they aren't bothering with regular season coverage of what is always a marquee event at the Olympics. I think the main problem the ISU has no idea how to market itself. In Zagreb, all the ISU pre event videos, official pictures, marketing - it all features skaters from 2002-2008ish, like Cohen, B/A, D/S, Weir, even completely random ones like Preaubert... yet in the actual competition they have 3 charismatic, personable men taking medals, exciting battles between the veteran Kostner & the up & coming Russian girls, the top 2 pairs in the World facing off for a gold medal. So many great stories to pick up on, and the media that does bother to show up does a good job of covering it, but the ISU itself doesn't seem to know how to make the most of selling the stars it has competing at the moment. Build up personalities and the coverage will come, like we've seen in South Korea with Yu-na or Japan with Mao & Daisuke, or in the UK with the increased coverage of cycling after Team Sky built a strong brand & pushed forward Wiggins & Cavendish.
    Agree on every count, and for the bolded bit: it's the same at Bompard, they're using an old ISU video before each segment, in which most of the skaters featured aren't competing anymore!
    Are they really so broke they can't pay a video editor to cut together a current one? It seem minor, but it's very symptomatic of their failing to realize the sport needs quality PR -not normally hard to come by in today's world!
    Touching the void.

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    I think the people in the ISU don't realize what is happening. Or maybe they do but have no idea how to fix it. Most of them are so old that they have no idea about the possibilities of the internet and marketing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by IceIceBaby View Post
    I think the people in the ISU don't realize what is happening. Or maybe they do but have no idea how to fix it. Most of them are so old that they have no idea about the possibilities of the internet and marketing.
    Funnily enough that sounds like Formula One. Are Bernie Ecclestone and the head of the ISU related?

    Jokes aside, they really need a new marketing strategy, stat. There's got to be a better way - and not just for the big countries, but for those of us stuck in skating no-man's land, loving the sport and struggling to access it. Whether that's a special online subscription, or even just plain better marketing, I don't really know.

    A major problem is that in Western countries, figure skating is a "girl's" sport, and a lot of people will tell you outright that it's not a sport. How do you get over that kind of deeply ingrained societal prejudice? It's not easy.

    In Australia we had a show called "Rexona Australia's Greatest Athlete". It pitted top (male) stars of various sports against each other in a series of different challenges designed to test different areas of fitness/athleticism etc. I've always wondered how a male figure skater would stack up in a contest like that. Something like that might be a key. I can imagine if someone like Max Aaron beat out Billy Slater (an Australian rugby league player who won the series twice and was only prevented from a third by a broken collarbone) it would cause a few turned heads in Australia.

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    That Canadian journalist isn't making the sport look better by carping and complaining to sports editors like an old crone. She should try to sound less opinionated and crotchety. We want the sports coverage folks to believe it isn't just gray hairs out there that they can attract.

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    Perhaps it's not the lack of quality media coverage holding figure skating back, maybe it's the heinous, biased judging?!

  10. #10
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    Skaters are going to skate, regardless if it's on a bunch of TV channels. Not that I think it shouldn't be on TV. But holding skating back? No.

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    Sadly, speaking to many figure skating insiders they all agree that we need another Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan hoopla.
    It would bring ratings and TV coverage hence more air time.

    All jokes aside, speaking to people outside of the skating world, majority love (yes even straight man) to watch figure skating. In reality, they have no idea about the jump names or the amount of rotations, cheated or not, spins levels etc, they love to watch the artistry and athletic performances. That said, the TV coverage is almost non existent worldwide (worst in Americas than in Europe). And when NBC (thank you NBC) brings some figure skating on the program, it is mostly galas, shows or last 6 skaters from the Nationals. It is always laced with obnoxious amount of commercial breaks.
    And there is the alternative. IceNetwork!!!! It's great!!!
    You have to pay yearly subscriber fee. You can see good amount of the US competitions and pay more $ for EC or WC. There are no commercials (well. not all the time), really good commentators (I am being very sarcastic) and mainly audience that is involved in figure skating, hence they pay. Perfect way to stay in the circle not getting more outsiders (aka ordinary folks).

    What I am trying to say is that there is plenty of people that would watch the figure skating worldwide would it be available. I guess it should start with the ISU. Being more progressive and treat the sport somewhat as a business could not hurt. Opening the sport to other demographic areas and promoting the sport worldwide should be a priority. Unfortunately, we are going in the opposite direction...

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    I've thought about this for a long time, and this is what I've concluded:

    1) The change from 6.0 to PCS. I'm not hating on PCS, I think it has allowed us to produce the most well-rounded skaters ever; however that being said, even if one considers PCS as "points for points", it's really not that simple until you follow the sport regularly and study the score sheets. 6.0 was very straight forward...I think a significant example was that everyone, from newbies to long-time fans, could rejoice and elate with skaters when they earned perfect 6.0s. That will never happen again unfortunately, because even when skaters get 10's for anyone of their PCS from judges, no one knows it until the ISU Results are released.

    2) Skating has not really kept up with its times unfortunately. The pageant-like aspect of the sport and the old-worldness doesn't appeal to younger generations of viewers and potential fans. Case examples:
    - The fact that women's singles is called "ladies" skating (part of me loves it, but come on, it's 2013, not 1923), and this whole idea of looking pretty and acting "right"--women, and alot of people, don't relate to this...you could argue that pageantry isn't dead, and that reality TV's promotion of it would be an example, but if you pay attention the pageantry folk that people want to watch are the out-of-the-mould ones, the eccentric ladies (think Honey Boo Boo). Also, think of the skin-tone tights women have to wear...I mean really? Are we in an orthodox convent? Anyways, my point is this straight, tight-looking and old-school view of women doesn't appeal to contemporary viewers, and maybe if Federations would be less ridiculous about those aspects it could make for larger audiences.

    - Similar to the effects of COP, the rules regarding music. Singles skaters still cannot use music with lyrics, and I find that ridiculous...there's only so many performances of Carmen or Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.2 that I can bear any longer. Think about it: if skaters could use music with lyrics, they could use popular music from today, which would attract fans of that music...like when Johnny Weir did his SP this season to Lady Gaga. Everyone in the audience recognized it immediately, and there was an immediate interest that you couldn't generate with older, less-hyped-currently music.

    3) Also, maybe I'm going out on a limb on this one, but I think Figure Skating needs to cause some stirring/controversy to garner some attention. I don't mean immorally, but one idea I've had is if same-sex teams could be competitive ice dance or pairs teams...gender/sexuality/etc. is an incredibly relevant issue, and regardless on your view of my idea, the hype would probably overtake that created by Harding/Kerrigan 1994 (except more ethically this time); you can't deny that people would be rushing to their TVs to watch competitions and be a part of the hype.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by lahaa968 View Post

    2) Skating has not really kept up with its times unfortunately. The pageant-like aspect of the sport and the old-worldness doesn't appeal to younger generations of viewers and potential fans. Case examples:
    - The fact that women's singles is called "ladies" skating (part of me loves it, but come on, it's 2013, not 1923), and this whole idea of looking pretty and acting "right"--women, and alot of people, don't relate to this...you could argue that pageantry isn't dead, and that reality TV's promotion of it would be an example, but if you pay attention the pageantry folk that people want to watch are the out-of-the-mould ones, the eccentric ladies (think Honey Boo Boo). Also, think of the skin-tone tights women have to wear...I mean really? Are we in an orthodox convent? Anyways, my point is this straight, tight-looking and old-school view of women doesn't appeal to contemporary viewers, and maybe if Federations would be less ridiculous about those aspects it could make for larger audiences.
    You make excellent points. I think it is the old Americans and the fan base who cling unhelpfully to the dominant ice princess stereotype. Sure, there is a base of people who cherish the image of a virginal Michelle Kwan in a bun skating to church music, but they need to encourage or make room for diversity or peril the sport's future. This French skater who got a costume deduction at JGP pushed the envelope-- and she showed limited taste with flagrantly shocking nudity--but there should be room for skaters like her. It needs to be less of a one-note fantasy for old school fans. The US ladies championship is like a cute dress and bun fest, and everyone seems to aspire to be Kwan or Lipinski.

    lNadjma Mahamoud, FRA, 2012 JGP de Courcheve

    Video of FS of Nadjma Mahamoud, FRA, 2012 JGP FS

    Here at the same JGP competition is an interesting Korean skater. Yes her costume resembles that of a beaten up hobo, but it's different and interesting. I generally believe that if she skated well in the United States her theme/style would be treated as an oddity in the media coverage and by judges. Her difference would not be tolerated if she had the goods to contend.

    Hwi Choi 2012 JGP Courchevel SP

    It doesn't help the sport in a changing world to hang on forever to Kwan and Lipinski's increasingly aging fan base. We like the classical beauty, and we appreciate Ashley Wagner for trying, but nobody is going to grow this sport if that's all that is being cultivated-- a garden of all one crop. Not only are many female skaters better off going in non-Kwan/non-Lipinski directions because of their own interesting personalities and physiques, but the public would respond with interest to diversity and also to some degree of modernization.
    Last edited by TheIronLady; 01-31-2013 at 10:43 AM.

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    Thanks for posting these vids IronLady--really enjoyed them and would love to see some program diversity like this in the US.

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    No, figure skating is holding figure skating back.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheIronLady View Post
    You make excellent points. I think it is the old Americans and the fan base who cling unhelpfully to the dominant ice princess stereotype. Sure, there is a base of people who cherish the image of a virginal Michelle Kwan in a bun skating to church music, but they need to encourage or make room for diversity or peril the sport's future. This French skater who got a costume deduction at JGP pushed the envelope-- and she showed limited taste with flagrantly shocking nudity--but there should be room for skaters like her. It needs to be less of a one-note fantasy for old school fans. The US ladies championship is like a cute dress and bun fest, and everyone seems to aspire to be Kwan or Lipinski.

    lNadjma Mahamoud, FRA, 2012 JGP de Courcheve

    Video of FS of Nadjma Mahamoud, FRA, 2012 JGP FS

    Here at the same JGP competition is an interesting Korean skater. Yes her costume resembles that of a beaten up hobo, but it's different and interesting. I generally believe that if she skated well in the United States her theme/style would be treated as an oddity in the media coverage and by judges. Her difference would not be tolerated if she had the goods to contend.

    Hwi Choi 2012 JGP Courchevel SP

    It doesn't help the sport in a changing world to hang on forever to Kwan and Lipinski's increasingly aging fan base. We like the classical beauty, and we appreciate Ashley Wagner for trying, but nobody is going to grow this sport if that's all that is being cultivated-- a garden of all one crop. Not only are many female skaters better off going in non-Kwan/non-Lipinski directions because of their own interesting personalities and physiques, but the public would respond with interest to diversity and also to some degree of modernization.



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