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Figure Skating's Popularity Decline In The US

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

  1. spikydurian

    spikydurian Well-Known Member

    :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.
  2. misskarne

    misskarne #AustraliaForTheTeamEvent

    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!?
  3. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

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

    snoopysnake Well-Known Member

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

    TheIronLady Well-Known Member

    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
  6. iarispiralllyof

    iarispiralllyof Active Member

    *round of applause*
  7. whoa

    whoa Member

  8. A.H.Black

    A.H.Black Well-Known Member

    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.
  9. Iceman

    Iceman Well-Known Member

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

    IceIceBaby Active Member

  11. Ozzisk8tr

    Ozzisk8tr Well-Known Member

    Personally I blame Angry Birds.
  12. Frau Muller

    Frau Muller #1 Dick Button Fan

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

    Frau Muller #1 Dick Button Fan

    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.
  14. sarakimm

    sarakimm Member

    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.)
  15. professordeb

    professordeb Well-Known Member

    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 ;)
  16. snoopysnake

    snoopysnake Well-Known Member

    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.
  17. ros01

    ros01 Member

    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.
  18. aemeraldrainc

    aemeraldrainc Active Member

  19. Paul

    Paul New Member

    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.
  20. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    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).
  21. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

    The "Outfront" blog post article that aemeraldrainc linked above is quite interesting. As suggested in the article, I think a figure skating lecture-style touring series (complete with video clips and Dick Button) would be a great way to attempt boosting more interest in skating by the general public. In addition, ISU and feds should collaborate on unique ways to entertain and educate the public about the new judging system, since casual viewers are so confused and turned off due to not understanding the contradictions of IJS, in what has always been a difficult sport/ art to understand.

    Also, I don't think there is a need to "search" for new skating stars, but simply to think outside the box and beyond the status quo re promoting all of the skating athletes/ stars who already exist, but are being ignored (and it shouldn't be all about the ladies, as others have noted in recent threads).

    More skating reality shows with a more serious and instructive bent might be helpful as well.
  22. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    I've always thought that a direction of big Hollywood action movies should cast Evgeny Plushenko and Mira Leung as a pair of hit people whose side and purpose was ambiguous. They could join Walker, Texas Ranger, but are they on his side?

    I'll be awaiting your reports from Lake Placid :p

    For most people, after the '80's, 95% of what people have to unlearn about figure skating came from Dick Button.
  23. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member


    ^^ No, no kwanfan1818, (with all due respect) please don't be part of the "History, what history?" way of thinking. And especially please do not try to cast aspersions on the venerable, astute, and ever-enthusiastic Godfather of figure skating: Dick Button. IMHO, a big part of the transitional problem that figure skating faces is also what our global society faces ... We live in an era during which it's so cool and hip to be of the moment ... "What's new, What's next?" is this generation's mantra. It never fails to amaze how our culture not only "throws away its history," but in many cases young people don't even seem to be aware that something rich, instructive and resonant even exists, and is so easily within their reach.

    Being superficially critical is one thing. Taking the time to see beyond Dick's sometimes uber-enthusiastic slips of the tongue as a broadcaster, to truly understand his great import as a teacher, historian, and invaluable promoter of this sport is another thing entirely. Dick Button, like most human beings, is not perfect but I for one appreciate, respect and honor the exhaustive dedication and enormous contributions he has made to figure skating.

    BTW, it's impossible for anyone to "unlearn" what they never understood in the first place. ;)
    LKR and (deleted member) like this.
  24. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

    *applause* :respec: And he also has a sense of humor (see going along with "Push Dick's Button".)

    You know what my non-figure-skating, non-skating-educated parents liked? Mary Carillo's "program" about skating during the Olympics. It was informative, it was fun, and it was accessible to non-skater/non-skate-fan viewers. Regular coverage? I get questions about "Why did that girl [Mirai, in the case I'm thinking of] not place higher? Her program looked cleaner and faster." I had to explain, but that's something the commentary SHOULD have covered. The coverage spends more time on creating rivalries and looking for an ice princess than on clarifying what actually is going on. And the TV personalities chosen are...well, I'm sure they're very nice people in person.
  25. ioana

    ioana Well-Known Member

    My problem with Dick was ABC still used him for pbp commentary when he was clearly unable to keep up with what was happening on the ice. That's not a put-down of his past knowledge, nor the fact that he did a lot to promote skating through the years. I thought the role he had on NBC for the Olympics, where he was in the studio and not reacting to things as they were happening was much better for him and he was a good fit. Towards the end of his ABC years, he would get hung up on an ugly spin position that happened one minute before and ignore all the jumps/spins/ftwk a skater would be performing. And then proceed to list them off incorrectly.

    I do think his past knowledge of the sport is very valuable and should be put to good use, but I don't think live commentary is the right answer for that these days.
  26. Paul

    Paul New Member

    I think there is a great deal of truth in these comments. The tricky part is appealing to new demographics without alienating the existing fan base. This can be done but it would require acknowledging that there are some fundamental problems with the events. I love fs but the events can be very boring. Even as a fan I get very bored. There are huge dead times. Other sports have learned to fill the dead spots in play (whether due to TV commercials, judging etc). Also, people attending the events are looking for more than just the event. They want vibrant outside activities, family activities etc. On top of this we have the reality that we see the same programs over and over all year. And while the avid fan may enjoy the development of the program, I suspect the average fan thinks "seen this already". Without getting too into the discussion, the IJS is for sure producing more predictable and justifiable results but it is also resulting in definite "sameness".

    All of these issues have to be addressed to keep fs relevant in today's world.
  27. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    I've watched Button's commentary since he started on Wide World of Sports in the early '60's. I think it declined considerably from his early years, although when I was 8, I'm not sure I would have detected bias if it was there, and I especially wouldn't have known what he was leaving out, since ABC's coverage was limited to medalists and the US competitors, and not always entire programs. YMMV.

    I may be the atypical skating fan, in that I haven't watched team sports regularly for three decades, but love skating and niche sports. I looked forward to ABC's yearly coverage of everything from arm-wrestling to log-rolling to Acapulco cliff diving, and the only sports I won't watch are North American football, boxing, and races with motorized vehicles. The key for me is the commentary, whether it is thoughtful and articulate and whether the sport is explained properly and taken seriously. When Button first started, he and Jim McKay would don formal wear, and they gave skating its due and plenty of respect. In later years, not so much, and listening to Button and Fleming babble back and forth about nothing useful as if they had innings and innings of downtime and airtime to kill is mind-numbing, for me at least.

    I also think the amount of money a person needs to spend to be a skating fan is exaggerated: even among the minority who attend skating events, many people of modest means have a yearly or biennial vacation where they take a plane ride and stay in a hotel for at least half a week in a shared room. That figure skating fans go to an event, not a beach, on a cruise -- many cheap ones can be had at the last minute through discounters -- to the Grand Canyon, to Vegas, or to Disneyland is a choice, but it's not a specifically privileged one. A GP or Canadian Nationals ticket costs less than a 4-day entry ticket to Disneyland. The same is true of Stars on Ice: although tickets are not cheap, many people of modest means go to a football game or the theater or something else at least once a year that's as expensive, especially when you add in the beer.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2013
  28. TheIronLady

    TheIronLady Well-Known Member

    I don't have much to say about Dick except bring him and Peggy back!
  29. UGG

    UGG Well-Known Member

    I just think times have changed. In the 90's and before, it was a big deal to watch the Olympics because...there were no distractions. There were not a lot of television channels. Today, there are 500000 movie channels, the internet, youtube, video games, iphones, ipads etc...

    In the US at least, unless their is a HUGE headlining star like Michael Phelps...no one watches anymore because there are many forms of entertainment that maybe people find more interesting.

    Why aren't Nastia Liukin and Gabby Douglas HUGE stars the way MLR and Dorothy were? Or even the Mag 7?

    They are Olympic Gold Medalists too and very marketable at that.
  30. Iceman

    Iceman Well-Known Member