A dying sport in a dying medium

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This topic contains 22 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Andrew A. 8 years, 1 month ago.

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  • #12013

    Andrew A.
    Member

    http://www.diamondleague-newyork.com/News/News-Archive/the-inside-track-by-dick-patrick/

    I believe this is something that both Ryan and I have been championing for the better part of a decade, that streaming webcasts are the future for such a niche sport with limited resources looking to expand its coverage.  Television is still around and will be for a long time, it is just incredibly expensive even on one of the thousands of satellite channels.  Things are really coming around with sites like RunnerSpace and UniversalSports, though the latter made their (pathetic) John Hancock BAA webcast a pay-per-view event when other marathons are free to watch live.  I am frankly a bit perplexed that T&FN completely missed the boat in what would seem like a no-brainer of adding web video interviews and coverage to their site, but then that is an archaic bunch.

  • #29863

    ed
    Participant

    I would think that streaming races would be less expensive and draw a far more focused group of people that advertisers would love to reach.  Putting ads all around the viewer window and having a couple of video ads during the event should more than cover the costs of streaming.

    Running clubs should look into the P&Ls of streaming and see if it is something that is feasible.

  • #29864

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    I still think there is a place for television if they do it right. I've been complaining about television coverage for the better part of two decades and I still think, as it is formatted right now, it's a complete waste of resources. It doesn't have to be a complete waste of resources but, without major changes, that's just what it is.

    As for streaming, I think it is the future of “broadcasting” for the die-hard fans of nearly any niche sport, including T&F and distance running. Now, I don't know how good viewership is for the likes of RunnerSpace and UniversalSports. I do know how difficult it can be to establish a good base of advertising revenue but these sites have far more resources and I would think a far larger audience to draw revenues from.

    I don't think we can discount the resources required for streaming. While I'm quite sure they are far less than the resources required to get on the likes of an ESPN network, you still need people, servers to host the video, equipment to take the video, etc. Still, while I don't know the number of people who would watch a Boston Marathon streaming online feed, you have a very targeted audience that certain advertisers should be clamoring for. It shouldn't be hard to market the audience to certain advertisers. Do like soccer games on television do. Put a shoe company logo right on a permanently visible leaderboard. Throw on an occasional banner for an advertiser at the top or bottom of the screen. Have sponsors for splits (it could be annoying but viewers would get over it and I'm quite sure some companies would pay big money to hear announcers say “The half marathon split for the lead pack is 1:03:12” while seeing their logo displayed on a scrolling leaderboard from the half marathon split.

    Whatever you do, keep one thing in mind. People expect things on the Internet to be free. Outside of what I'll phrase as adult content, people simply don't want to pay for anything online. This is where getting creative with advertising comes in. Even more, how much does USATF pay ESPN for air time of T&F meets? Maybe some of that funding could go toward UniversalSports, RunnerSpace, or another site to cover T&F meets as well as road races. I know that, for the right price, I'd jump at the opportunity to beef up Hillrunner.com and travel around to cover such meets and races. I have a suspicion that the right price for me is less than USATF is paying ESPN.

  • #29865

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Even a great amount of adult content is free.  I was able to catch John Hancock BAA for free because someone outside of the U.S. was able to pipe the broadcast via free streaming (there were actually two free streaming channels of it).  Good thing, too, because the production value of the broadcast was so mediocre that I would have felt cheated out of $5 if I had paid for it.

  • #29866

    sueruns
    Member

    >:(  I just want to watch it while I run.  Trying to watch a bad feed on a laptop while running on a treadmill was a nuisance last year, this year it was downright dangerous.  :- 

  • #29867

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Sue, you just need a new TV. I've been hanging out in electronics departments at some stores a bit recently and I've noticed some new TVs have inputs that allow you to hook them up to your computer. 😉

    Just imagine, live streaming of Boston or NYCM or European T&F meets displayed on an LCD TV mounted right in front of your treadmill. For the runs when there is no live event, find an archived race. As much as I hate treadmills, that would make a treadmill run seem almost bearable.

  • #29868

    Wilson
    Member

    We are getting there with opportunities for on demand type coverage of all sorts of events. In the past week I've watched part of Boston live — largely botched my yours truly running out of battery time, as well as some races from Mt SAC and Penn. Plus I watched flocast interviews of Steve Slattery and Delilah DiHeythereDelilah

    We don't need networks.

  • #29869

    Andrew A.
    Member

    So it seems we have seen the future with the PPV webcast from Boston, according to a note I received this evening:

    Distance running fans in the United States can watch Sunday's Virgin  London Marathon on Universal Sports, either online or on television.
     
      Online, there will be a full-replay video on demand at http://www.UniversalSports.com  at 8:00 a.m. EDT.  This is a three hour replay, so viewers can see both  the men's and women's races in full.  There is a charge of $4.95 for  the program.
     
      On television, tune in at 11:00 a.m. for a two-hour edited show.  Go to http://www.UniversalSports.com  to find the location of their channel on your cable or satellite system  or over-the-air.
     
      So, the online replay provides an extra hour coverage, but costs $4.95.    The television broadcast is free, but is a shorter, two-hour program.

    So I will be scanning channelsurfing.net and justin.tv for a free streaming channel. 

  • #29870

    Andrew A.
    Member

    I wonder how long streaming of marathon races will continue (esp. now that they are charging $5 a pop) if there are not meaningful yet simple changes made to improve the production quality: http://www.presmustache.com/2010/04/thoughts-on-atrocious-tv-coverage-aka.html

  • #29871

    Andrew A.
    Member
  • #29872

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    The sport frequently treats the general public as an afterthought, or even an inconvenience.

    And, until that changes, we will never have a hope of it picking up as a popular spectator sport. Even if it does, I'm skeptical, though I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility.

  • #29873

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Right, and to his example, if the NCAA regional meet (as in cc) were held within a couple hours' drive from where I live then I would want to see some semblance of a team competition, even within a qualifying/trials format.  Races with no meaningful competitive outcome are just uncompelling, to me and to many others.

  • #29874

    Double
    Member

    I have noticed in my family (growing up) and the next door family to me now (70s) still enjoy
    track and field because they were exposed to it with their kids.  I was over there this weekend
    talking about local throwers and runners.  T&F is great to watch.  CC is a bit different in that
    it can be better if you can get around.  The kids I know really don't want or need your advice
    the day of the race…heck I didn't want to talk to anyone either, but they do come around after
    and thank you for cheering them on.

  • #29875

    Andrew A.
    Member
  • #29876

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    A very interesting article. I've seen “true team” championships at some other levels (I want to say Minnesota high schools do this or at least used to, for one). I do think that's a very interesting idea but the pitfalls, some mentioned in there, are pretty significant.

    In the end, there will always be that debate. Can T&F remake itself into a spectator sport or should it not even try? In my opinion, it should never expect to fill 50,000 seat stadiums on a regular basis but things can be done to improve the spectator-friendliness of many meets.

  • #29877

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Yes, and even if it simply amounts to things to enhance the experience for the fans who will show up to see a meet whether it is held at midnight or in the middle of the afternoon, they will enjoy attending meets more and might start to convince others they know to go to meets with them.

  • #29878

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Exactly. At the very worst, it's a better experience for the people who are going. That's actually what I had in mind, though I have a feeling it would help to fill at least a few more seats also.

    Think of it this way. The people who are going to be there at midnight or in the middle of the afternoon are going to be there no matter what. That's the point. However, why shouldn't their experience be made as good as possible? There's also a group of people who might be there in the middle of the afternoon if they don't have anything going on that afternoon. These are the people who you might see showing up on a more regular basis if you give them a better experience.

    I've been to track meets that I wouldn't want to go to as a spectator if I had nothing going on and it was a beautiful afternoon. I've been to others that I would love to go to as a spectator, even at midnight, even if it's 50 degrees and raining. The difference? Largely, the organization of the meet.

    When you schedule 5-10 minutes of down time between each event and have an announcer who doesn't know how to get the crowd into the meet, it's hard for even a die-hard fan to get excited at a meet. If you have the starter giving final instructions to one heat of the 100 before the previous heat has even crossed the line and the announcer drawing attention to compelling field event competition between the events on the track as well as subtly keeping the fans informed of what is happening in each event on the track (Not like calling a horse race but gentle guidance like “The leader in the men's 1500 just ran a 59 second lap. That's pretty slow for this quality field, this is going to be a kicker's race. Who has the best kick? Who can win it in the last lap?”), it can be a very exciting thing.

  • #29879

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Is Running Healthy Or Is It Dying? It seems self-evident just in the platform for this discussion: the blogosphere.  There are signs for hope (the US women's marathon is suddenly revitalized) and clear indication of problems (the ballyhooed US men's marathon renaissance in 2007 was all but finished a year later).  I definitely agree with Toni's comment at the bottom of the article and disagree with Peter's concluding paragraph: for those who genuinely care about the success of the sport (or the success of anything or anyone, really), there is never a bad time for on-point criticism.  Running media is rife with yes men and fan boys, it needs more who are willing to show some real spine.

    For reference, Toni's blog entry that prompted the above-linked response.

  • #29880

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    That is a very good discussion, I thought. I almost replied over there. Likewise, I agree with Toni's response there but, as you mention, I think there are bright signs. The Americans had a relatively good year on the track, especially in the middle distances. The 5000 is becoming a strength and, in the past two years, we've had two Americans go sub-27 in the 10,000.

    I also don't see the Kenyan dominance in the marathon as a bad thing for the sport. Is it a great thing? It would be better to see more diversity. However, the incredible things we've seen this year in the men's marathon have piqued the interest of the fans who really follow the sport.

    Also, I think the question is what can you do to raise more interest? The Asics ad with Ryan Hall I'm sure you've seen on YouTube is a fascinating way to engage people and make them realize how impressive what those guys are doing is. Things like that can help the sport and the sponsors simultaneously.

  • #29881

    Andrew A.
    Member

    I also don't see the Kenyan dominance in the marathon as a bad thing for the sport. Is it a great thing? It would be better to see more diversity. However, the incredible things we've seen this year in the men's marathon have piqued the interest of the fans who really follow the sport.

    Sure, though I believe the point is that this is failing to expand the fanbase and might even be shrinking it.  For whatever reason, people can easily lose track of those who do not look/speak/act like them. 

    Also, I think the question is what can you do to raise more interest? The Asics ad with Ryan Hall I'm sure you've seen on YouTube is a fascinating way to engage people and make them realize how impressive what those guys are doing is. Things like that can help the sport and the sponsors simultaneously.

    Perhaps, though that was an installation at a single event.  For me, it all really goes back to a lack of cohesion and organization in the sport.  Even the track meets are a jumbled mess and road racing is a far more disjointed, amateur affair.  All of the top sports – even individual ones like tennis and golf – have thrived because they have an organized structure and administration that can ensure uniformly high standards for competition and all that surrounds it.  Without a strong and centralized organizing body, running and track will continue to be ugly step-sisters to its professional sport brethren.  It is not the worst thing in the world, certainly, as the scholastic and collegiate levels enjoy sufficient levels of organization and structure and the pro level has a host of other ugly issues (i.e. PEDs, bad leadership, anemic budget) that would not automatically vanish with better organization.

  • #29882

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Yes, I understand that it doesn't help expand the fanbase. People want to see people they can associate with and, for whatever reason, they don't associate with the Kenyans. If they heard the personal stories of these guys, they may think differently but they aren't going to bother. That said, I don't think you're going to lose existing fans with a 2011-like season. If anything, it's raised my interest and excitement for 2012 a bit.

    That was a single installation at a single event but imagine if they did a traveling exhibit. This kind of display in Chicago, New York, Boston, Houston, Duluth, Minneapolis, Sacramento, and elsewhere in conjunction with those cities' marathon weekends. No doubt the infrastructural issues you raise are real issues that need to be addressed if we want running to be more mainstream but promotional events like this sure wouldn't hurt.

  • #29883

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Yes, I understand that it doesn't help expand the fanbase. People want to see people they can associate with and, for whatever reason, they don't associate with the Kenyans. If they heard the personal stories of these guys, they may think differently but they aren't going to bother. That said, I don't think you're going to lose existing fans with a 2011-like season. If anything, it's raised my interest and excitement for 2012 a bit.

    Right, though that is anecdotal.  I will confess, trying to parse out the Mutais seems rather tedious and I can see how it might seem even moreso to less interested and intent fans.  Reavis is right, these guys display little personality to draw in followers.  It is not that they look the same, really, it is that they appear essentially similar in the absence of known personality traits.  Also, in this competitive sports market, if you are not gaining ground then realistically you are losing.

    That was a single installation at a single event but imagine if they did a traveling exhibit. This kind of display in Chicago, New York, Boston, Houston, Duluth, Minneapolis, Sacramento, and elsewhere in conjunction with those cities' marathon weekends. No doubt the infrastructural issues you raise are real issues that need to be addressed if we want running to be more mainstream but promotional events like this sure wouldn't hurt.

    Beyond infrastructural issues, it is part of a corporation's advertising campaign and as such will only go as far as it fits within their budget and serves their marketing aims.  Again, with no overarching organizational structure to push a continuous marketing message we are left with a mixed bag of what these companies feel works right now.  It is not a bad thing at all yet relying on corporations to 'spread the gospel' and promote the sport will always be a limited prospect.  There needs to be more if there is to be significant progression.  Else it will remain the same as it ever was.

  • #29884

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Yes, anecdotal. I do agree that the lack of personalities is a big thing. All the elites seem essentially the same: soft spoken, unassuming, and modest nearly to a fault. Not much there for the general public to notice.

    As for the marketing aspect, yes, you're working with limited advertising budgets. Sadly, the infrastructural budget is even smaller than the advertising budget of companies connected with the sport. I'm not sure how one would expect that to change. Where does the money come from? I do agree that more coordinated marketing would be ideal but I don't know how practical it is in this environment.

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