I haven’t talked much about the big news this week. That of course being the contract inked between U.S. Figure Skating and NBC over Skate America and U.S. Nationals. With this being an Olympic Year, I’m sure there will be heightened interest in figure skating this season, and the two weekend format adopted for Nationals specifically for this season will allow NBC to show an unprecedented amount of live coverage.
This is a good thing for our favorite sport.
But, call me greedy, I want more. I’d like for NBC to make a commitment to the World Championships too. From there, I’d like NBC to think about broadcasting, if even in a truncated or shortened form, the Grand Prix Series. I’m not done…how about some coverage of Four Continents Cup and Europeans?
I know it’s a numbers and money game. NBC Executives are asking themselves right now; Would we pull a lot of viewers for figure skating events outside of the U.S? Are these events something we would make a profit on? The answer, at least to begin with, is probably…no. We all know skating has slumped a bit in the ratings recently. But the even bigger question I would ask if I were an NBC Executive; Is there future value in figure skating coverage? The answer is most definitely yes.
I have many good reasons why I think that NBC should expand coverage of figure skating: This season is going to generate renewed interest in the sport. We have the opportunity to have our best dance and men’s finishes ever in Vancouver. The U.S. Nationals showdown amongst the women may indeed be epic. The field this season is super thick this season which means the competition will be good. What better time to hook peoples’ interest when the skating is top notch? NBC can capitalize on the economic downturn by expanding coverage. People are taking more ‘staycations’ rather than vacations. People are sitting in front of their televisions more than ever; let’s attempt to sell them figure skating. Recognize the cash cow your sitting on NBC; if you can expand viewership, you stand to benefit.
I’ll leave all my ideas on how NBC might market figure skating to another post…
When I bring this up many people are quick to point me to Ice Network. Ice Network is amazing! And to be quite frank, has been the saving grace for hardcore figure skating fans here in the United States. But it’s just that, a great benefit to hardcore fans. Suzy Jo Average who likes to watch figure skating here and there when it’s on television is not going to buy a subscription to Ice Network. But if we put skating on more often, she may become more interested in the sport and make a point to tune in (she may then buy a subscription to Ice Network!).
The ISU could do their part too. Can someone please tell me why we don’t regard the highest scores in International or Olympic competition as World and/or Olympic Records? Look at what World and Olympic Records (and a guy like Phelps who could easily beat them) did for swimming? The same for Track and Field (think Usain Bolt!). Giving people (and skaters) the high mark to shoot for will help people better understand the scoring system and help add a dose of drama to the sport (figure skating viewership always spikes if there is drama). If people understand the scoring system (or at least understand what a great score is) they’ll begin to tune in more.
Alright, I’ll get off my soap box. But it’s certainly some food for thought for NBC.