Does Sailing Get TV and New Media?

Sailing on TV

World Yacht Racing Forum Panel – Cost Effective Strategies To Grow New Audiences via TV & New Media

This session was chaired by Richard Moore, CEO, Capitalize and also included presentations and thoughts from:

  • Michel Masquelier, President, IMG Media
  • Adam Binns, Director of Television, Volvo Ocean Race
  • Marcus Hutchinson, Communications & Event Management Consultant
  • Maria Ferreras, Head of Partnerships, Southern Europe, Middle East & Africa, You Tube

Everyone in professional sailing agrees – from Russell Coutts to Knut Frostad – television is the key to making the sport successful. While it is obvious that sailing doesn’t get a lot of coverage when compared to some sports, modern day promoters seem to have short memories when it comes to sailing on TV.

[cleeng_content id=”393833959″ description=”99 cents or 10,000 hours. The path to being an expert can be easy or hard. ” price=”0.99″]Every time people bemoan the dull television product, I like to remember the 18 foot skiff series in Sydney Harbour that used to be broadcast during the lunch-break of the cricket. Having just watched another great start to the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race which is broadcast live on terrestrial TV every year, I wonder why sailing is so down on itself when it comes to television.

It seems to me that events like the Volvo Ocean Race and the America’s Cup have innovated sports television through things like Virtual Eye and embedded HD media crew positions.

While the topic of this session includes the words ‘New Media’ and a representative of YouTube was on stage, TV dominated this panel. Those who are creatures of the old guard cling to old models where a gross media number sounds better for reporting purposes.

A company like IMG Media relies on the old models for their revenue. Whether it be live rights, highlights rights, archive rights or some other cutting of the video cake, the old way was to sell this content to the highest bidder. But as IMG admit, there are more 16-21 year olds playing video games during prime time than are watching TV.

Playing games is usually portrayed by the media as some kind of problem for society, but anyone who has played Market-Street on Facebook will know – these games are about logistics, perishable product management, consumer appeal, budgeting, co-operation and strategy. When ‘Call of Duty’ makes $360 million in sales in 24 hours, the television executives should be worried, because they are obviously not offering what people want.

Maria Ferreras, from YouTube should be seen as a hero for the sport of sailing. The internet video platform has done more to bring yacht racing to a ‘mainstream’ audience than TV in recent years. Audiences are not reliant on the same old stuff being packaged up and lost in the early hours of the morning, they can seek out their own thing and watch it whenever they like. With an HDMI cable, they can watch it on their big screen TVs and enjoy.

This is not all a youth audience either. 15% of Youtube users in Spain are over 55, this is up from just 5% in the last 12 months.

The questions from the floor of this session revealed a lot about how different people in the industry view television. Mark Turner, Chairman of OC Thirdpole asked the panel what they thought the real number of sailing fans was globally.

Adam Binns, Director of Television, Volvo Ocean Race said that the potential audience had never been tested and says that he doesn’t know how many people watched the Volvo Ocean Race last time around. If news coverage is included, then the number is in the single digit millions, but these are not fans.

Richard Simmonds says that 2.5 Million tuned into watch Olympic sailing classes on the BBC this year while around 100,000 watched sailing programming about the Round the Island Race and the Extreme Sailing Series early in the morning on Channel 4.

IMG estimate that the 2010 America’s Cup between BMW ORACLE and Alinghi was watched by about 100,000 people on the live stream. The stream was given away to anyone who wanted it, from Sky to Eurosport to blogs.

Curiously, most of the panel believe that a television audience is worth more than an online audience, perhaps more. When asked what was worth more, 100,000 YouTube views or 100,000 people watching TV – Adam Binns replied that the TV viewers are worth more.

This is despite the fact that searching for and watching YouTube content is an active decision rather than a passive experience and that almost all those YouTube viewers have real demographic information attached to them.

Given the panel’s experience and interests, it is not surprising that ‘New Media’ was not really explored in any great detail. The interaction of TV with Twitter for example, which allows hundreds of thousands of viewers to share comments and respond to content in real time was not even in the minds of the panel.

Television should be pursued by the rights-holders who have the right content, but for the rest of the sport, disruptive technologies like Flip video cameras and YouTube create huge opportunities to distribute content to a massive global audience.

More from the 2010 World Yacht Racing Forum.[/cleeng_content]