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Thread: ESPN packaging of figure skating: better or worse?

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    ESPN packaging of figure skating: better or worse?

    I've been reading a few articles on disgruntled fans of other sports (especially the NBA) groaning about ESPN's coverage. The NBA is a great example: they use many gimmicks (such as the pop group "Pussycat Dolls"), boring announcers and inconsistent (constantly changing) theme music. They also use many floorcams and skycams during their NBA coverage. (Contrast that to NBC, which through 12 years of coverage, stuck to basically the same announcers and same theme music.) Lack of promotion (or ineffective promotion) hasn't helped the cause, either.

    Anyway, it's got me thinking about their presentation of figure skating, and how they basically never promote their GP, Nationals or Worlds telecasts; their only live coverage is the Ladies and Men at Nats; and on their telecasts on ABC, they present a lot of fluff on the skaters baking cookies, shopping, or hanging out at home, as well as tried and true theme music. Add to that delayed coverage, and one can't help but think that this has been part of the factor in declining ratings? Not to blame it completely on this- crooked judging and oversaturation likely contributed more, if not as much- but does the presentation of the product turn us off? In the attempt to gain casual fans by showing Cohen shopping for shoes, are they alienating their core audience?

    Recently (in the past year or two) I've started to see an improvement in their coverage of Nats and Worlds. More backstage footage, more informative features, better camera coverage (no skycam). I think of the piece they did on Yu-na Kim during the GPF final broadcast- that was interesting. Still, is the lack of promotion and live coverage helping to hasten the decline of FS? Do you agree that they (ESPN) are getting better? Or do you think that they've hit a new low with coverage?

    We're seeing a lot more skating fans go to Youtube and similar sites to get their skating fix...videos are put up almost immediately after the local television markets air the event, which is often a week or so before ESPN televises it.

    I'd like to know what the folks here think. I've heard numerous complaints about ESPN's and especially ABC's coverage back when they had the GPs. How much is the product on TV to blame for the declining interest?
    Last edited by R.D.; 05-20-2007 at 02:55 AM.

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    Gotta Have Music iluvtodd's Avatar
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    It's a mixed bag for me. For a while, I thought we would sometimes get to see some performances that we didn't get to see on network TV (ABC), and that was a plus. I do think it's very important to get figure skating back on the networks so that skating fans who don't have cable for whatever reason will get to see some coverage of the competitions.

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    Nobody seems to be happy with any newscast, but I am happy with SNY.

    I don't even listen to 'boring' commentators. My eyesight is good so I just turn a deaf ear to commentators on any newscasts. Not a problem for me as long as they show the game from beginning to end.

    TOPIC: ESPN better or worse on the packaging of Figure Skating? My question: Better or Worse than What?

    Joe

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    I mean that question as a trend...in other words, better or worse than in 2002?

    What I really mean, though, is what I closed with...can we blame (at least partially) the falling ratings on ESPN's packaging of skating, and has ESPN learned how to do this over the years? I think while their actual coverage has generally improved, they still don't promote the events (except during the telecasts themselves), nor do they do live coverage or even same-weekend coverage for the GPs (why not?).

    Anyway, they have one more year left. This may be the last of the GPs we ever see on TV, because even if they renew the contract (or another network picks it up), they may only be interested in televising the championship events (much like EuroSport).

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    MY TVC 1 5 SeaniBu's Avatar
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    Good Questions RD

    I think more suggestions, they do seem to be fitting most of the ones I hear on this forum. Things seem to be going good ways in some cases and faulty in others. I also liked the coverage "better" this year, or at least found the changes"nice."

    The best thing I think the NBA has done in the last few years is the NBA Cares program.

    I am still hoping for a "realtime scoreboard"

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    I believe TV draws a very small audience to figure skating fans. When I look at the Sunday listings (and this is NYC where anything goes):

    CBS has 2 hours of auto racing followed by 3 hours of Golf (more if it goes overtime).

    NBC has 3 hours of Poker followed by 3 hours of Hockey.

    ABC has 2 hours of IndyCar racing followed by 3 hours of basketball.

    Cable has lots of Bowling; some Track and Field; Area Football; Collage La Crosse; High Scool Lacrosse; Women's Basketball; Golf; Boxing; Baseball

    and still more of the same during the evening hours. Of course there are no FS championships going on right now but if there were, which sport would be booted off to make way for it?

    Joe

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    Well, it's the off-season and we have to remember that. In the fall/winter, NBC has those Disson shows on almost every weekend (opposite football). I think CBS also has that Ice Wars program in their primetime schedule. Meanwhile the only competitive skating on network tv right now continues to be Skate America and US Nats. (Better than nothing, though.)

    Off topic a little, I was watching some old NBC coverage of the NBA. I liked how they focused on a storyline and made you interested in the game about to be played. I hope they do the same for their FS coverage and try to re-build interest in US skating. However, what story do you tell? There's suprisingly nothing exciting going on in US skating right now and that's why I'm extra surprised that USFS got NBC interested in a primetime telecast.

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    MY TVC 1 5 SeaniBu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Dog View Post
    However, what story do you tell? There's suprisingly nothing exciting going on in US skating right now ...
    bight your tongue young man!


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    well why...do you actually think this Caroline Zhang is going to swoop into save the day and steal the title from Kimmie next year? please

    Everyone else is Inconsistent and Em Hughes, Kimmie's largest challenger, will be occupied with college work (she won't be prepared enough). Next year's Nats is actually going to be pretty bland (maybe with the exception of the Weir/Lysacek thing but as you know, I hate men's skating). 2009 nats could shake things up, though, with the new girls being eligible for Worlds...

    But we're getting OT again... there still is no real consensus as to whether ESPN is finally "getting the message" about how to televise skating "properly" or not. I think so, for reasons I outlined above.
    Last edited by R.D.; 05-21-2007 at 11:11 PM. Reason: to correct "sweep" to "swoop"

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    MY TVC 1 5 SeaniBu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Dog View Post
    ... there still is no real consensus as to whether ESPN is finally "getting the message" about how to televise skating "properly" or not. I think so, for reasons I outlined above.
    You're making some great points IMO. But I do find some of the aspects of FS current situation "exciting." But it is not truly that important to me if the USA is the "head" of all the leaders, or if someone is beetling someone up... that might interest people for a while but doesn't sustain interest... whatever gets sensationalized.
    IMO What is needed, is a true understanding of a sport that constantly is hiding how difficult it is, in how GORGEOUS it is. There are so many people that will say "they know FS, yadda yadda (present company ~moi included)" and not really know what in the hell FS is on the technical level for sure. Once people understand it more - WITHOUT BEING "TAUGHT" via televised coverage - the more people that will embrace this sport ~ again.
    One of the best things I find about FS is it truly is a world sport - like some others. SO I feel no obligation to a "home town" to have a favorite from around me (although I really thing Ryan and Rachel are some of my favorites) I love the world I live on, and if there is some "other country" that has an athlete performing in FS that I think are "great" I will favor them regardless.

    Anyway, is this really off topic?
    Last edited by SeaniBu; 05-21-2007 at 11:53 PM.

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    Matt Savoie~Soul Skater CzarinaAnya's Avatar
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    I'm not quite sure what it is, but the overall feeling I get when I watch is lacking what it has in past years. I like ABC better.

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    ^ maybe it's Kwan

    Or the 6.0's.

    I think the "sport" of skating has changed dramatically over a short period of time...Forget the scoring system, Russia's lost its dominance in a matter of two years, Japan is emerging, the US is beginning to coast (stagnate) after the loss of Kwan and Cohen.

    I think ESPN's general presentation of sporting events (other than football and baseball) is extremely basic and to the point: they simply give you the event. They don't promote it, they do nothing to generate any excitement, or excite you while you're watching it. They rely heavily on the action itself to lift the viewer out of his/her seat. Some like this approach, while others prefer intro/drama added to the broadcast to raise interest in watching it.

    Why do I mention this? For figure skating, anyway, I think ESPN is finally starting to figure out that the latter tends to prevail when it comes to the general consensus. For example, watching 2007 Nationals, I was impressed with how far they've come with their Nats coverage since 2003. Even though it was "corny", that episode with Emily's dress helped create a sense that there's actually something going on behind the scenes while the action on the ice is in progress. And I thought the "dumbing down" of the scoring system (130+ is Excellent, etc.) was a great way to give the casual viewer an idea of what score is "good". The only improvement IMO would have been to promote the event more (and keep the live ladies FS telecast in primetime since it wouldn't compete against thje NFL).

    Your mileage may vary, but that's how I see it. And with NBC taking over coverage of nats, expect to see plenty of behind-the-scenes drama, lol. Actually, if I were to be completely honest, that could only be a good thing as they will need to do everything they can to get people interested in watching (the only familiar names in ladies are Kimmie Meissner and Emily Hughes!). Expect great intros/dramas in this event.
    Last edited by R.D.; 05-22-2007 at 03:14 AM.

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Dog View Post
    Well, it's the off-season and we have to remember that. In the fall/winter, NBC has those Disson shows on almost every weekend (opposite football). I think CBS also has that Ice Wars program in their primetime schedule. Meanwhile the only competitive skating on network tv right now continues to be Skate America and US Nats. (Better than nothing, though.)

    Off topic a little, I was watching some old NBC coverage of the NBA. I liked how they focused on a storyline and made you interested in the game about to be played. I hope they do the same for their FS coverage and try to re-build interest in US skating. However, what story do you tell? There's suprisingly nothing exciting going on in US skating right now and that's why I'm extra surprised that USFS got NBC interested in a primetime telecast.
    Disson Shows are just that. Not sports.

    As far as I know Skate America will have very limited airing. 2 hours, I believe. Poker stays at 3 hours. ESPN had 3 hours and repeated it. US Nats still remains to be seen. I am hopeful there is full coverage as ABC and ESPN did. No need for tape from Vancouver.

    NBC is looking for a big blast for the US Olympics. If they get the public involved in Figure Skating they will have the commercial firms pay higher fees. I'm sure they will be banking on Caroline Zhang to get the interest of the public.

    Look to NBC for other World championships coming up in 2009 for Downhill Skiing, Bobsled, Slalom, where the US has a good chance to medal and create interest in the Olys. If NBC does not create the interest they are hoping for I doubt figure skating will remain with that network.

    Joe

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    RD, how can you say that U.S. figure skating is stagnating? There are exciting things going on all over the place. Will Davis and White challenge Gregory and Petukov for the chance to overtake Belbin and Agosto and become the favorites in 2010?

    Will the big rivalry be between D&W and Virtue and Moir, or will Domina and Shabalin emerge as the team to carry on the Russian ice dance dominance?

    What about Evan "real men wear black" Lysacek versus Catwalk Johnny?

    Can Kimmie stand up to the Asian Tidal Wave?

    Carolyn Zhang! Mirai Nagasu! Ashley Walker! one-two-three in junior worlds, and the only reason it wasn't four for four for the stars and stripes is that Rachael Flatt went senior.
    Last edited by Mathman; 05-22-2007 at 07:19 AM.

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CzarinaAnya View Post
    I'm not quite sure what it is, but the overall feeling I get when I watch is lacking what it has in past years. I like ABC better.
    I agree. ABC/ESPN have to air figure skating championships every year to include ALL the GPs, the Nats and Worlds. That's the good news - experience! The bad news is they don't promote these championships outside the actual events.

    We will all be hoping NBC can do the job as well, if not better. NBC remains to be seen.

    Joe

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