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Thread: Do ice shows need a gold medalist to assure big audience attendance?

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    Do ice shows need a gold medalist to assure big audience attendance?

    While the economy and the decline in T.V. viewership of skating have obviously impacted ice show attendance, do you think that these shows' lack of a female Olympic gold medalist(in recent years) is also a factor in the declining popularity of these shows?

    Two notable American female Gold medalists hung up their skates immediately on reaching adulthood, deciding not to skate as a career, even if the decision cost them millions of dollars of potential earnings. Would the return of those two ladies(as touring professionals) be helpful to boost the popularity of skating as a sport to watch or as a sport to participate in?

    Your views?

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    Do you mean Olympic gold medalists? I don't know. If you're referring to Sarah and Tara, I think the time has passed in terms of these ladies' power to draw in increased audiences. A lot of people wouldn't know who Sarah Hughes is, considering her short eligible career and lack of any other national or world gold medal. Tara might have a bit bigger recognition factor. But I think the big draw would be, as we've seen, Michelle Kwan. However, I think she has enough on her plate to keep her from a regular touring pro career.

    I will point out (though this doesn't affect the logic of your excellent question at all) that Tara did tour professionally for a few years with Stars on Ice. It's hard to tell how much of a draw she was, because she was accompanied by so many other popular skaters, such as Kurt Browning.

    Another question I'll add to yours: is it true that the million-dollar paydays would result from professional tours? It seems to me that a more reliable source of such riches would be TV specials like the ones Peggy Fleming used to star in. (Or, better yet, televised pro skating competitions.) Wouldn't it be wonderful if either of those two formats came back? That would give an interesting twist to your question: could any of these four ladies (Sarah, Tara, and I'll include Sasha and Michelle because they have been the better-known skaters during this era) draw in viewers by starring in TV specials or pro skating competitions?
    Last edited by Olympia; 10-21-2010 at 11:20 PM.

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Toller Cranston (who was not an Olympic gold medallist), Kurt Browning (who was not an Olympic gold medallist), and Torvill and Dean (who were, but were not, obviously, medallists in ladies) were all able to put together ice shows that drew big crowds. So it was definitely possible to do the trick.

    I'm a huge skating fan, but I wouldn't pay to see a show centered on either Tara or Sarah. Michelle (not a gold medallist) OTOH....
    Last edited by dorispulaski; 10-22-2010 at 09:12 PM.

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    ~ Figure Skating Is My Passion ~ Ladskater's Avatar
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    Good points. Both Toller and Kurt are household names here in Canada and both of them were Canadian Champions. As well Kurt was World Champion four times and Toller was the 1974 World Bronze medalist and 1976 Olympic Bronze medalist. Both are loved by Canadian fans and can certainly bring in a crowd for an ice show. The same goes for Brian Orser. I think most fans go to shows to see the skaters they love to watch whether that skater has an Olympic medal or not.

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    No, I don't think a ladies gold medalist would automatically help sales. It depends on who it is.

    To be frank, I don't think most Americans have much interest at all in Tara Lipinski. She's long been forgotten. 2002's stunning victory by Sarah Hughes is probably still remembered by many Americans, but that doesn't mean that she herself is still popular enough to draw crowds. I suspect Dick Button is actually better known than both Tara and Sarah and his gold medals were won over half a century ago. (But obviously he's in no shape to be doing ice shows.)

    My gut instinct is that in the US these are the American skaters that are known and loved by enough people to still sell a lot of seats:

    Ladies: Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan, and to a much lesser extent Sasha Cohen

    Men: Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano, and currently Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir (though I suspect that the clock is ticking on how long the last two can cash in before they're forgotten)

    Yes, I've left off a lot of big names from many different decades, but if you want to see an increase in crowds, I don't think having skaters like Kerrigan or Hamill is going to help you much in 2010. While there are many skaters that are still loved and adored by a fair number of Americans, that doesn't mean they're the draw that they once were.
    Last edited by MrScroogeMcDuck; 10-22-2010 at 05:13 AM.

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    Gotta Have Music iluvtodd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ladskater View Post
    I think most fans go to shows to see the skaters they love to watch whether that skater has an Olympic medal or not.
    So true for us!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ladskater View Post
    Good points. Both Toller and Kurt are household names here in Canada and both of them were Canadian Champions. As well Kurt was World Champion four times and Toller was the 1974 World Bronze medalist and 1976 Olympic Bronze medalist. Both are loved by Canadian fans and can certainly bring in a crowd for an ice show. The same goes for Brian Orser. I think most fans go to shows to see the skaters they love to watch whether that skater has an Olympic medal or not.
    I

    I'd certainly see a show with any or all of those wonderful skaters (if they were magically in their prime all at the same time), and I'm not Canadian. When I think of the most successful touring show of the last few years in North America, Stars on Ice, the draw is not a headliner but a group of sterling skaters, including champions from several nations. The popular skaters in SOI may have gold medals, but they also have some indefinable star quality, and that's what the real draw is. Think of the skaters who sparkle the most, and they include some surprising ones, including Yuka Sato (a one-time world champion from the other side of the world) and Gordeyeva as a soloist (with only modest jumps), and John Zimmerman. I think solid choreography also helps.

    Of course there was also a gold medalist who was an SOI draw way past her jumping prime, but she definitely upheld the rule of "sparkle"...well, with some smoulder added..., and that's Katarina Witt.

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    Very true Olympia...but Kat also comes from a different era where pro skaters were much more visible, when top skaters could cash in on their winnings not just for the year or two the won. Not only does Kat have an overabundance of charisma and show quality, she has the resume to back up her popularity.

    I think to the general public who has no knowledge of skating, the year of the Olympics or year after, there is the allure of seeing OGM. But how many non-skating fans really do go to skating shows? I think to the skating public, sure, seeing "2010 OGM Yu-Na" on an advertisement could be a nice draw, but I think, in the US, seeing "Michelle Kwan and her multiple accomplishments" would be a bigger draw. I remember the last time I went to COI (2006) Michelle was the biggest star despite the Olympic Medalists that were there. Sasha was probably 2nd. I noticed some of the biggest cheers were gong to the more entertaining skaters, even if they didn't have an Olympic medal at all. I forget now who, so long ago...

    I think right now we are in a low point of the sport in general. Viewership is down and thanks to that, very little is televised which means even less fans get involved and are less likely to buy tickets to any show. Evan won OGM less than a year ago and had a stint on DWTS but other than him, I think non-fans or casual fans would be very hard pressed to name or recognize any of the current skaters. It is really sad, IMO.
    Last edited by MKFSfan; 10-22-2010 at 07:37 AM.

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    Every time I see The Turning Point, that beautiful ballet film, rerun on TV, I think yearningly of a skating movie that would have the same pull for audiences who love not just movement and sport but art. And I don't mean the usual "girl who strives to win the Olympics, goes blind, but wins anyway" storyline. I mean something that gives the greatest possible opportunity for the viewers to see really fine skating. Through the years, my daydream cast for such a movie has changed, as skaters have retired and moved on to other lives. Currently I think that the best candidate for protagonist (remember, the plot would not concern a teenager training for the Olympics) is Sasha Cohen. None of this nonsense about photographing a real skater from the ankles down or in a bright light to make it look as if the actress is doing her own skating.

    The next most important person in this movie would be the choreographer. I also have a long list of demands for the music.

    After that, I'd put in a bunch of skaters who could make lightning on the screen: that would have to include Stephane Lambiel and probably Virtue and Moir. And, of course, both Asada and Kim. And Browning, now and forever.

    I bet we could start a craze for skating among young tween girls who would drag their mommies to see it repeatedly, if we did that right.

    The short answer: Yes, mkfsfan, it's indeed a pity that skating is in a trough right now, and I wish for better days—preferably in the future, not in the past.
    Last edited by Olympia; 10-22-2010 at 09:54 AM.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    About the original question, would the return of Tara Lipinski and Sarah Hughes help the popularity of professional show skating...

    we don't really have that option. Tara was forced to stop performing because of a degenerative hip condition. Sarah tried to come back for a few stops on the SOI tour, but was so far from being in competitive shape that it was an embarrassment.

    Kristi will be forty next year and hasn't skated for ten years.

    (I wanted to look up Kristi's birthday, so I Googled "Kristi Yamaguchi born." At the top of the list was this report:

    http://www.pocanticohills.org/womenenc/yamaguc.html

    It starts out, "Kristi Yamaguchi was born on July 12, 1971 and she is still alive."

    I guess when you are in the fourth grade it seems inconceivable that anyone born in 1971 could still be alive today! )

    World champ Kimmie Meissner was one and done. Michelle Kwan has moved on. I think if anyone is going to revive interest in skating it will have to be the next generation, not the last.

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    Too bad Shizuka isn't American for the purposes of this discussion. The 2006 OGM winner would be quite the draw: stylish, still amazingly athletic, stunning. Well, maybe I'll star her in my skating movie.

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    Not sure that any skater can revive skating shows until the economy improves. When people feel insecure about such things as food, shelter and medical care, they don't pay a lot of money for entertainment.

    I also think that skating shows need to concentrate on entertainment ability, since that is what they are providing. Ryan Bradley and Stephane Lambiel don't have OGMs (Ryan doesn't have much by way of impressive hardware) but both those guys can really hold an audience (IMO)

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    Your point about the economy, attyfan, is why I keep stressing televised shows, which could make a big impact for the popularity of skating without counting on ticket sales. This is the reason that movies were so popular during the Depression. For minimal outlay (was it a dime then? It wasn't a lot), audiences could escape the daily grind into a glamorous world of beautiful music and happy endings.

    I am aware that in the U.S., if there's any discretionary recreational money in a family, it generally goes to team sports like football, baseball, and basketball. But most people can watch TV.

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    I like pie. Tonichelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dorispulaski View Post
    Toller Cranston (who was not an Olympic gold medallist), Kurt Browning (who was not an Olympic gold medallist), and Torvill and Dean (who were, but were not, obviously, medallists in ladies) were all able to put together ice shows that drew big crowds. So it was definitely possible to do the trick.

    I'm a huge skating fan, but I wouldn't pay to see a show centered on either Tara or Sarah. Michelle (not a gold medallist) OTOH....

    Agreed. When Scott Hamilton started up SOI it was because that even while he was an olympic champion, he was considered 'lesser' because of his gender. The American market was thought to not have room for a male skater taking over the top spot. SOI gave an outlet for skaters to be the stars - granted in those days they had some sort of championship to their name (at least the singles skaters) but mainly it was scott's skating buddies all getting together and showing off for the crowds, and it worked. Brian Boitano did the same thing.

    I think the Olympic Championship gets your foot in teh door if you're trying to create something, but it's not what draws the crowds. Not sure Evan would have the same success as Scott and Brian - mainly because he's just not as charasmatic (and this is coming from someone who really likes the guy) but sponsors would jump on a chance with him before they would with, say, Ryan Bradley (or even Johnny) because Evan has the gold.

    Now we're seeing the 'golden era' shows falter much like Capades did before them. SOI is scrambling trying to figure out what works, I'm not sure what would, but my feeling is that it's the cast make up. Most are 'guest stars' not skating in every show, and they don't seem to be as buddy buddy. The guys are (Todd, Mike) better at keeping that sort of thing up, but I get the vibe that the cast are all about being "stars" and are in their own bubbles... it's only natural to compare them to casts of the past. I can remember reading and watching the antics of the 'golden boys and girls' and it was pure hilarity (like the year the guys were playing football backstage waiting for the show to start and they somehow flooded the hallway with teh sprinkler system.). Don't see that now.

    Kristi will be forty next year and hasn't skated for ten years.
    Actually mathman I think it's only been five or six years. She left SOI in 2002 and still skated after the birth of her first daughter.

    Your point about the economy, attyfan, is why I keep stressing televised shows, which could make a big impact for the popularity of skating without counting on ticket sales. This is the reason that movies were so popular during the Depression. For minimal outlay (was it a dime then? It wasn't a lot), audiences could escape the daily grind into a glamorous world of beautiful music and happy endings.

    I am aware that in the U.S., if there's any discretionary recreational money in a family, it generally goes to team sports like football, baseball, and basketball. But most people can watch TV.


    If only it were that simple, though. You are making it sound like TV is a free thing that skating just isn't using. That's not the case. Because viewership is down on TV the sponsorship (commercials) are down. No one is going to pay a billion dollars for 50,000 housewives to sit and watch skating... when something like the Superbowl brings in Trillions of viewers world wide. The economy is tight EVERYWHERE. Skating is a very SMALL niche viewership. Until there's another huge controversy outside of the judging (aka another cat fight with a baseball bat) you're not going to see the viewership or sponsorship with this sport. It's not sensational enough. Michelle Kwan couldn't keep up the viewership, but she was winning everything. Much like golf and Tiger Woods, you don't see as many televised golf events these days either. Same with Tennis.
    Last edited by Tonichelle; 10-23-2010 at 12:41 PM.

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Well, actually Golf has a huge channel to itself. However, with Tiger's problems on and off the golf course, I wonder whether viewership has dropped for it.

    I know viewership has dropped for Nascar & motorsports, which has Speed channel.

    I think what draws the viewers at shows (and TV) is the opportunity to see something they've never seen before (The draw of Toller's shows and T&D's shows or Brian Boitano skates on a Glacier) or to see competitors they have developed a personal link to (Kurt, Scott, Kristi, Michelle, and for her fans, I think Yu Na as well).

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