2023-24 Challenger Series live streams: expensive year | Golden Skate

2023-24 Challenger Series live streams: expensive year

CrazyKittenLady

Get well soon, Lyosha!
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Feb 2, 2019
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Austria
According to German figure skating website Eiskunstlaufblog's calculation the total amount needed to access all paid live streams for Challenger and Senior B events this season summed up to 326.49 Euros. However, I noticed some competitions were missing from this list, such as Volvo Open Cup as well as various National Championships. So the total for all competitions would be even higher.

What is your opinion on the Challenger live streams behind a paywall? Did you pay to access any of the live streams this season? Is the pricing appropriate for what is offered? Do you think the paywall has a negative impact on attracting new fans to the sport?

Personally, I bought a stream for at least half of the offered competitions. Usually I focussed on my favourite discipline, so buying two days separately was cheaper than buying the whole event pass in most cases. For the majority of streams the quality was ranging from acceptable to excellent, with one noteworthy exception where the streams were essentially unwatchable (looking at you, 51st Volvo Open 🤬). No easy option was offered to ask for my money back in that case.

Overall, I'm satisfied with the current situation. At least the additional income can act as an incentive to local organizers to provide a stream of their event (looking at you, Golden Spin 🤬). Most streams were easily available via a centralized platform so it wasn't necessary to create dozens of accounts with my personal information. I very much prefer that system to what the ISU tried a year ago with Junior Synchro Worlds (?) when you had to "pay" for the streams by watching ads and sharing with friends. That was an absolute no-go for me.

However, there is also the argument that limiting access to competition streams will lead to a further decline of the sport's popularity in the long run. I doubt that many people become figure skating fans by stumbling upon a Challenger or Senior B competition. The main crowd-puller are still the Olympics, imo, but I would really like to hear your takes on all this.
 

Jeanie19

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Oct 20, 2017
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United-States
I paid for 2 streams to see Deniss. I do not think that having paid streams promotes new followers, but it maybe necessary to encourage countries to host competitions. That said I would rather pay a small fee than not be able to see Cranberry Open and Golden Spin.
But the stream should be of good quality.
 

TT_Fin

The second worst besserwisser in the world
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Jan 29, 2007
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I had local payable stream which showed Finlandia and nationals but I canceled the contract in the beginning of thi year, because the other programs included were not worth it. The other I paid for Lombardia (was it two days or all, I do not rememberI and do not remember if I paid for some another one, but no more. I have two jobs and my husband has a good job, so I could afford to pay that money. My bigger problem is that I do not have time to watch everything. I don't want to pay when I can watch only some parts. Otherwise I like to watch small competitions and see skaters who do not make it EC or WC or GP, just when I have time. I could pay some fixed fee to see all the CS series, but they should be able to be rewatched then.

If those streams would be paid with ads, I am fine with it. I do not complain about ads being there, I complain only when ads are shown in the middle of skaters programs.
 

saine

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Jun 11, 2023
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Canada
I very much prefer that system to what the ISU tried a year ago with Junior Synchro Worlds (?) when you had to "pay" for the streams by watching ads and sharing with friends. That was an absolute no-go for me.
I'm happy that Junior Synchro Worlds was back on Youtube this year. I didn't watch it last year since what I heard about the streaming platform really did not sound encouraging. It's an ISU championship, it should be on Youtube along with the other championships.

I didn't pay for the Challengers this season. I watched more of the Canadian sectionals, since they were free and were all on one platform (Dailymotion, different channels by provincial federation.) Also I was planning on attending Skate Canada Challenge and I wanted to know more about who would competing there. It's not a platform people will stumble on unless they're looking for it. And the people who watch them are the ones who would be looking for that content.

Now that the season is slowing down, I would like a platform to go back and watch the Challengers/Senior Bs that I didn't watch at the time. There's a lot of content that not everyone has time to watch at the time it's happening. I'd like to go back and watch it. But I would want to pay a one-time fee to do that. Also I wouldn't want to force federations to use a platform if they have one that's working for them and people are watching.
 

4everchan

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Mar 7, 2015
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Martinique
I don't pay for streams. I prefer saving that money to attend live events. Considering I have been to CQE, ACI and worlds this year, I spent enough on skating... I didn't even need to travel but tickets, time off from work, eating out etc adds up quickly. I spent over 1000$ on watching skating this year. It is enough. So no, I am not going to pay for a not so good stream to watch a challenger. On top of that, there are almost never Canadian skaters at these events... Not like it is mandatory for me.. but it is fun to follow the progress of skaters you watch live in their local events at their international assignments. Finally, with CBC, Canadians get a lot of free streaming and archives as well as skate Canada Dailymotion for domestic events. None of this demands a direct fee payment but CBC is partly funded by the government so when I file my taxes, some of my money goes there too. :)
 

Olly96

Cats, bats & figure skating
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I don't usually mind paying for streams if the skaters I'm interested in are competing. This season I paid for at least some days of Lombardia, Finlandia, Challenge Cup and Coupe du Printemps to name a few.

However, there are a few things I would like to point out. During men's medal ceremony at Finlandia they switched off the sound, which was especially frustrating since Aleksandr Selevko had won a medal. Why do this if we are paying anyway? Also, I don't remember any paid stream having commentary. For contrast, the Warsaw Cup was available for free on YouTube and it had very nice commentary.

And yes, replays are a must if we are paying. I remember being shocked that Finlandia was not offering replays despite being a paid stream a few years ago.
 
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Lamente Ariane

Skating Skills -5, Fashion +3, Camp +4
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Apr 5, 2017
IMO if I have to pay, I should have the option to watch replays. I did not pay for any streams this season because I usually wasn’t able to watch senior Bs/Challenger Events live in their entirety anyway.

I do remember paying for Finlandia once or twice in past seasons, but that was knowing I would be able to watch and that the stream quality was acceptable to good.
 

adhara

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Mar 20, 2024
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Finland
As someone who competes and has competed internationally before, it is EXTREMELY frustrating for the skaters too when there is no stream of your event and even more so if it is not free. I was a 6 hour plane ride away and no one from home could watch me, even if they were willing to pay.

The ISU really has to do better if they want fans money. If streams were free (or even just existed), more people would get into it. The more people who are into skating, the more they will want to attend live events. Skaters are celebs to the fans. They want to meet skaters. I am not famous at all and have signed autographs before because people thought my team was so so cool, especially young kids.
 

Jumping_Bean

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Jan 17, 2022
I haven't bought any of the streams and I won't do so in the future, I simply can't afford it (as a semi-broke uni student) - And honestly, even if I could afford it, I don't know if I could mentally get over spending so much money each season.

I'd be more willing to spend money on a subscription to a centralised streaming platform for all competitions, but even there, definitely not 300+€ even for a yearly subscription.
And I don't think I'm alone in that.
 

4everchan

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Mar 7, 2015
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Martinique
I haven't bought any of the streams and I won't do so in the future, I simply can't afford it (as a semi-broke uni student) - And honestly, even if I could afford it, I don't know if I could mentally get over spending so much money each season.

I'd be more willing to spend money on a subscription to a centralised streaming platform for all competitions, but even there, definitely not 300+€ even for a yearly subscription.
And I don't think I'm alone in that.
i would have the money to pay for that.. but i just will not... so you are not alone
 

CaroLiza_fan

EZETTIE LATUASV IVAKMHA
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I was planning to start a thread in a few weeks time about the current mess we have with regards streaming and archiving, and suggest my own idea on how the coverage should go forwards. But since you have started a thread, I’ll do a post here with my thoughts in it.

There is no denying that what we have had the past few years has been a mess. It was not that many years ago that everything seemed to be working perfectly.

Eurosport had the pan-European rights for the ISU-run events, and kind souls were cutting videos of individual programmes and uploading them to YouTube so that they would be available to view long after the original broadcasts expired from the Eurosport Player.

The Junior GP Series and the smaller events, meanwhile, were actually being streamed on YouTube. And if you didn’t get to watch them LIVE, the streams were getting archived. And this was great, because YouTube is most user-friendly video website. You can pause the streams, and re-wind them. The only drawback is that there was a 12 hour limit on the length of videos.

Then two things happened that destroyed our perfect world.

First of all, the record companies started making copyright claims on YouTube, which resulted in the vast majority of skating videos, be they individual programmes or archived livestreams, being removed.

Then the ISU decided that they should bring in an outside company (Infront Sports) to act as promoter for their own events, rather than doing it in-house. And instead of selling the rights on a pan-European basis, they were now sold on a country-by-country basis, so as to get more money in.

The problem was that the broadcasters in a lot of countries were simply not interested in buying the rights to skating. So, to make the sport available in these countries, the ISU decided to copy what was already being done for the Junior GP Series, and started streaming them on their YouTube channels, and geo-blocking them in the countries where the rights had been bought by broadcasters.

In theory, that is good. We all know how great a job has been done doing this for the Junior GP’s on their YouTube channel over the years. However, the ISU channel that broadcasts the Senior GP and the Majors does not take the same approach. It doesn’t cut individual videos for all the programmes. It only cuts individual videos for the Top 3 skaters in each segment. If you didn’t watch it live, this gives away the result when you go in looking to watch videos. Which defeats the purpose of the whole thing.

Of course, the argument is that if you want to watch the competitions after they have happened, you should watch the archived livestream rather than individual videos. The problem is that, although it doesn’t happen as often as with smaller events, even the ISU‘s YouTube channels occasionally get hit by copyright claims.

This season, we have seen the introduction of pay streams for a lot of Challenger events, other Senior B’s, and domestic events. How much you pay for the stream, and how much of the event you get for it, varies according to the event. The prices tend to be between €3 and €8. Sometimes this is for a half-day of action; sometimes it is for a full day. There is no consistency.

Most of the streams tend to be on the SolidSport website. And this is where I have a problem. The argument in support for paying for streams is that the money is a badly needed extra source of income for the organisers. However, what most people watching the streams don’t realise is that SOLIDSPORT TAKES HALF OF ALL THE MONEY THAT IS PAID. And I don’t think that is right. The organisers are losing out on half of what is badly needed extra income.

Consequently, I believe that what the ISU should do is invest in setting up their own in-house streaming platform. Create a service that can replicate all the functionality that we love about YouTube, but can also get around the copyright issues. And where everything is archived forever.

If they got somebody in to build it who really knows what they are doing, the platform could even include a function that a lot of fans want but which is technically not possible on YouTube – multiple audio feeds on the same video. Being able to choose between a selection of audio feeds was something that we had in the old Eurosport Player days. It could have a feed where you get the sound directly from the CD player (which I don’t like but I know some people do); an “Ambient Sound” feed where we get the sound from microphones in the arena (which is what I prefer, as we get to hear the audience reaction); an English commentary feed; and commentary feeds in a selection of other languages.

But, if they are going to go to the expense of building their own platform, they may as well go the whole hog. Have it as a one stop shop that caters for ALL figure skating events. Major Championships; Senior GP’s; Junior GP’s; Challenger events; Senior B’s; National Championships; domestic events. In short: EVERYTHING!

Of course, with a platform like I am imagining, it is not going to be free to use like YouTube. But, I do not think the approach that we saw this season for pay events is the right one. Frankly, if you are watching whole events every week, it gets very expensive. And not everybody can afford paying those prices regularly.

Instead, I think it should go down the subscription route. And have the price set at a more manageable level. e.g. 10 CHF to access for 1 month; or 100 CHF to access for 12 months. (This seems to be the standard pricing model for annual contracts for subscription services – 12 months for the price for 10 individual months. And this would work well for figure skating, because there are practically no events in June and July).

I chose the Swiss Franc for the currency because the ISU is based in Switzerland, and because the value of the Swiss Franc is between the American Dollar and the Euro.

And then on the 1st July every year, the money brought in since 1st July the previous year is totalled up, and divided EQUALLY between the organisers of ALL the events that were broadcast on the platform.

I am proposing this pricing model because, if the events were priced individually, smaller events wouldn’t get anywhere near as many customers, and hence money, as big events like Euros or Worlds. And let’s face it, a club holding a Senior B needs the money far more than the sport’s governing body organising a Major Championship. So, if the money was spread out equally between all the organisers, then these smaller events would get more badly needed income than they would otherwise.

The problem with having a streaming service that you have to pay for is that, although established fans may be willing to pay, casual viewers and potential new fans will not. Having the entire sport behind the paywall is not going to grow the sport. If anything, it will kill it off. That is why the ISU run events like the Senior GP’s and the Major Championships need to be on TV as well as on the streaming platform. To draw in new fans. And then if they like what they see, they can subscribe to the streaming platform.

Well, those are my thoughts on the situation.

Apologies that this post is so long (I probably shouldn’t have written such a long introduction recapping how we got to where we are!)

CaroLiza_fan
 

TallyT

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Apr 23, 2018
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Australia
I know there's a way to download livestreams, I would love to know if anyone is doing it in case the local archives end up lost. We got spoiled for a few years there, nearly every reasonably high level skater, every skate, even every show we could find and download and save (my own personal archive has its own external HD and I still scour yt and dm every so often and watch twitter alerts for webo and bilibili for more) but I can see that is coming to a screeching stop...
 

Minz

It's not over till it's over
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Nov 13, 2020
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I know there's a way to download livestreams, I would love to know if anyone is doing it in case the local archives end up lost. We got spoiled for a few years there, nearly every reasonably high level skater, every skate, even every show we could find and download and save (my own personal archive has its own external HD and I still scour yt and dm every so often and watch twitter alerts for webo and bilibili for more) but I can see that is coming to a screeching stop...
It's definitely slowing down. I've done some work uploading videos to the forum media library, and older videos are MUCH easier to find. For most of the 2010s, you can find almost anything, especially for a big event like Worlds or Euros, and GP/Challenger videos are still relatively easy to find on YouTube.

Nowadays, you'll be lucky if you can find a YT video of the winner of a GP event.
 

Kris135

On the Ice
Joined
Apr 18, 2022
It's definitely slowing down. I've done some work uploading videos to the forum media library, and older videos are MUCH easier to find. For most of the 2010s, you can find almost anything, especially for a big event like Worlds or Euros, and GP/Challenger videos are still relatively easy to find on YouTube.

Nowadays, you'll be lucky if you can find a YT video of the winner of a GP event.
I agree . It not hard to find figure skating content from earlier years on YouTube. Everything from US Nationals, to worlds, to the Olympic coverage is accessable if you are willing watch coverage that is over 20 years old. It anything more recent that is major headache. Sometimes I get lucky like last summer I found Keegan Messing final world performance on YouTube the commentary was in French but it was there. I can usually find Olympic skating coverage maybe because it not limited by the ISU, but I have not been as lucky with the 2022 Olympic coverage. ISU GP events are fairly accessible with a VPN , but much than that more is harder. Almost all of the Challenger events you had to pay for this year. I am sorry but I do not have $20-50 lying around for each Challenge event. I am already trying to figure out how much the Cranberry Cup sream, which is only challenger event in North America this year, is going to charge me this year. Ilia and most top Americans will most likely be at this event in early August and if the ISU assignes BV's to quints he will most likely do one to get into the record books again. I want to watch that if nothing else. Last year I do believe there was not a stream from the event, but it's elevation in status most likely means they will at least have that this year.

I am almost at the point where I just wish NBC/Peacock would take over the coverage of all the Challenger events. Yes NBC/Peacock stinks but I pay a monthly fee and I do get coverage, now if they could figure out to have a longer replay window and make it consistent then that would much better than paying $20 each weekend to watch these low level events.

I wonder how all the nickeling and diming of skating fans is helping the sport to grow any. We finally have a figure skater that the general public wants to see more of but if you make it too hard they are going to give up. I want these pay walls to come down and find other ways to fund the events like sponsorships, monetizing the streams, ads within the streams during the resurfacing the of the ice, and other methods to pay for these events because most people are not going pay out pocket to watch these events. Even I am not going to for more than one streaming event and if Skate America is closer to me than it has been in the last few years then I will put my money towards that instead of the streaming costs..
 

Magill

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Joined
Sep 23, 2020
I did not pay for Challengers and I am not going to. I have paid for live streams for all Yuzuru Hanyu shows and for membership giving access to his exclusive content as this is something I truly love and I consider it value for money - the quality of skating, the quality of the whole performance, streaming quality, subtitles, information, delayed viewing access, everything is just superb. I also understand his shows are organized on a purely commercial basis and TBH I am grateful that paid livestreams have been made available for international fans which is not always the case in Japan. As for ISU events, they are a different beast to me - I pay cable TV package including a bunch of channels dedicated to sports which show GPs and major events. I also enjoy not geoblocked free You Tube streams for now. As for the future, I expect it to stay the same. I expect ISU to negotiate deals with TVs to show FS competitions in general sport channels like any other sport does, so I do not need to pay extra apart from my general TV subscriptions. If I were to pay separately for comps, I would not. I guess many people would just turn to watching other things instead. There is only so much money I am willing to pay for all sorts of subscriptions and I choose them carefully as options are endless. I also know it would probably be different if my favourite skaters were still competing so I understand some people might make different choices.
 
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CrazyKittenLady

Get well soon, Lyosha!
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Feb 2, 2019
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Austria
replays are a must if we are paying.
IMO if I have to pay, I should have the option to watch replays.
Fully agree with this. Replays are still available for the Challenger streams I bought on SolidSport but it is incredibly hard to find them. The page doesn't have an overview of all the streams you bought, though one would think that such an overview should be a very basic feature. If I want to watch a replay, I first have to go to GoldenSkate to find the competition thread where usually the direct links are still available. One day I should probably collect all the links to the streams I bought in a document, but again, I would expect the streaming platform to do that for me.

I know there's a way to download livestreams, I would love to know if anyone is doing it in case the local archives end up lost.
I used to download a lot of the streams in the past, but with HQ streaming becoming more and more common the file sizes exploded to the point I would need a small server to store everything. I also came to the conclusion that 95% of the material I never watch again anyway. Now I just record my favourite skaters and share the videos on youtube. I do it for about 4-5 skaters regularly. To avoid getting hit by copyright claims I upload the videos as "unlisted". This means they aren't searchable, so the videos don't get a lot of views and won't help to attract new fans to the sport, but they are all still available. :) I usually post the links in the fanfests I take care of.
Unfortunately, this whole procedure is quite time consuming, so I cannot do it for complete competitions, but if someone wants to see a particular skater and I happen to have access to the stream, I'm always happy to share a video.

I am almost at the point where I just wish NBC/Peacock would take over the coverage of all the Challenger events.
From what I've read here about Peacock this sounds like a terrible solution. Also, Peacock is only available in the US and most of the Challengers take place in Europe. Tbh, if Peacock were the only alternative, I'd prefer the pay-per-view platform we have now. At least that is accessible around the world.
 
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LolaSkatesInJapan

♥ Kami Valieva fan ♥
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May 28, 2023
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Israel
I already pay for Fuji on Demand that broadcasts most events that the Japanese skaters are in, and am not geo blocked to watch Russian events on Channel 1, so I don't mind.
I'd pay for a stream if it interests me and if they let me watch later, if the events are in a time that I'm either at the rink practicing or it's in the middle of the night and I'm sleeping.
 
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