Study in a Skating Popularity-Disparity Across Different Regions | Page 3 | Golden Skate

Study in a Skating Popularity-Disparity Across Different Regions

Mathematician

Pilgrim on a long journey
Record Breaker
Joined
Aug 8, 2023
And about the topic of recreational skating in Russia, its not something I want to delve into here because its going to make things off topic and I made careful choice to be clear that I compare any nation that is commercially successful. Others generally brought up Russia as the example to which I can work with, but it wasnt my choice.

But I can say that, from what I understand recreational skating is not a small thing in Russia. Just the amount of competition and different famous and "expensive" training camps we see in the public may make it seem like those are the only options. Its still very common for young kids to pick it up recreationally from what I understand. Adult beginners? Dont know much about that.
 

cailuj365

On the Ice
Joined
Jan 21, 2005
This is my US-centric view/questions:

I just really want to know why the USFSA can't make some type of deal with NBC or ISU to keep YouTube performances online for more than 3 weeks at a time now. I'm sorry if that's already been discussed before, but figure skating is just not viewable and it will have downstream effects. How will kids even get to dream about the Nationals or being World champion or if you can't watch any competitions past 2022? Meanwhile, I can watch all of the swimming and speed skating competitions to my heart's content.

In terms of other marketing strategies, I'd seriously try to pitch to Netflix to make a docuseries show that highlights several skaters and the sport. It hasn't always been successful (Break Point for tennis is mediocre), but it brought new audiences to F1 (Drive To Survive) and golf (Full Swing). Yes, I know both F1 and golf have huge fanbases already, but they both had markets they had not reached yet. If they're making one for rugby (Six Nations) and cycling (Unchained), I think they could make one for figure skating. Many of these sports are niche, expensive, but full of drama and excitement.

I think there'd be a lot to highlight in a skating docuseries -- competition, developing choreography and choosing music, respecting the legends and history of the sport, practice problems, behind-the-scenes politics, scandals/doping, friendships and camaraderie across countries, rivalries, coach switching, professional skating and touring, etc. It has to be the right group of skaters and talking heads, of course. The skaters they showcase should be charismatic, funny, photogenic, ideally. You could choose skaters who are at the top of the sport as well as highlight skaters who are just trying to make it out of Nationals. Journalists/commentators have to be honest and credible, but not cruel. Get beloved champions in there to talk about the sport. I'd love to see it one day for FS. If we can't have winners, we can at least have "characters" and personalities that people like and get invested in and eventually, get invested into the sport itself.
 
Joined
Jun 21, 2003
But otherwise it feels like you're playing semantics, "what do you mean by? etc..." For example, I can ask what do you mean by "hard numbers"? Tickets sold, add conversion rates, stream viewers, unique visitors, discussion activities...
Yes, I think that it is a prpoblem with semantics -- specifically, the semantical question of what a "datum" is. Tickets sold, stream viewers, unique visitors ... those are data. Those are "hard numbers" if you like. That is what is missing from this thread.

True, hard data is not easy to dig up (that's why prpofessional scholars have jobs. ;) ) Still, I think that this discussion would profit if we had more precuise knowledge of what we are attempting to measure, evaluate and fix.
 

icewhite

Record Breaker
Joined
Dec 7, 2022
I'd ask the same question of you. When you speak of smaller sports that are booming, do you mean sports that started tiny but have recently seen significant influxes of participation? Or sports where participation remains very niche, but those few athletes are able to attract large audiences?

I meant "smaller" sports in general - people sometimes talk about soccer or football or ice hockey, but I think it's clear that figure skating is not and never will be on that level of popularity, neither grassroot participation nor viewing numbers.

There are very different small sports with very different developments, and in my eyes it makes more sense to look at what they are doing or not doing, what "works", what "doesn't work" than to think of figure skating in the past - because the media landscape has just massively changed, the way people are shaping their recreational life has changed, society has changed. There might be a few things to take from the past, but in general I don't think it is very helpful to try to recreate that time in figure skating because we do not have the same circumstances.

So when I say "looking at other smaller sports" I mean we should take more general factors into view that shape the interest in a sport, both in participation and passive interest. Factors such as:
- accessibility
- media presence, existence of idols, active promotion on (social) media
- all kinds of financing and funding, state sponsorships, scholarships
- structures and organization
- competition formats
- perspectives for athletes
- time needed for training
- image, history and narrative of the sport
...
And of course all these factors are different in the different countries.

The original thesis focused on a discrepancy in the last point in different cultures for figure skating, but I don't agree with the statements being made, nor do I think it's the major definining factor.
I think there are many possibilities to actively promote a sport, and while some factors cannot really be changed or at least not easily, others can. My original point the OP was discussing was that there are possibilities to promote the sport differently and more actively on social media. Mathematician refutes that that would change anything for real, since he is sure that the main issue is an underlying cultural aspect that would require societies to change first.
Sports climbing has become massively popular at least in my country in the last ~20, but especially 5 years - as a niche sport still. It will never be soccer, which is 90% of sports here, actively and in media coverage, but it has a lot of participants and also a lot of people have become interested in going to events and following the top athletes. That's due to factors like easier availability, and it becoming Olympic has helped massively - but another main factor is that it is "instagramable" and that the young athletes are active on social media, they are perceived as "cool", relaxed, having fun. There are also other smaller sports though, rather traditional ones, like badminton or table tennis, which have seen an uptick in popularity at least in some countries. I can't get over the fact that track cycling is able to gather rather huge crowds.

I think there are lots of factors and numbers which would need to be studied, and I hope the ISU is doing so, to find out the true popularity and what can be done. It is not easy for figure skating as it really is much more influenced by culture (due to the images presented within competition) than most other sports. But personally I'm pretty sure that there are factors like promotion, changes in structures etc. can be made, and that it should not just be accepted that figure skating as a viewer's sport is one for old people at best.

If I look at reddit the grassroot level of figure skating seems to be booming in the US. In Germany it's definitely not, which is probably due to a million factors.
If I did a real study I would probably start with getting:
- starters numbers for the last 30 years, male and female, in different countries
- viewers' numbers, tv and streams, differentiating free and payed
- life spectators' numbers, in relation to ticket prices
- costs for a hobby athlete
- costs to become an Olympian
- (job/future) perspectives for athletes
- scholarships, sponsorships, state funding
- image of the sport among different groups of people
 
Joined
Jun 21, 2003
*whole post*

Now wer're getting somewhere!

But it's a catch 22. You Tube, Netflix, various media outlets and sponsors are not in the business of promoting figure skating. They are in the business of making money. As the commercial popularity of skating diminishes, they will be less and less easy to convince that they ought to be helping us out by pumping up the sport. :(
 

icewhite

Record Breaker
Joined
Dec 7, 2022
To come back to one of my original issues: Just recently there was a Russian father here who forbid that his son would do ballet. Also I read an interview with a young female Russian figure skater, don't remember who, who was like "I don't know why boys are even in figure skating. I get that they have to be there, but I wouldn't want/make my son do it".
So while I'm sure the thought of it being an acceptable sport for boys is more present in some minds, it surely is not a trait of Russian society.
If I am talking about Germany the thing is that hardly anybody would even think of putting their child in figure skating, and if so, then yes, usually girls. Figure skating is mostly seen as something awkward, outdated, cheesy...

As with most sports apart from soccer people usually start this sport because one of their family members already has a connection to figure skating or at least ice hockey, so that they do get in contact with ice rinks. Often those are from Russian heritage. Looking at how few black skaters for instance there are in the US on the top level at least, and how many have Russian sounding names, I would guess that it is similar, although not at all as serious, in the US - you may start it as a little kid if your parents are already coaches or such, but people who themselves have never figure skated may just not think of it as a possibility for their child at all, and if they then hear about how expensive it is, they may not be inclined to try it.
Etc. etc.
 

cailuj365

On the Ice
Joined
Jan 21, 2005
Now wer're getting somewhere!

But it's a catch 22. You Tube, Netflix, various media outlets and sponsors are not in the business of promoting figure skating. They are in the business of making money. As the commercial popularity of skating diminishes, they will be less and less easy to convince that they ought to be helping us out by pumping up the sport. :(

Well, of course. It's not a pity handout, but it's an investment. The PR people of USFSA or ISU have to pitch it right and say, this is going to be a hit for you and it can turn into a multi-season hit -- we have the drama, we have the stories, we have the pretty people, we even have ongoing Cold War - USSR/Russia vs. USA political tension, we just need a platform to show it. And it's not just about promoting figure skating as it is about promoting entertaining storylines, but it would also market the sport and bring new eyes to figure skating just by having a show like that.

I mean, F1 Drive to Survive is going on with its sixth season this week! I'm an American who knew absolutely nothing about F1 before last year when I clicked on the show out of curiosity, and now I can't wait to see what kind of backstabbing contract negotiations are happening every "silly season" with the drivers, lol. And yeah, I learned a bit about the sport itself and I'm starting to regularly follow what's happening during the season.

If it's not done right or it's not successful, then it gets canceled. That's just business.


Also, I think Netflix was actively looking for their next Drive to Survive, which is why there's like 10 sports docuseries now being made and released at the same time. Shame if FS missed the boat.
 
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rabidline

Final Flight
Joined
Aug 16, 2018
Now wer're getting somewhere!

But it's a catch 22. You Tube, Netflix, various media outlets and sponsors are not in the business of promoting figure skating. They are in the business of making money. As the commercial popularity of skating diminishes, they will be less and less easy to convince that they ought to be helping us out by pumping up the sport. :(
We have definitely discussed a Netflix series a la Drive to Survive before in one of the many past threads about this topic.

I think it's a good idea, maybe something focused on the GP series first, to introduce the competition framework that's easy to understand (how to qualify, points, questionable scoring based on where skaters are assigned, different locales- travel highlight shots) to the audience and make it easier to follow the competitors highlighted by the series. But also... especially knowing the problem with the latest season of Breaking Point for Tennis, there's also the danger of the series being used to whitewash the crimes of the "protagonists" the series follows.

On the catch 22 situation, perhaps the organizing Feds have to first build the live audience who buy tickets and go watch figure skating competitions. Make it interesting and affordable for the locals to buy tickets and catch a day or two of skating. And choose the venue wisely. A competition venue doesn't always have to be the biggest one. The more accessible the venue is, the more "normal" people can go and watch the figure skating competition if they have time and have nothing else to do. I don't think all competitions need to necessarily be sold out, they just need a good sized crowd with good energy. I'm thinking about this because when I watched some competitions in the past, some legendary performances at Worlds, the tickets were definitely not sold out but they had enough people in the stands to have a good atmosphere.

How to get people to watch? Good marketing, great hospitality and affordable pricing. And also patience from the organizer side. It's not going to be a magic fix in 1-2 years. And not every casual fan will immediately turn to become a dedicated figure skating fan overnight who will pay for the travelling and the competition tickets everywhere. But if the organizers are able to deliver competitions year after year with consistent level of marketing, hospitality and excitement, that's what they can offer to media outlets and the sponsors: a fun sporting event that people can sit for a whole day to watch.
 
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Joined
Jun 21, 2003
As with most sports apart from soccer people usually start this sport because one of their family members already has a connection to figure skating or at least ice hockey, so that they do get in contact with ice rinks. Often those are from Russian heritage. Looking at how few black skaters for instance there are in the US on the top level at least, and how many have Russian sounding names, I would guess that it is similar, although not at all as serious, in the US - you may start it as a little kid if your parents are already coaches or such, but people who themselves have never figure skated may just not think of it as a possibility for their child at all, and if they then hear about how expensive it is, they may not be inclined to try it.
Etc. etc.
I think that in the United States it is Asian Americans, mostly those with Japanese, Chinese or Korean antecedents, that are the most involved in figure skating. (Why Indian-Americans from the state of Texas always dominate the National Spelling Bee is another matter.)

Partly this goes back to the times of Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan, when there were essentially no famous U.S.sports figures of Asian descent, and very few entertainers, actors, etc., or really anybody much in the public eye at all to serve as inspiration and role model. I was just reading a memoir from the mayor of Boston,a Chinese American lady, on how influential figure skating stars were when she was growing up. Kristi Yamaguchi also mentioned in her autobiographical writings that figurtre skating is one of the few sports where it is an advantage to be small -- even today there are not many 7-foot Asian-American basketball players or 350-pound football players.

Alyssa Liu is quite typical. Her father cherished Michelle Kwan and it was just accepted in their household that of course Alyssa would go into figure skating. (She didn't like it as much as her father did.)
 

Magill

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Joined
Sep 23, 2020
Where I come from, we used to have solid winters and although this is mostly the thing of the past, winters sports are still very popular here when the right time of the year comes. Skating among them. Not figure skating, not speed skating, just skating. In winter, almost every neighbourhood opens an impromptu rink where kids can rent skates (including figure skating skates) or bring their own, if they have them, and just have fun, sometimes for free, sometimes not, but it is really cheap. Many kids, young adults, and whole families do that. You also have a tad more expensive fancy public rinks in city centers' fancy locations, where not just regular folks but also fancy people go to sport their fancy outfits and show off a bit. What I am trying to say is that it is popular and cool. When figure skating kids go to such venues with their friends they catch immediate attention with their tricks. Lots of other kids, both genders, wish to try and learn from them on the spot. It's cool.
Training figure skating, even on very basic level, is expensive and not easily available everywhere. Different story, Still...
Figure skating competitions are not difficult to watch. They are available on Eurosport which is paid for but included in many TV packages and lots of people have it. Plus some other local channel(s) as well. No geoblocking on YouTube, unless it is US or Japanese content,
You'd think watching figure skating should be popular here. It is not. True, we do not have strong competitive skaters of our own to give people this patriotic stimulus to root for them. But we never had, so no change in this department. Still, watching comps used to be very popular here when I was a child. It is not any more.
One reason is, surely, options were just more limited then and people sometimes just watched whatever was on the "telly" while now they enjoy almost unlimited choice and they tend to choose other options. The question is - why?
Just food for thought.
 

TallyT

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Apr 23, 2018
Country
Australia
As you can understand from my flag - and even more, I'm in a regional area - there is no such thing here as recreational skating: ice is something that comes out of the fridge (I can't even recall the last time we had hail, and apparently it snowed - once - in the seventies. Less than a dozen flakes. They talked about it on the news.) So I admit, when I talk of figure skating it is purely the spectator sport and it is not exactly a sport that thrives even in the cities, let alone the vast rest of the country... and it's very much off the radar. I only ran across it by accident on youtube in the first place.
 
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Magill

Record Breaker
Joined
Sep 23, 2020
But shows have to make a profit, after all, and I note that the 2024 US Stars on Ice has been cancelled, and the last few years the audiences have been pretty small, I believe smaller than Disney on Ice which has no name stars but does have ice princesses aplenty I guess.
And to be blunt, were they to put out those same shows, with Michelle and Brian etc at their peak, I doubt it would fly today anyway. SoI even in Canada and Japan and its ilk may have to seriously evolve from just, well, stars on the ice doing their star turns. That's already happening in Japan with Shoma et al in One Piece, with Takahashi's just-finished smaller series of what seemed to be art pieces, and of course with Yuzu's shows with their worldwide appeal. (I can't speak for Russia, I don't watch them.) That is if SoI does come back at all...
The other side of what we are talking about here is that Yuzuru sold more than 110K full price tickets to his 12 solo shows within last 15 months. Would have sold more if the venues allowed more spectators as all of those tickets needed to be won in lotteries, some of them with winning chances close to that of getting to Harvard. This number is not counting thousands of people watching in movie theatres and unknown numbers on paid streams (not to mention unauthorized streams, let's call it this way). Yesterday in Yokohama they had people from more than 20 countries in the venue, coming to Japan specifically for this show.
I am tired of people explaining his phenomenon as fans being crazy. That's far too many people for this nonsense.
He clearly knows how to make figure skating attractive to huge crowds and make them wish to pay and go to many efforts to watch. Even those who do not care to watch any other figure skating content
High time for the sport to learn from him and make conclusions, His vision of what figure skating is about is clearly much more appealing to global, not just regional, audiences than that of ISU rewarding just more jumps and less beauty.
 
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DancingCactus

Final Flight
Joined
Jan 17, 2022
I don't know. Winter sports are still very popular on TV in Germany (at least in Bavaria where I live). You can't switch on public television without hitting a biathlete or a ski jumper during the season. Same for downhill skiing and all these weird types of bobsleighs. Now, of course Germans are good enought in most of these disciplines to be medal contenders, so there might be a national bias.
But bob or ski jumping are not mass sports, I bet the equipment is also expensive and noone takes up ski jumping as a lark. And still, people come in droves to watch it, the DSV has no problems recruiting young talent etc.

And people here like skating recreationally, when I was a child we used to goskating quite often, sometimes simply on frozen lakes and the ice rinks are always packed. I think skating recreationally has potential in Germany, but the rinks aren't open to the public often enough.

So why is figure skating not popular on German TV? They don't show it on the main channel, so chances that a causal viewer just stumbles onto it are zilch. Even when Aljona was on top of the world for years, nobody cared except at that one Olympic moment. But people still remember Katarina Witt or Bolero or the Battle of the Brians. Noone cares about Michelle Kwan though XD
 

TallyT

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Joined
Apr 23, 2018
Country
Australia
I am tired of people explaining his phenomenon as fans being crazy. That's far too many people for this nonsense.
He clearly knows how to make figure skating attractive to huge crowds and make them wish to pay and go to many efforts to watch.
As the old saw says "Give the public what they want, and they’ll come to see it."

I'd seriously try to pitch to Netflix to make a docuseries show that highlights several skaters and the sport. It hasn't always been successful (Break Point for tennis is mediocre), but it brought new audiences to F1 (Drive To Survive) and golf (Full Swing). Yes, I know both F1 and golf have huge fanbases already
Dunno anything about Drive to Survive but F1, besides always being aspirational - it's a sport for the filthy rich and elite - but was heavily featured in one way or another on the most popular TV show (for quite a long time and still never beaten as far far as I know) on the planet, Top Gear. That must have brought a lot of revheads to the fold :laugh:

I wonder if it's time to pitch a live action US remake of Yuri on Ice? :laugh2:
 

Alex Fedorov

Medalist
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Nov 12, 2021
Country
Russia
So why is figure skating not popular on German TV? They don't show it on the main channel, so chances that a causal viewer just stumbles onto it are zilch. Even when Aljona was on top of the world for years, nobody cared except at that one Olympic moment. But people still remember Katarina Witt or Bolero or the Battle of the Brians. Noone cares about Michelle Kwan though XD
Katharina Witt, as well as her coach Utah Müller, or, for example, Anette Pötsch-Rauschenbach, are from the DDR. This probably has some significance. After the reunification of Germany, interest in figure skating in this country for some reason decreased.
 
Joined
Jun 21, 2003
As the old saw says "Give the public what they want, and they’ll come to see it."
It is, however, impossible to predict, anticipate, or account for what the public will decide that they want. Why does Taylor Swift have such a huge and enthusiastic following? She is not a very good singer and only OK as a songwriter. Yet astonishly her current tour has brought in more than US$ ONE BILLION.

Kim Kardashian's net worth is 1.7 billion dollars. What is she famous for? (Wait, don't answer that. This is a PG rated board).

Well, good on 'em for serving as lightning rods for public frenzy.
 
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Joined
Jun 21, 2003
Katharina Witt, as well as her coach Utah Müller, or, for example, Anette Pötsch-Rauschenbach, are from the DDR. This probably has some significance. After the reunification of Germany, interest in figure skating in this country for some reason decreased.
If we go back even further, the very first world figure skating champion was Gilbert Fuchs, skating for the "German Empire." From 1923 to 1938 Austria won the men's world champioship every year except two (when Norwegian Gillis Graftstron snuck in there).

All this came to an end with World War II, paving the way for the United States to win 12 straight starting in 1948.
 

TallyT

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Apr 23, 2018
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Australia
It is, however, impossible to predict, anticipate, or account for what the public will decide that they want. Why does Taylor Swift have such an huge and enthusiastic following? She is not a very good singer and only OK as a songwriter. Yet astonishly her current tour has brought in more than US$ ONE BILLION.

Kim Kardashian's net worth is 1.7 billion dollars. What is she famous for? (Wait, don't answer that. This is a PG rated board).

Well, good on 'em for serving as lightning rods for public frenzy.
Not impossible - look at One Direction. And Swift being popular was predictable, just not how much - just very, very difficult beforehand. That's why TPTB are being paid the big bucks (okay, in countries that have the big bucks.)
 
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lariko

Medalist
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Jan 31, 2019
Country
Canada
Any content creator will tell you that engagement is dropping year after year, and everyone is working for niches. Figure skaters are not one of the rare exception to this rule, and that's all there is for it. Low viewership nowadays is something that would have been amazing 50 years ago. And people's interest to attend anything in public from shopping to competitions to concerts is downright plummeted. Usually, people show up for someone who was famous back in the 80s or 90s or some very, very select few cult figures. If some skater becomes such a figure, good for them. But that's a glam exception one shouldn't even aim for because it's completely unworkable and soul-crushing goal.
 

Mathematician

Pilgrim on a long journey
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Aug 8, 2023
Yes, I think that it is a prpoblem with semantics -- specifically, the semantical question of what a "datum" is. Tickets sold, stream viewers, unique visitors ... those are data. Those are "hard numbers" if you like. That is what is missing from this thread.

True, hard data is not easy to dig up (that's why prpofessional scholars have jobs. ;) ) Still, I think that this discussion would profit if we had more precuise knowledge of what we are attempting to measure, evaluate and fix.
Well hard numbers are only required really to judge the specifics of your strategy such as specifying your prices, or analyzing which adds/funnels perform best through A/B testing and the like after actually determining your market and issue through more abstract general analysis of community standards and consensus. We are at the latter stage of those 2, in which we are not trying to analyze specific statistics of ad performance or ticket costs but comparing overall market health and intrinsic factors between ours and others which are more successful that clearly have fundamental differences in their value proposition.

Yes, in this stage some might need numbers to prove there is an issue in the first place but it seems that the majority standpoint even from those who disagree with me on the reason still agree that there is an issue to begin with. Unfortunately I cant give you a ticket sale statistic but I can give you the image of our market that a final arena wasnt even sold out (in a sport that used to easily do this and still does in other countries even for a subsidiary event nevermind a final): this is enough for any professional marketing team to take a big step back and bring out the blackboard to discuss the abstract gestalt of the industry before delving into numbers.

Its part of my job, marketing, strategy, etc... I've read plenty of books and dealt with many clients. Fine advertising is a very exact science where you deal with the fractions of a cent, but determining your market to begin with is not, its more abstract and free to casual discussion, even the fundamentals of your strategy dont require numbers until you're confident in the layout and you're ready to project/test campaigns - we are not at that stage yet clearly as almost everyone has provided a pretty distinctly different interpretation of the issue.
 
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