When The Webcast Cuts Out

Stu Nettle
Surfpolitik

"Cut! We missed that Gabriel. Can you back it up and when the camera starts rolling again stick another inverted slob? Julian you're on stand-by."

The Quiksilver Pro France was a memorable contest both for the fact it was won by Gabriel Medina in only his third World Tour competition and also for the quality of surfing, especially from Round 5 onwards. Medina beat Julian Wilson, himself a WT rookie, in a final that reset the template for high performance surfing. It was that good.

The webcast for the contest also set a high standard of functionality and production, unfortunately though it's doomed to be remembered for a technical mishap that happened at the most inopportune time.

With three minutes to go in the final Wilson was leading on 16.10 points with Medina needing an 8.28 or better. Plenty of waves were coming through with scoring potential. Wilson used his priority on a smaller wave leaving the young Brazilian alone out the back. A good sized left reared, webcast viewers tensed as he took off....and then everything went black. No sight, no sound, nothing.

Moments later, and for just one split second, vision returned and the sight of Julian Wilson holding his head in his hands appeared. But what did that mean? Was he overcome with joy? Distraught? For the next ten minutes I sat staring at the box, vigourously pumping the refresh button and letting loose with a late-night verbal tirade as I tried to find out the result.

At the same time viewers across 24 time zones were finding relief on the competition's Facebook page. I'm hopelessly monolingual except when it comes to blasphemes and I learnt a few new ones that night.

It's been fifteen years since the first surfing webcast but it's only in the last five that technological progress has allowed for consistently enjoyable viewing. They've since become incredibly popular – Quiksilver reached approximately 800,000 unique viewers in France – and webcasts are now the primary way that fans watch competitive surfing.

In one way webcasts are like the early days of live television; the crew – both commentary and production - have to wing it through unscripted moments and technical hitches. It's thrilling and tense. Add to that remote locations, often with limited and temporary network connections, and the best laid plans often go awry - which they did in France, big time.

Mark Warren is the Sports Marketing Manager for Quiksilver International. He plans and oversees many of their webcasts. Warren is no stranger to live broadcasting having done stints in front of the camera for every major television station in Australia, though most would remember him from Channel Nine's Wide World of Sports where he often shared the stage with Mike Gibson and Ken Sutcliffe.

Warren explained the reason the French webcast lost connection was due to a wider connection problem in the region, "There was a huge network cut in Bordeaux that affected the whole south-west area of France. This usually never happens, but the entire area suffered this three minute black out."

When the production team realised what the problem was, and that there was nothing they could do about it, Warren said they focussed on getting the Heats on Demand online as quick as possible so viewers could see the result.

Part of being a pioneer is making mistakes for the first time, but being successful means devising solutions and Warren nominated two possibilities. The first would be to install a back up line on a different network hub routing to another region, the second having a satellite back up sending a video feed to a different location.

Stung by the French faux pas Warren assures me his team has future proofed themselves against similar webcasting problems. "For next year we've already booked a back up line that comes from Toulouse, another major network hub."

Comments

surfstarved's picture
surfstarved's picture
surfstarved commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 4:33am

Don't forget Maxie Walker Stu. Wired World of Sports wouldn't have been anything without old Tangles.

Don't let the bastards grind you down

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 4:59am

Check this old footage SS. The '86 Bells with Tangles, Eddie McGuire, Rob Mundle, Gibbo, and even Moose Mossop giving it a go. All the big hitters! Even includes a voiceover from ol' Mark Warren himself.

http://www.swellnet.com.au/videos/114-fingers-in-the-bowl---day-10

(it takes a little while to load)

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 5:29am

Can you remember the Bells final between Nicky Wood and Richard Marsh?

Commentated by non other than the big channel 9 boof-head himself, Darrel Eastlake.

I believe couple of years later the big fella had a heart attack on air commentating the surf lifesaving at Kurrawa.

Havn't heard from him since.

1173

fitzroy-21's picture
fitzroy-21's picture
fitzroy-21 commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 5:35am

Or when he decided on air to take on Pam Burridge cause he thought he could surf better than chicks.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 5:39am

@Zen,

Remember it? I've got it on video sitting right next to me here. A couple weeks after the win Big Daryl Eastlake did a Wide World of Sports special interviewing Nicky at home in Newcastle. It began with Daz doing a piece straight to camera on the beach at Merewether, "It all started just here etc etc..." while picking up a handful of sand and letting it run through his fingers.

I've gotta get these vids converted to digital...

Sorry to hear Daz had a heart attack - he was a boofhead, but a good boofhead.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 5:41am

@Fitz,

He did? Damn, wish I had that on video.

fitzroy-21's picture
fitzroy-21's picture
fitzroy-21 commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 5:44am

If my memory serves me right he pulled out at the last minute with some lame excuse.

nickg's picture
nickg's picture
nickg commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 7:23am

Oh jeeezus! I would have blown a fuse if I was watching it live on the webs. Makes me angry thinking about it, even now (and despite the facts I feel like calling my service provider's customer service department and giving them a serve!).

I assume Fuel TV's coverage wasn't affected. I started "paying for it" long before Fuel started broadcasting the comps. If I wasn't already a subscriber, I'd sign up and fork over the $100 per month just for the surfing alone.

In the days of WWoS (and Sports Sunday) you had to sit through 5 hours of gymnastics, horse racing and ice skating before they showed you 2 minutes of surfing (TC vs TC in 1 foot dribble, most likely) in the last half hour with teasers for the surf footage at every ad break.

blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 3:52pm

Having a minor degree in law, I couldn't help but notice how carefully worded this post was... particularly the passage regarding the 800,000 unique viewers. “They've since become incredibly popular – Quiksilver reached approximately 800,000 unique viewers in France – and webcasts are now the primary way that fans watch competitive surfing.”

As most probably know, this number, worded as such, can be interpreted in various and sundry ways. I can think of at least ten different ways to construe these numbers just off the top of my head.

Since the ASP has gone out of their way for the last decade to avoid publishing any absolute numbers with clear definitions, it would be interesting to hear who came up with this number and if it is an exact quote from this individual.

We have, of course, been serenaded with numbers from the professionals in the commentary booth varying from “millions of online viewers” to Nick Carroll’s somewhat flippant remark at ASL back in July 22nd, that contests feed “30,000 hard core fans on a webcast.”

Lest anyone think this is a non-issue… I can assure you… it is.

blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 3:55pm

This comes on the heels of the ASP publishing on it's own website, an article about "audience numbers" with... you guessed it... no audience numbers in the article. Just a few more carefully worded sentences: "It is undeniable. We now have a much more appealing overall package for the ASP World Tour. Webcasting numbers, worldwide, have increased dramatically in the past 18 months."

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 8:31pm

You got a law degree in two months, Brewser? That's very minor indeed. It was only that long ago you were telling people you'd had 5 million viewers to your blog and happily letting people swallow the misperception (or outright lie).

Generally, when talking web numbers to the layperson unique visitors means individual ISP's over any length of time. However, in terms of metrics unique visitors are usually measured over a certain period - 24hrs, week, month. Hence, if you are measuring over 24hrs a visitor can come back the next day and be called 'unique'. These measurements distort perception and are why you often hear ridiculously high numbers of traffic for certain sites and people think they have a far greater reach than they actually do.

'Absolute' unique visitors is how many different ISP's (i.e different people) visited the site in the allotted time. For Quik Pro France the time was the waiting period and the number (as quoted by Mark Warren and reported by me) was 800,000. I didn't put the qualifier 'absolute' on it because it wasn't the point of the article and I didn't think I'd be having this conversation. Fair enough that you called me out on it and I hope this has explained it for you and others interested.

blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 9:06pm

This clears the haze like a mouse trying to blow out a tire fire.

Since it is a Quik rep you used, the fact that he quoted you "gross viewer exposure" vs. "concurrent viewership" makes sense. It's the biggest possible number they can quote. The advertisers (the most important ones) are the only ones who care about concurrent viewership... which is not a number you will hear from Quik anytime soon. Methinks.

How long people are watching, where they are from, and how often they return is something that will have to come from someone other than the retail company putting on the event.

I realize this is not the point of your article, but it is faaaaaaar more important NOW than the obvious fact that the ASP HAS been light years behind modern webcasting technology.

The truth is the Soils Report.

the-roller's picture
the-roller's picture
the-roller commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 9:12pm

Quantcast, Alexa, Nielson Net Ratings,TruMedia, Quividi, stickyPiXEL and CognoVision. Compete, Biz Information, Google's Adwords, Google's Adplanner...

In this day and age everything internet is quite measurable. So, once again, 'lil Ms Doucheblasp's comments are completely irrelevant.

Hey, he's not called him Rottkamp for nothing!

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=rottkamp

blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 9:12pm

For many online events (not surfing related), the average viewer only tunes in for a few minutes... for instance. And this no make advertiser very happy man.

How much wool is pulled over people's eyes to keep a sinking ship afloat?

We hope to someday soon find out.

blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 9:15pm

You aren't an IT guy are you Roller?

Speak to an IT person before dribbling out services irrelevant to this conversation..

the-roller's picture
the-roller's picture
the-roller commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 9:20pm

Earth to Rotkamp, are you always such a drunken kookmeyer, blinded by your own negative outlook on everything?.... these ASP top shelf surf contests are broadcast not only on the web, but on cable channels worldwide as well.

No doubt, they all collectively pulls major viewership. And advertisers pay plenty for the time slots.

The sanctity of math... Everything is measurable.

blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 9:25pm

Can you tell us Roller, exactly what numbers these advertisers are given by the retail company?

blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 9:26pm

There are MANY inquisitive minds who would like to know the answer.

The least of which... is mine.

the-roller's picture
the-roller's picture
the-roller commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 9:36pm

Rottkamp, If i told you, you wouldn't believe me.... So, if you REALLY want to know if people are watching the contests, go read the 10K, go read the most current 10Q's of any the top companies involved..... VF corp. Nike/Hurley. Swatch Group. PPR S.A/Volcom.

Or you can check the photos of the massive crowds recently lining the beaches in NYC, Spain, and or Portugal.

blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 9:41pm

So you can't answer the question. And none of those items you mentioned answers the question.

But I already knew that.

I just hope Stu takes up a worthwhile challenge. Investigative journalism doesn't really exist from within The Industry. It'd be nice to see one step up instead of waiting for the real outsiders to step in.

blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 9:48pm

I won't take up any more space commenting here. Stu's a very smart guy and he knows exactly what gauntlet has been thrown. I admire Stu for publishing the number and putting a name to it.

It's a start.

A reference point.

It's more than Nick Carroll did when he never accounted for the 30,000 number he wrote about three months ago.

I have much more faith in Stunet than I do in Nick. Obviously.

G'day mates.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 10:20pm

I understand the gauntlet Rottmouth, and, like you, I think it's a mistake to compare 'net metrics against traditional print circulations. You seem to have a good grip on it so I suppose you'd understand the differences and, importantly, how they may be used by advertisers. But then the mags have done very similar things in the past so it's nothing new.

As for the challenge: I'm not that intrigued by 'net stats and their implications at present so there won't be any story from me. That may change in the future.

the-roller's picture
the-roller's picture
the-roller commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 10:50pm

Stu, opinions like those of 'lil Ms Rottkamp are just that. Opinions. Like assholes, everyone has one.... In the case of Ms Rottkamp, he apparently has eleven. Which must make him quite special....

In his own mind.

The sanctity of math is pretty much an absolute. So, if anyone would like to investigate if surfing sells or not. If there are plenty of people watching these sporting/entertainment events, go read the bottom line of these companies who advertise their wares thru ASP events...

I assure you, it is FAR more than eleven assholes.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 at 11:02pm

Ahhh Roller, I don't mind Brewser. His role as the Minister for the Culture of Contempt has a prerequisite of eternal antagonism and he does it well. Sometimes he gouges and sometimes, alas, he just tickles.

blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth commented Wednesday, 26 Oct 2011 at 12:59am

Weird. On my way home today. I left three comments on my wife's blog and it left three separate IP address. From my same phone. I only opened the blog a typed a letter then closed it.

The numbers are only a gateway.

Again: How corrupt do surfing corporations have to be before YOU care?

We know where Shearer lies.

Is Swellnet just another Surfy Surfy blog publishing soma for its readers? Or do you have the balls to peak beneath the covers?

I baited Shearer tonight on Twitter. Read his comments. It's a fascinating look into a mind that has bent over its own continuum onto itself. He now stands inside... looking out.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 26 Oct 2011 at 1:25am

Your wife's blog is corrupt? Now THERE'S a story!

blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth commented Wednesday, 26 Oct 2011 at 1:38am

@Stunet,

Heh heh. Nice!

I know you're tuned into The Truth right now on Twitter. Must See action for any SURF fan.

spelled3's picture
spelled3's picture
spelled3 commented Friday, 30 Dec 2011 at 12:56am

Web stats are often pretty unreliable, only really useful when measured against the the same stats package, often very difficult to configure and sometimes it's hard to even find the most useful thing to measure.

Maybe just gb's downloaded would be the most reliable to measure the popularity of the webcasts. Views, unique views, visits, visitors, etc can all be a bit of a crock I reckon... sometimes ya can't see the wood for the trees.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Friday, 18 Oct 2013 at 10:35am

I was sitting in bed watching the final 15 minutes of Mick and Otts heat and although the stream cut in and out for periods it was only for 10-20 seconds.

Then in the dying minutes when Otts was stalking Mick around the lineup hanging onto priority and the smallest lead (0.57), a wave popped up and with 0:58s on the clock the webcast stopped!

Froze, gone, nothing, nudda zip. I refreshed and it started replaying the last few seconds I saw and froze at the exact same spot again.

Here's the screengrab.. http://i132.photobucket.com/albums/q10/sasurfa1/ScreenShot2013-10-17at11...

And with that I went to bed disappointed with the webcast but pretty safe in knowing that Otts probably hung onto his lead and pushed the title race to Hawaii.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Friday, 18 Oct 2013 at 11:12am

I got the shits with most of the webcast on the whole.

Not just the freezing up but also the director who would cut to an ad, or beach shot or interview just as somebody was paddling for a wave. For goodness sake, you'd have to think there would be a total of roughly about 90 seconds of actual wave riding time in a 30 minute heat, surely they could focus on the action for that tiny amount of time?

How many times did we come back from an ad to watch a replay of somebody's wave?

And the freezing? Got probably the fastest internet in the world here and it was terrible to watch sometimes.

Congrats to Kai though, bummer for Parko.

1173

leckiep's picture
leckiep's picture
leckiep commented Friday, 18 Oct 2013 at 11:49am

On both of the last w nights of the comp, my stream started freezing massively at around 10pm. Once the freezing started it was impossible to stop, I think it may have something to do with the YouTube feed which tried to pick up where it last froze (as Craig reported); resulting in the sound not matching the picture etc.

Needs to be fixed otherwise it's just not worth watching. What's the point when you don't see the waves being caught nor the scores?!

Great result for Kai.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Friday, 18 Oct 2013 at 12:12pm

had exactly the same symptoms leckie,gave me the fuckin shits so went to bed !

wellymon's picture
wellymon's picture
wellymon commented Friday, 18 Oct 2013 at 12:59pm

Uuuuum I was snoring like a little Russian baby with a couple of vodkas down the trap,
Left the fly screen open to find a thousand mossie bites from head to toe, oh well.
Watched it this morning, gonna be a great Pipe contest.

Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .