The ASP: It's on but who's watching? - Part 3

Stu Nettle
Surfpolitik

Last May and September Swellnet published articles that tracked the viewership of each World Tour contest of 2014, the first year of ZoSea's operation. ZoSea's business model – Dirk Ziff's benevolence notwithstanding - presupposes a large live audience to attract corporate sponsorship, yet the live webcast traffic has been far below expectation making ZoSea's job a tough sell. This is the third and last article in the series. To understand the rationale behind YouTube concurrent viewers as a metric we suggest reading the first article in the series.

                                                                                              *****

In September, the CEO of ZoSea, Paul Speaker, wrote an open letter to the surf community announcing an imminent name change. From the beginning of 2015, Speaker said, the ASP will be known as the World Surf League (WSL).

In hindsight the name change wasn't a surprise, at least to those who were paying attention. Two months before Speaker's announcement ZoSea hosted a party in New York under the pretext of celebrating the US leg of the World Tour. In attendance were ZoSea's top brass, surfers Kelly Slater and Steph Gilmore, a gaggle of businesspeople, plus celebrities such as Tom Cruise's ex-wife, Katie Holmes.

2_15.jpgCelebrity blogger Perez Hilton was aware of the name change even if the rest of the surf community weren't. On the 25th July, Hilton wrote: “Katie Holmes' white lace Nina Ricci dress was pure romance at the World Surf League cocktail party held atop a hotel in New York last night.”

Then, in their own press release about the New York soiree, the ASP made a soft announcement of the WSL. They wrote: “The Association of Surfing Professionals, the world surf league, announced the return of the annual Samsung ASP World Surf Tour to the United States...”

Despite the title of this article we'll use the acronym WSL. We'll also revisit the WSL rebranding later in the article.

The last four contests

Part 2 of this series ended at the Billabong Pro Tahiti, which was at that point the most popular event of 2014. Teahupoo peaked at 118,911 concurrent viewers, more than double the next best competition.

From French Polynesia the tour headed to Southern California and the Hurley Pro Trestles. The two contests are a study in contrasts, but what Trestles loses in quality it supposedly makes up for in proximity to industry and the world's largest surfing market. At least that's how it goes in theory. The reality wasn't quite so favourable.

The first day of the Hurley Pro peaked at 43,958 viewers during Kelly Slater's Round 1 heat. This represents just over a third of Tahiti's peak. The numbers edged up as the contest progressed with a peak of 69,417 hit during the Final between Jordy Smith and John John Florence - just over half of the Tahitian high water mark. At that point it was the second highest number reached all year.

As the tour hit the European leg the numbers tapered back to those found during the Australian leg. The Quiksilver Pro France peaked at 38,579 in the Final between John John and Jadson Andre. This contest suffered from many stop/start interruptions which, as was explained in Part 2, play havoc with viewership. Surfers, it would seem, are an impatient lot.

Held just a week later the Rip Curl Pro Portugal did marginally better. It was averaging in the high 30,000s and jumped to a peak of 53,467 during the Final between Mick Fanning and Jordy Smith.

Pipeline was the final contest of the year and enjoyed a spectacular build up and plot line. Three surfers, one from each of the top three surfing nations, were vying for the world title. Gabriel Medina sat comfortably in pole position streaking towards Brazil's first ever world title, Mick Fanning was in second, and Kelly Slater was pushing for an improbable 12th title.

Although the Pipeline Masters ran intermittently the viewer numbers consistently sat higher than the peak viewing of the Australian and European legs, averaging between 40,000 and 50,000 concurrent viewers. On the final day, the day the world title was decided, the viewership peaked at 107,392 during a Round 5 heat between Mick Fanning and Alejo Muniz. Slater had already been knocked out in Round 3, Fanning was the last challenger to Medina's crown. The title decided, viewer numbers dropped off as the contest continued. Curiously, only 90,000 people watched the final between Julian Wilson and Gabriel Medina, a drop of nearly 20% from the earlier peak.

The peak concurrent viewership for each contest in 2014 were:

Snapper Rocks: 41,123
Margaret River: 29,045
Bells Beach: 47,000
Rio: 37,687
Fiji: 55,216
Jeffreys Bay: 43,739
Tahiti: 118,911
Trestles: 69,417
France: 38,579
Portugal: 53,467
Pipeline: 107,392

It needs to be noted that this is each contests peak viewership figures. Average viewership figures were approximately half the peak.

In Part 2 of this series, which included analysis of J'Bay, Fiji, and Tahiti, we deduced that wave quality trumps celebrity when interpreting the statistics. That is, more people tune in when the waves are good. During Trestles, France and Portugal - contests without good, early forecast waves - the viewing pattern fell back into the celebrity pattern, albeit with numbers far below those contests with good waves. The viewing spikes invariably coincided with heats containing just a handful of surfers: Slater, Florence, Smith, Fanning.

And the women?

Although we're up to the third part in this series we're yet to address a significant part of the pro surfing landscape: women's surfing. This could be considered an oversight as the very reason for ZoSea's existence is Dirk Ziff's wife, Natasha, becoming enamoured by women's surfing. It was that relationship, and perhaps some conjugal manipulation, that convinced Ziff to pony up the seed capital. So how has women's surfing fared during 2014?

Let's start at the beginning, back at Snapper Rocks. On Day 3 the women were sent out in improving conditions at Snapper. As it transpired the conditions improved much more than expected and that day ended up being the best of the waiting period. In years past the rapidly improving conditions would've seen the women called in and men sent back out. This year, however, the commissioners held tight and allowed the women to continue. The decision was universally lauded in the surfing media, presented as an example of gender progress. Sean Doherty called the decision “historic and long overdue.”

The first heat of the day was between Alana Blanchard and Dimity Stoyle. It attracted 10,887 viewers which was also the peak viewing of the entire day. The media may well have deemed it an historic day but the audience numbers didn't reflect that sentiment. The viewership slid all day and by the last heat the women were registering just 5,000 concurrent viewers. By comparison the men averaged 20,000 at the Quiksilver Pro and peaked at over 40,000.

The women's audience travelled on a similar arc for much of the year. It boosted slightly when their contest was combined with the mens, dropping when it ran solo.

In late November the women fought out a very similar title race to the men; three surfers - Steph Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons, and Tyler Wright – were in contention on the last day of the last event. It was a champagne showdown and the WSL pushed it hard. Yet despite the deluge of news and social media updates very few surfers were aware that Stephanie Gilmore could've won the title during the previous competition, the Cascais Pro in Portugal. The Cascais Pro was held in early October, its waiting period overlapped that of the men's Quiksilver Pro France.

The women's title breakdown at Cascais was simple: If Steph Gilmore won the event – which she did – and Tyler Wright finished no higher then fifth, and Sally Fitzgibbons and Carissa Moore finished no higher than third then Steph would win the title in Portugal. Moore lost early, however Wright made the semis and Fitzgibbons the final. Yet for two tense quarterfinal heats the women's world title was very nearly decided in Portugal.

During those crucial quarterfinal heats the viewership maxed out at just 1,145, plus 23 Portuguese locals enjoying commentary in their native tongue. In total there were a mere 1,170 sets of eyes watching matchpoint for the women's world title. Meanwhile, up the coast at France, 35,000 viewers watched the men in the Quiksilver Pro France, a competition without any bearing on their world title (see image below).

screen_shot_2015-01-14_at_9.58.47_am.png

Swellnet recently spoke to Dave Prodan, the WSL's VP of Communication, about the plight of the women. Prodan made assurances that women surfing will be a focus of the WSL in 2015 and beyond. “Our management will invest more next year in women’s surfing, said Prodan, “the details of that marketing plan are coming together now.” More broadly he said the WSL would celebrate the stories of the women and market them across endemic and non-endemic media. The women would also have parity with the men in terms of pay and broadcast quality. It's also worth noting that in 2015 there are no overlaps between women and mens competitions.

The Big Wave World Tour

Only one BWWT event ran since the last instalment of this series – the Punta Galea Challenge in the Basque Country. Although in its third year, this was the first time it was a top tier event and so received all the marketing and press coverage worthy of its status.

In early December the first in a series of deep low pressure systems formed in the far North Atlantic Ocean. Forecast to send huge waves to every west facing coast in Europe the WSL gave Punta Galea the green light on December 7th for competition to run on December 11th. That day dawned with strong wind, driving rain, and an unorganised 20 foot swell broaching the irregular reef at Punta Galea. Conditions slowly improved but it was far from spectacular viewing, long periods of inaction were punctuated by survival stance drops into sloping waves. The viewership started at 7,728 and slowly climbed toward 10,000 viewers, then beyond that to 15,000. The global audience peaked at 15,203 concurrent viewers around the same time Nic Lamb dropped into his winning wave.

Punta Galea garnered marginally more viewers than the last BWWT contest, the Pico Alto Challenge, which averaged around 11,000 and peaked at 12,829. Given the optimistic state of the WSL they'd no doubt call the incremental rise a win though it's patently clear they'll need to attract many more viewers to create a sustainable product, especially considering they have, at best, just six one day contests each season. When, or if, a BWWT event gets held in the blue water, viewer friendly waves of Peahi or Todos Santos then we'll get a better idea of its potential reach.

WSL branding

As was mentioned at the beginning of this article the ASP recently changed its name to the WSL. The motive behind the change was, as Paul Speaker said in a press release, “because we believe the new name is easier to understand.” Potential sponsors had reportedly been confused by the term 'association' in the title so a more more commercially appealing name was chosen. Most of the sponsors are American and so accustomed to the term 'league' when describing a competition.

In 1992, the food company Kellogg's registered the trademark, “Kellogg's Nutri-Grain World Surf League” with IP Australia. This 'world surf league' wasn't for surfing but surf lifesaving, a sport that boomed during the 90s in Australia.

In July last year, just a couple of days before Katie Holmes shared hors d'ouvres with Kelly Slater in New York, a company working on behalf of ZoSea applied for trademarks in the USA and Australia for "WSL World Surf League Since 1976" and "WSL World Surf League.” At the same time they also applied for the "Kellogg's Nutri-Grain World Surf League" trademark to be removed due to non-use.

There's nothing wrong or unethical in these actions, but it shows the lengths the WSL are going to in order to protect their brand. Despite Kellogg's not using the “World Surf League” brand for nearly twenty years the WSL were proactive in legally quashing the original trademark.

In a similar manner, the WSL are protecting their image through other means. After the first two instalments of this series were published, Swellnet was no longer able to embed any WSL videos, be they of the world tour, BWWT, or XXL Awards. I asked Dave Prodan why Swellnet was blocked from doing so. “In year one of operations,” said Prodan, “the WSL experimented with various content syndication models. At present, media partners of the WSL receive the benefit of embedding WSL content.”

Prodan's answer doesn't mesh with our experience. Until the two articles ran, Swellnet, who aren't a WSL media partner, could embed videos. Also, sites such as STAB in Australia and Carve in the UK, neither of whom are media partners can embed videos. Even Daily Surf Videos, a repository of internet clips and nothing more, “receive the benefit” of embedding WSL clips. It's hard to see the block as anything but a means of controlling their image in the face of scrutiny.

What nationalities are watching?

Since ZoSea took control of pro surfing a recurring criticism, at least from Australian and European quarters, has been the American-centric nature of the webcast. The team is mostly comprised of Americans and the broadcast presentation is eerily similar to many other American sports. Squint and those graphics on the screen display NASCAR statistics, or NBL, or NFL. There's a homogeny amongst those sports and the WSL has wholly adopted it. Even the Google Earth graphics used to locate contest sites shows them in relation to the Californian coast. In 2015 surfing is global in everything but the surfing webcast.

Last year the WSL significantly ramped up their social media presence and strategy. They have large social media followings, but more importantly they use them to effect. Whenever a contest is called on they immediately announce it via Twitter and Facebook. In a May 2014 press release Dave Prodan said: “Through the benefit of the ASP's updates on event alerts...fans can organize their daily schedules around when their favorite surfers are competing, tune in for their heat and get back to business.”

asp-bitly-tahiti.pngThe same event alerts that Prodan mentions above has allowed Swellnet to track where their audience is coming from. Each social media alert uses a unique Bitly link to truncate the URL address of the webcast page. Bitly is a popular tool, used by organisations to streamline social media messages. It's simply a proxy web link, when someone clicks on the Bitly link they are forwarded to the original webpage. In this instance the live webcast page for the respective contest. An example is shown at right with the Bitly link for the Billabong Pro Tahiti.

Not only is Bitly powerful, it's also public -sort of. All the traffic information is available to anyone with a Bitly account. By doing just that Swellnet has analysed the Men's World Tour and found that the WSL's 2014 audience was split into four major markets, which are (in order of size): Brazil; United States; Europe; and Australia, who each comprise roughly 20% of the audience (Australia is actually closer to 15%), and Japan, who represent around 7%. The 'rest of the world' makes up the remaining 13%. Interestingly, South Africa, a pioneering pro surf country, is now one of those minor markets.

Questions arise beyond the hard data. The WSL name change was clearly to appease sponsors who are mostly American, yet the audience is global. Can the WSL appeal to the burgeoning markets with its current aesthetic?

If the WSL is hoping to grow their audience they'll have to consider this because success hinges upon widespread appeal. Already the WSL pulls more social media traffic from Brazil than the United States and with Gabriel Medina's world title win that'll only increase. Likewise the number of viewers from the minor markets which, anecdotally at least, have faster growing surf populations than the US or Australia.

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Following the first two articles in this series we received hundreds of comments. A recurring question was why we didn't include data for viewers who don't watch webcasts live on YouTube. There are a couple of answers, the first being that we simply can't. It just isn't available. The idea for this series only began on Day 1 at Snapper Rocks when we realised the new YouTube interface showed concurrent viewers. While commentators have always given shout outs to the "millions of viewers in webland”, I'd long suspected webcast numbers were lower than the official figures. However, it wasn't until Snapper Rocks that viewer numbers became publicly available. Immediately it was obvious the commentators were talking an outrageously big game.

The other answer is that, to get a gauge of the audience, we don't need that data. The WSL – and indeed every other major television sport – have long said that live viewing is where the money is. Therefore delayed playback on late night network television isn't the panacea pro surfing needs. Building a live audience is, and as one anonymous media buyer told me “the ASP will need at least five times the current audience to entice a third-string sports sponsor.”

The huge shortfall between actual viewer numbers, as shown shown in this series of articles, and those required for a sustainable product counts out the relatively small viewership garnered on Oceanic Cable in Hawaii, the now defunct Fuel TV channel in Australia, and ESPN in Brazil.

No doubt the WSL's movers and shakers were aware they had to dramatically increase the viewership. They had access to the webcast figures throughout 2013 so knew what was needed to turn a profit. At this point it's worth recalling Michael Lynch's 2013 assertion in Marketing Daily that pro surfing could count 130 million fans as “hand raisers” and “120 million bona fide fans of the sport.” In the same interview he said “there's a potential to have some 250 million real fans.” Questions lie in whether they can reach these figures, the means needed to achieve them, and lastly, what a world with 250 million surfers would look like.

But those questions are for the future. Right now the WSL is readying itself for 2015, its second year in operation. They're yet to find sponsors for two of the most popular contests on the tour – Fiji and Jeffrey's Bay – and they're yet to announce an umbrella sponsor.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series

Comments

radiationrules's picture
radiationrules's picture
radiationrules commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 12:04pm

Excellent journalism Stu; all year. Would you, or others in the know, be able to do a back-of-the envelope calculation as to how far those annual web-viewer numbers are of Break-Even-Point?

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 12:51pm

Well researched Stu and very interesting reading,wonder how long they will give it if no sponsors show up.If they cant capture more of an audience by the end of this year i wonder if they would go again in 2016.

simba

mickj's picture
mickj's picture
mickj commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 12:57pm

Outstanding work Stu.

pigdogger's picture
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pigdogger commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 1:12pm

"It's hard to see the block as anything but a means of controlling their image in the face of scrutiny." Ain't that the truth Stu, this corporate protectionism, from my point of view, is one of the things that prevents us, the viewers, from getting real insight into the world of pro surfing, Everything is sugarcoated: you say the commentators talk up the viewer numbers, which is to be expected when you consider how they talk up the quality of the surf (that the viewers can plainly see is bullshit). This does nothing to engage viewers - it breeds contempt and possibly results in longtime fans switching off. Combine this with the endless occurrences of waves being missed and/or not replayed (often critical in the live sense) when they have cut to an interview - it bugs me no end. To make matters worse the continuity and markers in the heat analyzer leave a lot to be desired, often not in the right place. If I'm watching a live event (which I find more engaging than just checking out a surfer's best waves or watching a repeat of the action on you tube) I expect to see all of the action when it happens and, if they miss something, to see the replays. Good work, too, Stu.

brutus's picture
brutus's picture
brutus commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 1:14pm

the interesting point is,"live sport is where the money is,"......

its really obvious that live surfing is boring to watch as sometimes there is barely any waves in 30 mins....and there are too many Journeymen making up the numbers...

Live surfing will never get a large audience.......so is the WSL doomed...or can the WSL find a formula where the costs are minimal ??

pigdogger's picture
pigdogger's picture
pigdogger commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 1:24pm

Ah, the eternal problem - contests relying on the whims of Mother Nature. Yes, live surfing is boring for the masses, and no amount of talking it up by the commentators can fix that. Then again I found the contests at
Sunset and Haleʻiwa good to watch,because, despite the waves not being picture perfect, there were plenty ridden and it was challenging for the surfers - seeing surfers having to battle the wave to score is much more engaging than watching surfers performing tricks in small easy to surf waves (EG: Trestles, etc)

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf commented Monday, 19 Jan 2015 at 2:42pm

Totally agree pigdogger. I love those contests in big difficult conditions with 6 guys out with them getting smashed. As you say heaps of waves and action. Margarets is another one of those. What we have to put up with most of the time, albeit for me much smaller.

pigdogger's picture
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pigdogger commented Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015 at 8:38am

Funny memlasurf, I was thinking exactly that re Margaret's (sure the wave can leave a lot to be desired, but the challenges presented on the right, ending on the reef, makes it tense) and what about Slater's tube to float last year?

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015 at 9:09am

Yes sometimes perfection can be boring. Remember Margarets a few years ago. Crossshore 10' hilarious watching the top dogs get beaten to a pulp and then Josh Kerr got inventive and won it.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 1:36pm

Well, Test Cricket evolved over time, with One Day International and Twenty20 International games introduced to turn a five-day test match into a one-day or one-night game: way more viewer-friendly, and way more marketable.

And Tennis recently introduced the Fast 4 concept. “FAST4’s elimination of time-wasting could see it become a credible alternative to longer forms of tennis, writes Leo Schlink”.

So surfing could very well benefit from something similar.

There’s been a few attempts at this (i.e. Red Bull Cape Fear), but I think it’ll really only work if they choose incredible locations with a higher degree of reliability (Teahupoo, Pipeline, Cloudbreak etc), and secure the best five or ten surfers in the world.

But as always, the inablilty of surfing competitions to lock down event days months in advance (for commercial TV broadcast purposes) will always restrict their full revenue potential. The big bucks are in Live TV, and the associated broadcast rights need to have watertight production schedules. Something surfing will never have, unless it moves indoors.

brutus's picture
brutus's picture
brutus commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 2:09pm

thermalben wrote:

Well, Test Cricket evolved over time, with One Day International and Twenty20 International games introduced to turn a five-day test match into a one-day or one-night game: way more viewer-friendly, and way more marketable.

And Tennis recently introduced the Fast 4 concept. “FAST4’s elimination of time-wasting could see it become a credible alternative to longer forms of tennis, writes Leo Schlink”.

So surfing could very well benefit from something similar.

There’s been a few attempts at this (i.e. Red Bull Cape Fear), but I think it’ll really only work if they choose incredible locations with a higher degree of reliability (Teahupoo, Pipeline, Cloudbreak etc), and secure the best five or ten surfers in the world.

But as always, the inablilty of surfing competitions to lock down event days months in advance (for commercial TV broadcast purposes) will always restrict their full revenue potential. The big bucks are in Live TV, and the associated broadcast rights need to have watertight production schedules. Something surfing will never have, unless it moves indoors.

Or unless a majority of Comps were held in remote locations,where the result is broadcast like a reality TV show......everyweek....of course the people involved would have to sign a confidentiality agreement......so the results are not known before the TV release.....easy!!

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 2:12pm

Yeah I thought about that concept too. It'd never work - almost every pro surfer is a social media fiend these days, and it'd be impossible for all of 'em (plus the production crew) to keep quiet - let alone find an empty world class wave that could be utilised in the first place!

brutus's picture
brutus's picture
brutus commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 2:32pm

Easy ....no contact with outside world.....a couple of boats in the Mentawis....with exclusive rights to the break for a week Macaronis/HT's etc.....anyone caught bucking the system...lifetime ban....

pigdogger's picture
pigdogger's picture
pigdogger commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 1:18pm

If media organisations stop looking after their core consumers and instead put all there efforts into pandering to the masses, the core group dissipates to other interests and the media organisations are left with an audience of blow-ins ... until the wind changes.

ant shannon's picture
ant shannon's picture
ant shannon commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 2:23pm

Great Article Stu.

If it's basically the same people viewing at every event, then the numbers are really disappointing for them.

I guess you've got to see/add the numbers for all the cable channels.

Ants

sbsb's picture
sbsb's picture
sbsb commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 3:03pm

""The other answer is that, to get a gauge of the audience, we don't need that data. The WSL – and indeed every other major television sport – have long said that live viewing is where the money is. Therefore delayed playback on late night network television isn't the panacea pro surfing needs. Building a live audience is, and as one anonymous media buyer told me “the ASP will need at least five times the current audience to entice a third-string sports sponsor.”"

I appreciate the detail Stu, but this paragraph shows why this series of articles still comes off as driven by metrics and assumptions about business models that have little to do with how new media operate (and perhaps some kind of anti-ZoSea angle whose origin I am still trying to work out) . The internet is not the TV watched through a computer, it is a platform that has a radically different business model for segmenting, buying and selling user attention. While big brands do want mass eyeballs to market to scattershot and that is where the bigger money is (the premise of the article), new media buyers are more interested in the quality of the audience data and how it can be segmented so that efficiency in targeting can be raised. At a strategic level, it makes complete sense to me for WSL to be positioning itself as the entity to hold and grow the database of information that can be used for marketing purposes.

For example, I watched a lot of pro surfing this season, but almost never live and always through the heat analyzer because, like most people who marketers want to reach, I do not have time to watch surfers in coloured rash vests bobbing in the ocean. Because I have to register with my email address to use the analyzer, WSL should have a handsome database of my viewing habits, and use, which can be used to make offers, adjust the platform/product, etc. which will only grow. These kinds of considerations that most web-based media are concerned with have been almost completely absent from this discussion.

In part one you said that " "To succeed, [WSL]'s business model must run similar to those other three letter acronyms: NFL, NRL, AFL, NBA." This is an assumption that makes no sense to me given the radically different parameters around surfing and its much smaller historical participation rates. There are many reasons why surfing will always struggle as a live spectator sport (variable scheduling, long downtime between action, limited participation rate) and personally I see web-based delivery (complemented by e.g. the fuel TV or similar deals) as the most obvious model. Instead of comparing it to the NRL etc, I think a better comparison would be to other "new" niche sports like MMA or beach volleyball, both of which take quite a lot of responsibility for the overall marketing of the sport in the way ZoSea is trying to do and that the ASP historically left to the major sponsors. I agree with the fundamental point of this piece that the goal is some way off, but it's certainly a step in the right direction and not comparing apples with oranges would result in a much stronger and less ideological analysis. Cheers.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 3:23pm

SBSB,

There’s validity in the argument that database information has its own value, except the diminutive numbers - the basis of this series of articles - holds it back. For instance, everyone who registers with the WSL automatically gets added to their database. With a bit of gumshoe work it’s very easy to find out how many other registered members there are. At present there are 42,540 registered members.

Enough to fund a $100 million dollar tour and company?

sbsb's picture
sbsb's picture
sbsb commented Thursday, 15 Jan 2015 at 12:43am

Stu, what's the $100 million figure? Obviously, that's not viable but if Ziff was putting up $50mil over 3 years and that's the startup base then we're talking $17 million/year. The Detroit Pistons recently cut Josh Smith to make their team better and let him sign with someone else, even though they will pay him $26 million to go away. I think we should be realistic about the money the big leagues throw around.

Surfing has never been and will not be a selling mass eyeballs to advertisers on prime time television proposition. But, with Samsung-types as an anchor sponsor (at what I expect is 10% of their budget which they would hope to grow), surf brands not having many other options, and a variety of revenue raising opportunities outside the website (the physical events themselves) there's no reason the tour can't be viable with only a modest uptick in viewer numbers.

So I'm just saying your analysis that there's a major problem seems based on an assumption of a transformative business model into a mass media-dependent form, and I don't think that's ZoSea's strategy (some reporting would help here) nor would it be an advisable one. But as you would know all too well from Swellnet, there are a lot of bundles that can be brought together to keep something going, particularly when many of those involved will do a lot for free.

The artworld works like this and perhaps that's a more relevant model than football!

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 15 Jan 2015 at 6:48am

The $100M is the yearly costs estimated in Part 1 of this series. It takes into account the 11 Mens comps ($33M straight up not including marketing costs), plus:

9 Womens Championship Tour events
36 Mens QS events
15 Womens QS events
6 Big Wave World Tour events
27 Boys Junior events
20 Girls Junior events
10 Mens Longboard events
10 Womens Longboard events
And lastly, the XXL Big Wave Awards

There are many other costs that can’t be estimated, such as the increase in staff numbers from previous years, the new office in New York, the new TV Production Studio in Santa Monica, plus all the increased production costs. You could also include the service of Repucom for their market research.

By any educated guess, the WSL would be spending well in excess of $50 million PER YEAR, and probably closer to $100 million.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 commented Thursday, 15 Jan 2015 at 7:12am

Is there any way of estimating their income?

Is ZoSEa required to lodge any public reporting statements of income etc etc?

This is a very opaque organisation , especially when it comes to their strong-arming tactics in the way they are colonising and controlling public space.

I mean, they must have contracts with relevant Govt bodies.

everyday_people's picture
everyday_people's picture
everyday_people commented Wednesday, 6 Apr 2016 at 9:44am

Stu, whilst I agree with most of your article - you may not be aware of everything in the above comment.

For example, things like the mens and womens longboard events (not the World Championship event in China) do not cost the WSL anything. They don't financial support these events. Similarly, a lot of the QS events and junior events are put on by state/national surfing bodies. So the WSL does not actually provide finances. If anything, it is these event organisers that have to pay the WSL a license fee.

Likewise, some events are fully funded (minus broadcast cost) by governments and state/national surfing bodies.

Anyway, otherwise great stuff.

blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth's picture
blasphemy-rottmouth commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 3:24pm

Great research Stu.

It took a few people on Twitter about 12 months and a few drinks less to get prove your exhaustive research, but people take your word seriously because you're an online photocam progenitor. So good on you for following through with the truth.

Maybe Surf Media will realize those on Social Media were right. All. Along.

ASP / WSL: Never had, has, or will have an audience. Why not EMBRACE it?

Backdoor Shootouot Anyone?

Beuler?

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blasphemy-rottmouth commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 3:32pm

@SBSU,

You ever looked up MMA audience on TV? The only reason it registered is they regularly registerd mid 500k to 1.2 million viewers. And it was still cancelled. No more FUEL. Now it's still relegated to an obscure, premium cable channel.

I wouldn't compare suring to MMA if I wanted a single sponsor.

But I'm not stupid.

So pitch away to WSL and Dirk Ziff...

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blasphemy-rottmouth commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 3:42pm

Also,

The new web-based model does nothing to help the pro surfing audience argument. YouTube, a "partner" of @WSL has ZERO reason to not juice the live numbers. Cable has ZERO reason to not juice surfing enough to even get a rating... which they can't. If you want to judge web-based models, why not look at the "web edits" being posted by the big name pros? I mean... a few thousand here and there. Viral, in surfing, means, they got over a million "views."

The silver lining you're looking for is darker than this article even suggests (yes, I think think article even juiced numbers).

So, why not embrace surfing for what it is?

What's wrong with just a few of us blokes enjoying some waves without a massive tent and heaps of cameras preventing us from surfing our home breaks because they are broadcasting to "millions."

And yeah, there is the whole lawsuit in waiting: collusion between ASP, Surf Media Members, and Surf Brands to promote the "millions of viewers" while they WELL KNEW that was a lie... to millions of public shareholders in publicly owned companies worth BILLIONS.

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blasphemy-rottmouth commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 3:47pm

Lawsuit city.

Lies by almost every single surf media writer and surf media commentator (working for the corpos sponsoring events) over, and over, even after YouTube exposed the truth we had been saying for YEARS, kept perpetuating over, and over, and over, but never changed. Ever.

The hubris of these fucking public corporate companies will bite harder than the last few years of the economy.

Mark my words.

I'm always wrong.

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brutus commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 4:18pm

c'mon BR tell us what ya really think?

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clif commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 4:23pm

This has been a great series. Good debates etc. The key take-way message this little red caboose (and as an outsider) has from the debates, social media, articles, research, events, etc. is that the WSL have a real big fucking problem that cannot be fixed with the same infrastructure in effect.

In other words, a big risk needs to be taken for a paradigm shift to take place.

The architecture of the series needs to be based on the new digital media techniques and infrastructure, while at the moment this seems to be treated as an "add-on" to an old lumbering media model.

Off to Silicon Valley for classes peeps - that's where the future of surfing competitions lie.

Alternatively, I bet some people think surfing competitions et al. can rot in hell lol

"Don't try. That's very important: not to try." Charles Bukowski

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indo-dreaming commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 4:28pm

What was the years before viewing figures like?

Would be interesting to see them to compare but you would have to take into consideration numbers should be rising as internet speeds get better and smart phones.

Im interested in what the viewers numbers were like for the Keramas comp, was great to see J-Bay added but sucks every surfing continent/area of the world is represented except Asia especially when Indo has possibly the best most consistent surf on the planet and would expect a cheap place to run a comp compared to other places.

I would have thought companies would be keen on sponsoring a comp that has a high chance of getting good waves, and looking at the numbers, the comp that seem to get the most viewers are the higher quality hollow reef waves.

Seems like a no brainer to me..but i am a little one eyed.

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stunet commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 4:52pm

indo-dreaming wrote: Im interested in what the viewers numbers were like for the Keramas comp

Reckon you'd be very surprised ID, they didn't get out of triple figures. That said, they appeared to have little help. On the first day of competition it took the WSL a few hours to make any mention of the webcast on social media, though in the same time they made three announcements to the upcoming Portugal comp and even ran a paid ad for Pacifico Beer. Also, the only news of it on the WSL website was down the page beyond the fold.

I imagine they would've expected most of their traffic to come from the WSL.

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indo-dreaming commented Thursday, 15 Jan 2015 at 8:55am

Yeah okay….im sure a G-land comp would be a hit, but already enough hollow reef lefts, would love to see Maccas included but guess is never going to happen pretty hard logistically and not like they can have a proper public crowd, would be nice to have a rippable type left included though.

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mikehunt207 commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 4:33pm

Good news Stu! Well written. It should be no surprise that people are bored watching surfing contests as they are very boring, unless as stated the surf is pumping or above average pro surfers are surfing the heat. Maybe get rid of two man heats and the priority rules more hassling, snaking, more guys in heats put the aggro back into surfing (a bit like it is in real life) ,it sucks watching empty waves while Pottz bangs on about nothing as the surfers paddle back out or wait for just the right wave, the comps would be shorter too, less is more. Pro surfing is eating itself. Is kelly very small or are they 2 really big girls?

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wally commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 5:06pm

mikehunt207 wrote: Is kelly very small or are they 2 really big girls?

Fair go mate. Steph and Katie both had the stilettos on. Poor old Kelly was just wearing his flats.

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Channel bottoms commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 5:15pm

Interesting article. My experience of watching them is mainly through the Heat analyser. Apart from being time poor, watching two guys sit around in an inconsistent swell (even the gaps in Tahiti) was boring, I can't imagine a non-surfer waiting through the gaps between sets.

Even with the heat analyser, unless the score was 7 or above, I wouldn't even bother watching the ride so some heats (especially Pipe) were skipped completely.

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Channel bottoms commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 5:16pm

On top of that, add the time zone difference.

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freeride76 commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 5:20pm

Well, it'll be obvious enough if the numbers don't add up to a business case: the Tour will start to shrink again.

Not in Aus, where Govts underwrite it so takeaway joints in Tourist towns make bank.

Still seems bizarre: Aus the smallest market and we have three CT's.

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phil-collins commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 5:33pm

Outstanding Stu. Makes my think of Keith's words to Mick, from his Talk is Cheap LP.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1ObhEIEj98

What makes you so greedy
Makes you so seedy
No matter how you flip that dime
On our side is time
Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah

It's no longer funny
It's bigger than money

You just don't move me anymore

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blasphemy-rottmouth commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 6:16pm

Aus. Still has three CT's... One could make a number of AusPol comments but we'll leave that to common sense.

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blasphemy-rottmouth commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 6:18pm

Would be funny if Stu wrote an article on how MUCH AUS pol underwrites these CT contests. My research... Nearly zilch.

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blasphemy-rottmouth commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 6:23pm

AusPol underwrites so much of these CT's they can't afford to beach drifters from rogue states...? Is that it? Or is AusPol so smart they're investing in Freeride's gold mine?

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blasphemy-rottmouth commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 6:25pm

I think they should hold ALL contests in Aus. You built it. Now live in it.

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blindboy commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 6:35pm

The retrospective perspective is that it was never economically viable in the first place and that was clear from day frigging one. It only survived by the immense, once in a millennium, good fortune of the surf rag traders in finding a global market. So after 35 years of the massive over promotion of surfing, the end result is that the profits were pissed up against the wall in an over inflated ego fest created by a bunch of now ageing wanna be's so they could hang out with the Tommys and Kellys of this world. I was seriously pissed off when it all started and, while I like and admire some of the individuals, the culture was always toxic and its legacy is the massive over crowding of virtually every major surf location in the world. So hey Claw, hey Greasy, hey Greenie and the rest, don't take it personally but you do realise that wealth never bought respect and that anyone who has been around long enough and taken enough interest to know the full story stands in awe of the shallow self interest that has characterised your entire careers.
The tiny brained response to Swellnet questioning their publicity is a perfect indicator of the narrow minded conformist culture that represents everything that surfing was supposed not to be. Aloha, or should that be f...off?

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freerider. commented Friday, 16 Jan 2015 at 1:10pm

Well said.......

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memlasurf commented Monday, 19 Jan 2015 at 2:52pm

Yep I agree that Greed is Good cooked the goose as it always does. They really should have pushed much more back into grass roots as the AFL realised it had too. But as private companies I suppose they didn't give a toss.

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blasphemy-rottmouth commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 6:39pm

3 WCT Contests in Australia= Brazilian World champ
3 WCT Contests in Australia= ASP / WSL in a 3 million hole
3 WCT Contests in Australia= sponsored by the government? Fair play to Saffas, Seppos and Hawaiians... And those ugly abrazos?

3 WCT Contests in Australia= underwritten for what and by how much?

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blasphemy-rottmouth commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 6:41pm

I like Blind Boy. Despite his Alaia fetish.

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wingnut2443 commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 6:45pm

Great stuff Stu ... glad you jumped on this at the start of the year. Are you looking forward to "having to" watch it all again in 2015? ;)

So, yep, quality waves get the viewers. But still lagging in numbers. The old "live sport" has rarely held true for Surfing ... other sports do not have to work around mother nature. So, as I have commented previously, it really lends itself to a small number of surfers in perfect locations.

It's simple ASP / WSL ... take the top 16, add 4 wild cards ... take them to great locations with ideal conditions. Fuck off the rigid "schedule" and have "rolling event windows" so you can run the "event(s)" in the prime conditions. Record it but DO NOT ANNOUNCE any results to ANYONE ... not the judges, the competitors, the sponsors or the surfers. HOW?

Have the "result" come from post event judging, which is completed LIVE as the footage rolls, and replays are shown. This being the FIRST TIME the judges see the waves, and score them ... and have camera's on the judges the whole time too!

Have the viewing audience interact with it all social media ...

These 'unveiling of the event(s)' happening at "peak viewing times" say a day or two after the event so to maximise the audience ...

All people involved (surfers, sponsors, crew, etc) sign agreements to not disclose anything until the official "event unveiling" ...

ASP / WSL can have plenty of "teasers" released to build the hype.

Smaller production team. Smaller costs. Maximum ROI.

The locations are therefore endless ... the quality awesome. Impact?

NOTE: Oh, and roll the current CT and QS into one "tour" to determine the top 16 and run it as a rolling points systems like golf and tennis ... Top 16 at any one time get in to the next "world surf league event". With "world surf league event" points worth say triple anything on the "lower level" CT / QS tour. Points based upon wave quality and location / risk / skill required and NOT sponsors $ or prize money.

Crown a "world surf league champion" at the end of the "year" say after the final "world surf league event" ... Pipeline?

Simple?

What are those old sayings?

"Can't solve a problem with the same thinking that created it"

Definition of insanity? Doing same thinking ... expecting a different result.

PS: Oh, Brazil is a HUGE viewer market. No wonder the world champ is now Brazilian. While the viewers may come from there ... where is the $ spend coming from for surf products? I doubt the Brazilian market share is anywhere near the US, Australia or Europe. Pure folly to have pushed for a Brazilian world champ. Short term gain vs long term negative impact?

But, then again, I, just like "blasphemy-rottmouth" would conclude:

"Mark my words. I'm always wrong."

:)

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

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simba commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 6:49pm

BB summed it up beautifully!

simba

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blasphemy-rottmouth commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 6:51pm

:-/

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inzider commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 6:53pm

Lifes too short to sit around watching surfing and listening to bad commentary.
The whole set up is as appealing as a sunburnt bell end.

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sypkan commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 7:32pm

Check out the Da Hui contest, somehow they delivered good commentary, with american accents even, 4 man 'team' heats much more interetsing, still fucking slow to watch, and only for enthusiasts, but some professional contests are heading in the right direction. Even though im sure they had budget contraints somehow the camera work was better too. Nice wide angled shots where you see everything, see dudes getting smashed, paddling out, and free surfing beforehand followed by clearing the line up prior to contest, I was converted!

It just takes a loose cannon drug fiend to encourage the format.
Surely there is enough drug fiends running the ASP, oh thats right there on the wrong drug, like coked up rock stars they start believing their own hype

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inzider commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 8:05pm

I tuned into the BD shoot out for a ten minute watch while at work.
The relaxed format was good. For people like me who come from a mongrel skateboard bmx, wake and bake background, the whole "professional cookie cutter " pro surfer circus is such a yawn fest, I couldnt care less if some dude is tweaking on whatever while surfing or skating, a bit of mongrel is far more entertaining than robot surf dudes with as much personality as a garden potato.
There should be a mongrel world tour for shredders of all ilks just having a blast and not caring about the "image" to the mainstream. Oh hang on was that what it was like in the early days of pro tour?
Comps can die a fast death for all i care to be honest, bar the social ones where its just for a laugh and a beer and barbie afterwards. If people think we need a world tour to keep the technology and shit progressing, they are tripping. Problem is the world is full of mall grab surfers brainwashed by mega corps.

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sypkan commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 8:58pm

I hear u imzider, the term 'flogging a dead horse' springs to mind. I wonder how long before the millionaire realises he's been taken for a ride.

I think we all know there's more drug use in surfing than the machine let's on, hence the less than half hearted approach to drug testing.

I like the idea of a no rules mongrel tour, could get a bit weird and cyborg like though.

Do you reckon many of the skaters are tweaked up for contests?

I went to a rave party at an indoor skatepark once where dudes wete skating, it was the best night, great vibes and music (if u love d&b)

Skating on the gear though is not for me.

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inzider commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 9:47pm

No doubt some are fiending on something but for the most part I think its just more beers and left handed cigaretttes. There are many a pro skateboarder out there battling addictions of all flavours. Its out in the open too, not coverred up like pro surfers. Most "contests" are the X games and shit but there are some new super gaylord ones called "street league".and ''Maloof money cup'', big money prizes and jock as fuck.
You should watch the movie about the Pappas brothers called " all this mayhem" good insight into the Ozzie vert yobbo legends who where not cut out for the "xgames tony hawk bullshit"
Never was a fan of gears myself, if it grew outa the ground I was down.

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sypkan commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 11:06pm

Yeh not really into chemicals myself, but ive dabbled, lots of badness associated with it.

Interesting the skaters don't feel the need for a cover up.

Why is surfing trying so fucken hard with everything?

with anythimg, if things become too contrived, the magiic is usually long gone!

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inzider commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 11:05pm

Skateboarders (not longboarders, penny boarders and the rest of the nostalga freaks) are generally still fairly mongrel and the media which covers pro skateboarders is for the most part run by skateboarders, so it is warts and all media coverage. Most mainstrream surf media is so lame these days and too scared to offend anyone or cover the "too hard basket topics''.
real skateboard companies( the ones still run by skaters) are battling hard to survive the likes of nike shoes and corporate takeovers, so long as there are real skaters supporting them they will survive.
The destiny of skateboarding for the large part is in skaters hands still, surfing? I think not.

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mikehunt207 commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 10:13pm

What about instead of the WA gov fronting up our tax payer dollars for a contest at Margs that nobody here wants (other than tim thirsky and surfing wa from perth) and it would seem none of the pros want to surf in anyhow as its such a shit wave anyhow apparently they take it all to brazil, the brazillian surf league or something like that, gets my vote, shit I,ll chuck in a few bucks to help with moving costs.

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inzider commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 10:58pm

Why the fuck should local governments pay for/contribute to comps, if glory seekers and the industry need these events , the fuckin leeches should pay for it themselves. Our local ASP event has syphoned off a few million over the last few years from the local govt and co and not a fuckin penny been spent on one fuckin dunny or rubbish bin down the coast they want to use and abuse, complete fuckin wankers the whole lot of it.

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benski commented Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 11:13pm

Well done stu.

They could run the girls and guys at the same time but nearby breaks (say snapper and Burleigh) and then cross between the two when something happens, like they do with golf and even...tennis. Less down time and it's still effectively live. And the locals of each region would love to host two contests I'm sure.

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seahound commented Thursday, 15 Jan 2015 at 12:11am

Great reporting Stu. I heard from a reliable source Dirk Ziff agreed to a $50 million budget for three years - and already there''s more than $20million of that spent in the first year. Hmm... That said i imagine WSL are hopeful of growing their audience rather quickly this year and snaring a couple of big sponsors too... Their employees should at least enjoy the pay and the travel perks while the gig lasts...and maybe it will... we are only a young sport after all. Personally, i don't think they are marketing the sport properly for what, in terms of the magic, that surfing really is... Feel free to drop me a line WSL and i will gladly offer ye my wisdom afer many years of watching pro-surfing from right up close and afar...for a small but reasonable fee of course. Holding comps in optimum conditions in waves of perfection and consequence is only the start of better marketing... In the meantime i look forward with a certain sense of excitement in seeing how 2015 and beyond unfolds, especially with the new talent emerging and the old crocs still hanging in there... And finally, where are all the new Aussie would-be and wanna-be world champs? The WQS looks like a graveyard for Australian professional surfing. It seems Brazil and the emerging Latin speaking nations are set to make up more of the numbers in the world tour. Can't see many Aussies in them ratings at all... You have to wonder about all that money spent on elite training camps, government funding etc... It aint really producing that much in terms of a new batch of hungry young pro surfers. Maybe Australian surfing is better served being more leaner and mongrel-like, as it used to be, with less of all the rules, regulations and politically correct sponsor crap that seems to have spoiled many of the young shredders rotten before they even get on the tour. That's my two bobs worth. Good luck to all.

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freerider. commented Friday, 16 Jan 2015 at 12:58pm

I believe it was 30 million per year--for the first 3 years--and our saving grace may be --I don't think you can market the magic--it has to be experienced to be felt--not watched....but don't worry--I'm pretty sure Terry Harder--(Slater's manager) and Paul Speaker--will keep trying....

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seahound commented Friday, 16 Jan 2015 at 5:34pm

Thanks for the update Freerider...it's a lot of dosh for little return...but maybe with a Brazilian world champ now WSL might be able to lure a few big sponsors from that part of the world. They'd want to because subscribing to pay for viewing isn't going to make any money for WSL. For example, even if WSL charged fans like me $100 a year to view the tour, on current viewing figures (let's give them the benefit of the doubt), say there are 50,000 regular pro-surfing fans and punters out there willing to pay to view, well, that only adds up to $5million which doesn't even cover running costs. Even 100,000 paying viewers only adds up to $10million, which you'd think is still well short of being profitable. That said, you'd reckon for pro-surfing to survive, let alone grow, WSL will have to sign up with some big corporate companies out there willing to align their products with such a healthy sport and lifestyle and fabulous athletes male and female. But the bottom line for most people anyway, regardless of the WSL, surfing remains a great fun pass time and a challenging activity to be involved with for life...as long as you can avoid the crowds. Interesting times indeed...

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LukeHS commented Thursday, 15 Jan 2015 at 12:33am

Great piece of journalism Stu. While most corporations these days are leaner and meaner, it seems the new WSL is one large cash guzzling American Chevy. May be time for a new model. Still looking forward to Snapper...

Spiced

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Rabbits68 commented Thursday, 15 Jan 2015 at 12:43am

Nice work Stu, cheers.

Based on what has happened with surfing from the 1960's through to current day, mainly in regards to increased popularity/paid professionals/crowds etc, it sounds like the demise of professional surfing (further exposure) might be a good thing for the rest of us non professionals re crowds. Or has the surfing juggernaut simply got a life of its own, in other words, surfing locations are going to continue to become more crowded and at a faster rate. After all, as current day surfers, we can't blame the next generations for taking it up, it's such a great thing to do on so many levels.........

Crystal Clear

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mick-free commented Thursday, 15 Jan 2015 at 12:38pm

Rabs - I think that horse has already bolted, I don't think there will be less people surfing even if WSL falls over. Its just too much fun. The sleeping giant is awoken now, expect many more Brazilians in the lineups over the next 20 years.

One of the big stats from Stu's research is the fact when Kelly surfs the audience is almost doubled. That's a big trump card to lose once he retires and I suspect the extra audience tuning in to see KS are from mainland USA. USA have a distinct lack of talent coming through the QS, and are under represented on tour. It's a market in decline and there representations reflect it. 4 guys on WCT and 9 rated in top 100.

In the words of Jerry Maguire "Show me the money", somebody has got some maybe Gopro and Kelly are the only saviours.

Mick Free FIFOFOMO

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Rabbits68 commented Thursday, 15 Jan 2015 at 9:16pm

Good point Mick re Kelly. Be intersting to see how it all unfolds. Cheers

Crystal Clear

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wally commented Thursday, 15 Jan 2015 at 5:13pm

In Australia, though the surf has never been more crowded, I don't think it because there are more surfers. More to do with the ageing demographic of surfers (just about every surfer now has their own car), better wetsuits, better roads, surf cams, etc....other factors...etc, that mean more people are in the water, but maybe less surfers.

Though the SUP has brought in new surfers, albeit mostly old people. I often find the only board riders out who are under 25 are female.

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freerider. commented Friday, 16 Jan 2015 at 12:52pm

And if the WSL -- new world order --has it their way--you will probably be seeing a lot more.....

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Coops70 commented Thursday, 15 Jan 2015 at 9:11pm

BB you got it dead right WSL boring as bat shit, either change to dog eat dog 4 man heats you lose and your out or..... wave pools? and fuck off those seppo commentators! AHHHHH!

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johnutah commented Friday, 16 Jan 2015 at 9:31am

The arguments regarding viewer penetration are flawed as it's based on only a single set of metrics which are poor at best.
More information is needed before a proper argument or an avenue of improvement can be suggested.
Things like unique viewers vs concurrent would be better for a start.
Social media metrics need to be measured i.e. mention of an event in tweets, how many views of those tweets, interactions on facebook, comments, posts, likes for events etc - the "WSL" has almost 200K followers on twitter and over 2mil likes on Facebook.

The "concurrent" viewers statistics used doesn't accurately reflect the reach of the new streaming/youtube medium.

Having said that, I think everyone is in agreement that the WSL need to work out some way of improving the timing and predictability of the events - If you could watch any event (especially Teahupoo) on Friday/Saturday/Sunday nights LIVE from 6pm their penetration would be huge.
But I guess the inherent unpredictable nature of surfing as a sport is what gives it some of it's charm - Imagine every event being run in a wave pool or the like, it'd be as boring as bat-shit.

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freerider. commented Friday, 16 Jan 2015 at 12:50pm

Stu--thanks for all your hard work--stoked to see some one stand up and tell it--like it is.....

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matt79 commented Saturday, 17 Jan 2015 at 12:25pm

the whole boring plane jane annoying commentators ( I'm pointing the finger at turdpel pottz, parnell and ross ) was enough to make me only consider watching on mute . if it gets worse I think ill just stick to the heat annalylizer . Honourable mention to pete mel for asking some half decent questions . If the asp/wsl or what other crap name they come up with think i'll ever pay to watch events , they have rocks in there head .

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Glenn_Hening commented Saturday, 17 Jan 2015 at 1:29pm

Very much enjoyed reading the three part series - the kind of clear-eyed analysis you almost never get from the rest of the surf media. Indeed, the numbers just don't add up - and in fact never will - because storms can't be turned into line items in business plans, pure and simple. To actually have a viewer count from the YouTube data says it all. In the end, the ZoSea guys must know something they aren't telling the rest of us - or their investors, apparently. It looks like they have big problems, not the least of which may be that pro surfing as we know it is not sustainable, and that the bubble could burst in the very near future.

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freerider. commented Monday, 19 Jan 2015 at 7:52am

Hey Stu--seems Dora was kind of the antithesis to the new ASP-- how about a little plug or blog for the fund raiser "going on now"-- for the Miki Dora-- 10th Life of Da Cat project. I think some of the other mags. are afraid to do it. The MikiDora.Com Facebook page or MikiDora.Com seem a good place to start..Peace......

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Blowin commented Monday, 19 Jan 2015 at 4:47pm

I wouldn't have said that Dora was the antithesis of Dirk Ziff - utilising the charade that is the celebrity of talented surfers to make a buck. Dora milked his celebrity for years from what I can gather. Every person with a story of accommodating Dora comes across as just another rube after you're made aware of his M.O.

Only difference is that Ziff is doing this to regions rather than individuals.

Unless I'm mistaken and Zosea was created for the betterment of surfing, which is basically the feed coming from involved parties.

What's the fund going to provide for Freeride ? The reanimation of a long deceased Dora ? Seems you'd get the same return by inviting any number of unscrupulous ice heads to bunk down in your spare room and keep an eye on things whilst you're up the coast.

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Blowin commented Monday, 19 Jan 2015 at 4:46pm

Just had a look at Mikidora.com, seems some crew are concerned about Mr Dora's legacy - something he himself was seemingly oblivious to as he employed fraud , amongst other methods, to perpetuate his lifestyle.

Apparently Mr Dora was open to the threat of exploitation for commercial purposes if he didn't register his eponymous web address.

Irony anyone ?

PS - As a qualifier I'd better mention that i thoroughly admire Dora through what little I know of him. His rejection of conformity and authority resonate thoroughly as they should with most Australian surfers. But I'm not down with thievery. At all.

$30,000 of other peoples money to perpetuate the Dora name ... If he's watching, he'd be in stitches.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015 at 8:54am

Dora spent the last ten or more years of his life on the Quiksilver payroll.

That kind of spells out where he ultimately was coming from. He railed against the commercialisation of surfing but in the final analysis money bought his principles very cheaply.

He wanted to milk the system to pay for his lifestyle and he did, very effectively.

But to ascribe any kind of noble motive to him seems ludicrous given the well documented facts of his life. His legacy lives on in his writing , his style of life, his wave-riding prowess, nomadic lifestyle and hypocrisy.

brutus's picture
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brutus commented Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015 at 4:24pm

got a different spin on Miki D....all he ever did was tax all the people who wanted to hang out and use his name , "as a mate,"......

the whole Q/s Europe thing was hilarious in hindsight .....and really not sure he was on the pay role as there are very strict laws in france.....

but I had the great pleasure in hanging a lot with Miki....made him bds went surfing some very big waves with him....played Tennis and watched him scam a couple of so called hotshots.....

freerider.'s picture
freerider.'s picture
freerider. commented Wednesday, 21 Jan 2015 at 9:01pm

Hey guys--seems like I hit a nerve--but who is trying to ascribe any kind of noble motive to him? Not me--Dora --was--Dora---And yes-- Dora was flawed--just like the rest of us. Who knows how any of us wind up the way we do? Two Dads--seeing the perfect hot dog wave- (Malibu)- ripped from you and over run by thousands of Valley kooks..(Even though he was partly to blame for it.) But it does seem he was able to call BS on the surf industry--way back when-- ("These few Wall Street flesh merchants-- seek to unify surfing-- only to extract the wealth".--" I ride for my pleasure only".. .. Something about the guy just resonates with me-..The Dude--Da Cat--was a true individual ..Maybe the surf world needs some more true individuals...

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 at 12:20pm

Surf world needs more characters, less thieves .

freerider.'s picture
freerider.'s picture
freerider. commented Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 at 2:08pm

Let him who is without sin--cast the first stone...

totem-of-scrotum's picture
totem-of-scrotum's picture
totem-of-scrotum commented Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 at 2:31pm

Well that'd be me then.

*har-oomph*

Take that Miki ya thieving bastard.

brutus's picture
brutus's picture
brutus commented Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 at 3:34pm

other than taxing a credit card co.....and also a few individuals who just wanted to hang out and use his name to further their own credibility.....I would say Miki was not a thief...he saw the greed that was coming way before anyone else.....which is now called the surf industry ....and it looks like he was right!

he was an incredible surfer.....and there were days that no-one else would paddle out , he'd be there....he was one of the most enjoyable surfers to hang out with ...that I have met in my life...a true individual , a hardcore surfer...and as my wife would say....a perfect gentleman also!!

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 at 4:31pm

If there was a need to for Mr Dora to be defended, your second paragraph went a long way towards redeeming him.
That's the sort of obituary anyone would be happy about.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Tuesday, 24 Feb 2015 at 9:55am

The NY Times has run an article on the WSL and their "successful web-first broadcast strategy" which reportedly garnered 6.2 Million live viewers during the Pipe Masters. It's a number that's sharply at odds with YouTube's concurrent viewers figure, but not surprising in the context of the article: it reads like a PR fluffpiece.

It can be read here

bum_acid's picture
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bum_acid commented Saturday, 28 Feb 2015 at 5:05pm

can the WSL be sued for providing bogus webcast viewing numbers to advertisers and investors??

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Saturday, 28 Feb 2015 at 5:44pm

I doubt it. Any advertiser spending serious coin would do their due diligence and request analytical data as per industry standards.

Investors? Seems they only have one person in that regard, so I'm sure he's well aware of the state of play.

bum_acid's picture
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bum_acid commented Saturday, 28 Feb 2015 at 5:57pm

can you imagine the NRL pumping up grand final TV audience numbers like this? no way it could fly.
it'd get called out in 5 seconds.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Saturday, 28 Feb 2015 at 6:17pm

Things is though - the general public doesn't really know (or care). And corporate advertisers have pretty good measures in place to quantify the claimed stats. Perhaps that's the reason why the WSL are struggling to find advertisers - the asking price doesn't match the audience number? Who knows. However, if the WSL were reaching more people than the Stanley Cup (as claimed in the New York Tims article) then they should have no problem attracting a whole range of top tier advertising clients.

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 commented Tuesday, 24 Feb 2015 at 10:01am

Hahahahaaa ... maybe you need send the editor. and or Tayla or Nick (those attributed to having written the article) the links to your three part series on this very topic!

6.2 millions viewers ... hahahaaaa, they even mention it as 'web only' .... hahahahaaa

Oh, hang on, are you sure your stats and records are correct Stu?

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

wingnut2443's picture
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wingnut2443 commented Tuesday, 24 Feb 2015 at 10:05am

I like this bit too:

"The N.F.L.’s Facebook page has some 12.5 million likes compared with the surfing league’s 2.3 million likes. Yet the engagement that the league has per post — likes, comments and shares — is on par with the N.F.L., according to data provided by the organization."

... "according to data provided by ..." ... Hahahahaaaa ...

How about doing some research and real journalism Tayla and Nick?

Your're right Stu, it does feel very much like a fluff piece put out by the WSL media / PR / Marketing teams.

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Saturday, 28 Feb 2015 at 8:37am

Wow... this is an explosive development: the WSL have replaced last year's YouTube live broadcast player with a proprietary player from another company (NeuLion).

This means we're unable to record the WSL live concurrent stats this year. So, we will have no idea how popular (or unpopular) their events are.

Can't say I didn't see this coming.

Haydos's picture
Haydos's picture
Haydos commented Saturday, 28 Feb 2015 at 5:57pm

They still have the youtube broadcast up though? I was watching it earlier

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Saturday, 28 Feb 2015 at 6:19pm

Apparently then feed went down for half an hour, and they reverted back to the YouTube stream temporarily. Every time I checked though it was then new (non-YT) player.

Haydos's picture
Haydos's picture
Haydos commented Saturday, 28 Feb 2015 at 6:30pm

Why not just stick with youtube?
Looks like you can only watch it on youtube if you have the link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ucm2Ix-pTdM

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Saturday, 28 Feb 2015 at 6:39pm

Well, we can only speculate why they would switch from the YouTube live platform. But one possibility is that Swellnet's three articles, where we analysed their live webcast traffic (these stats are only visible when using YouTube) prompted the WSL to source an alternative that would hide the numbers from the general public.

Haydos's picture
Haydos's picture
Haydos commented Saturday, 28 Feb 2015 at 7:00pm

You'd think that taking it off youtube would do more harm than good . Especially with the ease of viewing that youtube provides, e.g. mobile devices.

davetherave's picture
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davetherave commented Saturday, 28 Feb 2015 at 8:14pm

spot on i reckon, visionaries would have seen those articles as being helpful and a platform to work from. well done to swellnet for transparency which the WSL may need to convince partners to come onboard. snapper 2015 shows that to gain international interest, there needs to be a priority on chasing swell events. somewhere would have been 6-8 ft and offshore today and i m sure i would not be the only one who would be excited and committed to watch the sort of action that the world's best surfers could put on in challenging yet visually appealing waves. i watched the cricket instead.

davetherave

blindboy's picture
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blindboy commented Saturday, 28 Feb 2015 at 4:14pm

If there isn't an air of quiet desperation around Snapper Rocks over the next couple of weeks it will only speak to the old cliche of ignorance being bliss. The whole enterprise is several decades overdue for a reality check. The WSL can make whatever pronouncements it wishes but sooner or later they have to recognise that it is only charity keeping them afloat and nothing they have done or appear capable of doing is likely to improve on that. Their next play will be to tighten the contracts on the competitors to drastically limit their ability to appear in anything, anywhere, anytime that doesn't have a huge WSL logo on it and to tie up their names so tightly they will end up basically working for a wage.

Dyson's picture
Dyson's picture
Dyson commented Saturday, 28 Feb 2015 at 6:35pm

I watched 2 heats and nearly fell asleep. The chicks were surfing onshore slop.
These guys have NO idea,

bum_acid's picture
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bum_acid commented Tuesday, 3 Mar 2015 at 6:24pm

but Julian Wilson said the bank is in great shape!

*cough

cheeryohreally's picture
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cheeryohreally commented Tuesday, 3 Mar 2015 at 3:00pm

Really? - "An average of more than 6.2 million people tuned in live to watch the Billabong Pipe Masters, where Mr. Medina won his first title. Those numbers exceeded the American television audience for the final game of the 2014 Stanley Cup hockey finals."

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/23/business/media/world-surf-league-takes...

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Tuesday, 3 Mar 2015 at 3:19pm

Yeah, we've been discussing that article throughout much of the comments above.

many-rivers's picture
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many-rivers commented Tuesday, 3 Mar 2015 at 6:15pm

Ha ! You are attracting paid trolls! Wow , next thing they will be comparing you to alternative news sources , say like Al Jazeera......

cheeryohreally's picture
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cheeryohreally commented Tuesday, 3 Mar 2015 at 7:45pm

Ah - missed page 2 of the comments....

Tloch's picture
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Tloch commented Sunday, 15 Mar 2015 at 9:26am

Stu - have you, or can you please comment on the Feb 22, 2015 New York Times article by Talya Minsberg and Nick Corasaniti on the WSL's approach to web viewers? See:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/23/business/media/world-surf-league-takes...

Thanks,

Tloch's picture
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Tloch commented Sunday, 15 Mar 2015 at 9:29am

Sorry, - I also missed page 2. Please disregard.
Thanks

dastasha's picture
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dastasha commented Sunday, 15 Mar 2015 at 12:59pm

Pay the WSL no attention. It just encourages them.

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Friday, 1 May 2015 at 1:20pm

Just pulling a quote from the first article in this series:

"In Australia alone the Sweeney report stated there are 2.5 million surfers, yet in a 2010 interview Surfing Australia CEO Andrew Stark estimated there were another half a million to a million above that."

Roy Morgan Research have just published a report on the number of Australian surfers. To quote:

"In the last five years, the number of Australians 14+ who surf either regularly or occasionally has risen from 702,000 to 746,000."

That's a massive difference between Surfing Australia's 2010 claim of 3 - 3.5 million Australian surfers to Roy Morgan's 700,000 Australian surfers.

wingnut2443's picture
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wingnut2443 commented Friday, 1 May 2015 at 4:56pm

Oh c'mon Ben, that's easy to explain.

They have obviously used different definitions of "surfer" ... Surfing Australian including people who surf the internet ;)

Be great get an independent global survey done. Zoseas would be shitting themselves.

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

offshoreozzie's picture
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offshoreozzie commented Monday, 22 Jun 2015 at 8:27am

Speaker stretching the truth again...
http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/4307606458001/making-20m-a-year--surfing/...

Sharks were a timely distraction to answering the question of American viewership! I'm off to Tavi to surf over 2 inchs of water... ok, Paul

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Monday, 22 Jun 2015 at 8:43am

"We had 22 million people tune in for the semi-finals and finals, in just Brazil".

"In just Brazil? Do you know that for a fact, or is that a guesstimate?"

"That's a fact from the equivalent of Nielsen in Brazil".

Wow.

And, I wonder what the "equivalent of Nielsen in Brazil" is? Seeing that Nielsen have had a presence in Brazil for 40 years.

http://www.nielsen.com/br/pt.html

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Monday, 22 Jun 2015 at 8:44am

8-10-probably 13 feet over 2 inches of water.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Monday, 22 Jun 2015 at 8:51am

Either way, what an awkward interview. Not on Paul's behalf, but due to the host who clearly knew nothing about the sport (and who forgot Kelly Slater's name after ten seconds).

offshoreozzie's picture
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offshoreozzie commented Monday, 22 Jun 2015 at 10:11am

Agreed. Host is an absolute knob but thats the US, and surprise - FOX!

Not touching the $20 million / year and "has, and will for a long time.... way more than that" Ben?

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Monday, 22 Jun 2015 at 10:15am

Honestly, I have no idea how much money Kelly makes. I don't think it's an unreasonable figure though, he's clearly got a strong business head on his shoulders.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Monday, 22 Jun 2015 at 10:49am

From STAB's 2013 Rich List:

"Number 3, Kelly Slater.

Estimated annual sponsorship earnings: $3.4m
Competition earnings for the last 12 months: $450,450
Total: circa $3.9m"

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Monday, 22 Jun 2015 at 10:56am

Estimated total wealth around $28.7 mill. [2014]

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Monday, 22 Jun 2015 at 11:21am

There's an interesting article on Mumbrella today: YouTube could change the way we broadcast sport in Australia.

This follows an earlier article from last week. From it: "The NRL has approached online behemoth Google about lodging a potentially multi-billion dollar bid for the broadcast rights for the code."

(for those that don't know, Google own YouTube).

According to the first linked article, "It should also be noted that YouTube has made a shift toward professional sports media over the past few years. In 2010 it secured the live-streaming rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket. Three years later, YouTube began to experiment with major American sports, including Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA)".

However - despite last year's arrangement between the ASP and YouTube for live streaming, the WSL moved away from YouTube this year and struck up a new deal with NeuLion, who I suspect probably don't have deep pockets like Google to bid for broadcast rights (instead, it means the WSL will still have to sell the advertising and sponsorship opportunities themselves).

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 commented Monday, 22 Jun 2015 at 11:30am

No surfers anywhere near the Top 100 richest athletes in Forbes latest list.
http://www.forbes.com/athletes/

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Monday, 22 Jun 2015 at 11:36am

Boxing,Whoa ..Manny Pacquiao $160 mill

Bob's 2 Bob's's picture
Bob's 2 Bob's's picture
Bob's 2 Bob's commented Monday, 22 Jun 2015 at 12:13pm

Great read Free. There wouldn't be a surfer in the top 1000 I reckon. WSL not doing their job again. It's yet another nail in the coffin.

Freeload69

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Wednesday, 4 Nov 2015 at 10:23am

Slightly off-topic, but worthy of inclusion anyway.

Seven West Media launched its live streaming App yesterday (for general TV programs), just in time for the Melbourne Cup.

So in addition to the millions of TV viewers, SWM claimed "342,765 live concurrent streams during 5min Mel Cup (source Akamai), 480,000 over whole race day".

Not sure on the geo-breakdown of the online traffic but I'd hazard a guess that it'd be mainly Australian. Akamai data would be very credible.

Interesting too that Mumbrella reports metro TV viewers were 2.068m (Oztam) down on last year's 2.122m, and well down on the historic record set in 2012 (2.741m). 

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Wednesday, 4 Nov 2015 at 10:29am

And the take home point here: Seven West Media - the owner of Australia's largest commercial television network - when venturing into online streaming, chose the metric "live concurrent streams" to represent their audience to marketers, advertisers and the general industry.

Just like Stu did in this series of articles.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Saturday, 17 Sep 2016 at 12:33pm

Interesting article looking at the difference between TV and Digital metrics for US football (NFL).

http://www.recode.net/2016/9/16/12943246/how-many-people-watched-nfl-twi...

davetherave's picture
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davetherave commented Sunday, 18 Sep 2016 at 10:54pm

Just goes to show that surfing is an art and not a sport. Yvette competitive mode can never capture the connection of swell formation and the individuals approach to riding and abating this marriage of wind and water. Even the amazing thought patterns of a surfer waiting between sets cannot be fully expressed. Good on them for having a go but a sideshow novelty will never be a global financial and sport vowing success as surfing is fluid dynamic and lives in tune with nature .surfing can't be judged lyrics can only be admired and appreciated and it's not really about performing to a criteria but about expressing afeeeling of freedom of yourself with the wave and what a blessing that is. You can't score surfing because it's always a winner.

davetherave

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davetherave commented Sunday, 18 Sep 2016 at 10:59pm

Bloody phone over rides some of my spelling. Sorry bout that. Texting irks me big time but hey it does make life easier I think.

davetherave