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Would you pay to watch the World Tour? ASP explores

Jeremy Flores, Teahupoo © ASP/ Kirstin

by Casey Butler at ESPN

World waits while ASP explores Pay-Per-View option

Surf News, 15 March, 2012 : When the ASP released its official 2012 World Tour schedule in November, Fiji's happy return and the memories of last year's Teahupoo and New York City comps promised a riveting season. When we lost New York in December, half of us said good riddance to the so-called "City Tour." A few days later, an upgraded Cold Water Classic at Santa Cruz added some diversity in the form of an iconic and challenging American break. People were ogling the roster, going, "Dayumn, Tour, you look fine. Where you been hiding these past couple of years?


But then J-Bay dropped off. And now Fiji may vanish. This is not a down-with-the-man, anti-ASP rant. Despite the fact that surfing seems to be reaching a broader audience than ever before, the industry as a whole is evidently strapped for cash. We (myself especially) daren't presume the role of financial adviser to, well, anyone, but we have heard a couple of ideas that may keep the Tour from disintegrating. The first one is to tap into one of the surf world's few inflating resources: audience.

"A pay-per-view webcast/broadcast model has been discussed in depth at the ASP Board level, and is an option for moving forward," says ASP International Media Director Dave Prodan. The major question here is whether people would pay -- to watch surfing -- which struggles to be classified as a sport.

"There is obvious resistance to moving away from the free model towards a pay-per-view model in regards to the risk of reduction of fans," Prodan continues. "However, if the pay-per-view model were to result in continued premium event locations and perhaps an enhancement upon the delivery of the current product, then one could feasibly estimate that the fan base would be happy to pay for the experience. The sport, in all aspects, is maturing and the next evolution could involve a pay-per-view model. That may just be part of the maturation process."

These things aren't cheap. We can download music and movies for free, and yet iTunes not only still exists, it thrives. In the first fiscal quarter of 2012, which ended December 31st, iTunes revenues reached an unprecedented $1.7 billion. Yes, it's illegal to download these products without permission, but let's be honest: it's also pretty easy. (Or so I hear.) So why would we spend $.99 to listen to Florence + The Machine and $9.99 to watch Florence getting barreled? Two reasons: a high-quality, comprehensive product and user-friendliness that suits everyone from groms to Dane Reynolds' grandma.

Major League Baseball fanatics can now watch every game their hearts desire--even pre-season and "out of network." They can watch at their desks, in HD for a mere $109.99 per year. Right now, you may be thinking something along the lines of: "But our content is already free. Why should we have to pay now?"

Well, to keep the Dream Tour dreamy, for one.

"At present, the events activate the media rights at a significant expense to themselves and essentially provide the product to the audience for free," Prodan says. At the most basic level, less expensive is more doable. Profitable is even more doable.
Read the full article by Casey Butler at ESPN


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