The buzz around the online surf community is that the ASP is discussing a pay-per-view model for the live webcasts of tour events. Times are still tough these days, and if industry leaders like Quiksilver and Billabong are having trouble making a profit, how can anyone expect the problem-riddledÂ AssociationÂ of Surfing Professionals to stay afloat? Charging users to watch live webcasts is a good idea in theory, but will it be successful in the long run?
Casey Butler, who helped cover the Quiksilver Pro New York for SURFBANG and contributed to the site in the past, wrote a well researched post on ESPN that really digs into the issue and is the catalyst for all the controversy.
“A pay-per-view webcast/broadcast model has been discussed in-depth at the ASP Board level, and is an option for moving forward,” said ASP International Media Director Dave Prodan in the ESPN article.
Since reading Casey’s post, I’ve been trying to figure out if it would work, considering all the variables. What I came up with is that, right now, it’s just an idea. I do think some people will pay, but at this time it’s an idea that is a long way from reality.
I’m a Web developer and I’ve been working in the Web industry for over five years and counting. The first thing that jumped to my mind was “it sure is going to cost a pretty penny to build and fully test a pay-per-view system.” I’m sure the ASP has a small team of Web developers, and they do a good job, but IÂ guaranteeÂ you they do not have the proper resources to build a full-blown pay-per-view system. The ASP is either going to have to hire a team of people, outsource, or go through a consulting company and none of those options are cheap.
The current state of ASP Webcast system is heaps better than what it was a few years ago, but it took that long for it to progress and get where it is today. When taking people’s money for a service, you have to make sure the service is top-notch and bug free or people will cancel and never pay for it again. The ASP is in contract with Beach Bytes, the company that provides the technology for heat scoring, but when it comes to the individual event websites and video feeds, the primaryÂ sponsor is responsible.
That brings me to my next thought- at this time the ASP doesn’t own the rights to the event broadcasts. For pay-per-view Webcasts to be successful, there must be one organization in control of the broadcast rights. This would allow there to beÂ tiered pricing and varied price points for different options. Tiered pricing has proven to be successful in many industries and it wouldÂ definitelyÂ help in making pay-per-view Webcasts attractive to most people with different budgets.
Options could include, but are not limited to, all the events, events based on timezone, and single events. But, if Quiksilver wants you to pay them for their events and Billabong wants you to pay them for theirs, it will never work. A deal between the ASP and the sponsors isn’t going to happen over night and I would imagine that such a large business deal will take some time to come into fruition.
The most important aspect of this idea that jumps right into people’s heads when first reading pay-per-view webcasts is “will I pay to watch a live Webcast of an eventÂ that has always been free?” It’s going to be a hard sell on a complete “yearly package” when some contests air while people are sleeping or at work. What about when the surf sucks? From the comments I’ve been reading and my grasp of the overallÂ consensus, the most common answer is “no.” Now this is certainly just the initial backlash from the public and eventually people will warm up to the idea, but I do think with the lack of details, people are thinking about pay-per-view surf events all wrong.
It would make more sense for the ASP to keep a low quality version of the Webcast around for free and charge for the better quality HD stream. Also offerÂ added bonuses for paying customers, such as access to theÂ heat analyzerÂ that was introduced last year, different camera angles and extra footage, behind the scenes interviews, replays of an entire event or even an edited version of the contest that you can download and watch on your computer or mobile device.Â QuiksilverÂ didÂ after last year’s New York event. The ASP could even charge for those things individually per event.
Due to the wild inconsistencies that come with surfing and surf events, introducing pay-per-view events will be like nothing that has ever been done before. Some mainstream American sports that haveÂ introduced the pay-per-view model have been successful because their fan base and the fact that there aren’t 10-day waiting periods in timezones on the other side of the world with the potential of getting skunked. For this to work, itÂ will have to be executed perfectly.