It's early, but the viewers are not there. The tour can act now to change its course.
July 12, 2016 by Steve Hill in Opinion with 1 comments
After two events of the Disc Golf Pro Tour, one thing is clear: For an event whose mantra from the beginning has implored people to “Watch,” people are simply not watching.
A quick glance at the “watching now” numbers for the tour’s Silver Cup broadcast this weekend shows they were, to put it gently, less than ideal. At numerous times Friday and Saturday the numbers bounced between 300 and 400 viewers. For Sunday’s final round, it topped out just shy of 1,100, and it took about halfway through the round for those numbers to crest triple digits. While those numbers don’t paint the full viewership story – users come and go throughout the show, so the total number is somewhat higher – past disc golf livestreams have easily reached the 3,500-4,000 “watching now” range.
Some of the problem is the weekend dilemma – on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, the disc golf-viewing fanbase that events like these rely upon are out playing disc golf, not sitting inside watching – while some of it can be attributed to the Paul McBeth factor: When the sport’s Tiger Woods is not playing, the eyeballs wander elsewhere.
Still, peak viewing for the first event of the tour, the Vibram Open, was reported by the Pro Tour to have a maximum concurrent viewership of 3,000, although the “watching now” digits ticked in between 1,500 and 2,000 for most of the event. A dip in hits last weekend does not bode well for the livestream’s long-term prospects.
Suffice to say, the numbers are not cutting it, and it’s time to make some changes. Here’s how we suggest increasing the viewership and getting the tour back on track.
Air the broadcast on SmashboxxTV’s YouTube channel
As the foremost livestreaming provider in disc golf right now, SmashboxxTV was a no-brainer for the Disc Golf Pro Tour. Established viewers are already familiar with the platform and its personalities, and Terry Miller’s team has shown an impressive ability to learn and adapt on the fly. Their broadcasts continue to improve.
The Smashboxx YouTube channel also happens to have 12,317 subscribers. The Disc Golf Pro Tour channel? 2,581.
From the outset, the Disc Golf Pro Tour has decided to eschew nearly 10,000 extra sets of eyes, and the viewership numbers show that this was a mistake. Yes, the tour will likely want to build its channel over time in an effort to attract advertisers, but if the goal is to make people “Watch,” then put it in front of the most people possible from the start.
Either that, or brand the broadcasts to be Disc Golf Pro Tour broadcasts, not Smashboxx broadcasts on the Disc Golf Pro Tour channel. Lead broadcaster Miller has yet to don a Pro Tour shirt, sports a prominent Smashboxx lanyard, and makes copious references to the network’s fans, the “Smashies,” during broadcasts. Which is all another reason to let Smashboxx take the ball to its channel and run with it. It already looks like its event, anyway.
Yes, major league sports all have their own networks now, but that is only a recent development. For the majority of broadcasting history, sports were aired on a network. SmashboxxTV is that network for disc golf, so it makes sense to take advantage of the viewership base it has built.
Scrap livestreaming until the Tour Championship
Even if the Pro Tour does move its coverage to Smashboxx’s channel, it should wait to air another live broadcast until September at the Tour Championship.
As the culminating event of the six-tournament series, the Tour Championship boasts high stakes, with the winner taking home a huge $10,000 payout. That increased drama is prime for live coverage, and is ready-made for hype. But why kick the other three events to the curb?
Imagine taking Smashboxx’s budget for one broadcast – the company would not divulge what it is charging the Pro Tour, but two industry sources estimated the number at between $5,000 and $10,000 per tournament – and multiplying that by four. By nixing the livestreaming of the Minnesota Majestic, Ledgestone Open, and the Green Mountain Championships, the tour could funnel that money – at the low end of estimates, an extra $15,000 – into coverage of the Tour Championships and a possible $20,000 broadcast. With a larger budget, Smashboxx could cover more cards, hire more commentators, and deliver a livestreaming product disc golf has yet to see. That alone, if advertised correctly, would bring more attention to the event and, hopefully, more viewers.
Flood social media
In the interim, the Pro Tour can focus its coverage efforts for the next three events on building up its social media presence, which is sorely lacking. Both the PDGA National Tour and the Disc Golf World Tour have set the model for the Pro Tour to follow, as evidenced in the table below:
|Disc Golf World Tour||European Open||53||64||89||206|
|PDGA National Tour||Beaver State Fling||5||76||2||83|
|Disc Golf Pro Tour||Silver Cup||3||6||21||30|
It’s nearly impossible to log on to social media during a World Tour event and not find out what is happening with the tournament. Compare that with the Pro Tour, and the difference is stark. Of those three Facebook posts from the Pro Tour – the medium on which it has the most followers – this past Sunday, zero came before the final round started. In fact, the tour posted the link to its livestream almost an hour after the event had already begun, which is a stunning failure on its part. The other two posts were late night recaps. Its Instagram presence was only marginally better, with a few of the photos posted on Sunday coming in the form of images from Saturday’s action. Of its six Twitter posts, five were cross-posts from Instagram.
The World Tour and the PDGA, meanwhile, have leveraged social media to post snippets of video and play-by-play action to replace livestreaming. Yes, many of the World Tour’s numbers are boosted by cross-posts on multiple platforms, but anyone who wants to follow the action live can capably do so on their network of choice. Additionally, both organizations have employed Facebook Live to great success, with the World Tour’s stream of the final four holes of the European Open drawing more than 3,000 viewers. That’s almost triple the Pro Tour’s livestream, and it was free for both viewers and the tour’s organizers.
The method is sound, and it does not seem to detract from post-produced coverage; the final round back 9 of the European Open has been viewed almost 120,000 times. It’s a model the Pro Tour should adopt as a way to cover its next events in anticipation of a high quality livestream at the Tour Championship. It would serve both ends: Give the events attention, and grow the Pro Tour’s online audience.
If it truly wants to shepherd in the “modern age of disc golf,” the Disc Golf Pro Tour needs to embrace the modern age of media. It may not align with organizers’ initial vision to initiate these changes, but adapting to the landscape is important for sustainability. The tour, and its broadcast team, work way too hard for way too few views. It’s time to make some changes for the prolonged health of these events.