The IFSC has announced a three-year broadcasting deal with Discovery Sports. All IFSC World Cup and World Championship events will now be livestreamed on the subscription-based channel discovery+, the Eurosport App and Eurosport's linear channels in the lead-up to Paris 2024.
The initial press release - which mentioned nothing about countries outside of Europe - has been understood by many (and indeed us) to mean that countries outside of Europe would only have the Olympic Channel replay to watch the following day.
The IFSC say that people in other continents can continue to watch as normal for free via YouTube and the Olympic Channel.
Not sure that's any better, but at least those outside of Europe have a free live feed...
This is a huge shame, and IFSC should know better after the last debacle. I suspect it will do the opposite of broaden the base of viewers - my initial instinct is to boycott paying a monthly sport channel subscription, on principle. But then we would miss out completely. What happens when another big sporting event is aired, and they decide to cut the live feed from IFSC event in favour of the other event.
I hope a boycott by athletes and fans gains traction.
"... proving attractive to new and different audiences than some of those who already enjoy watching the sport and demonstrating its potential for engagement and growth. We are delighted to be able to showcase the best of the sport for the next three years..."
How is putting something that was previously free-to-all behind a paywall in any way "showcasing" or opening it up for growth?
I can kinda see the argument that it's been free for years and outside of Redbull sports is relatively unique in that - and that time is over.
Kinda sucks though - I've always enjoyed IFSC comps, but not enough to pay £6 per comp (on the basis it's a monthly competition), and it's the only televised sport I watch.
Also - sweet baby Jesus they better get a new commentator from the Olympics.
I'm going to make myself super unpopular here, but I spent over 10 years working in TV Broadcast with Sports Federations so feel I can add a little context, having worked on exactly this type of production for so many years.
Climbing, and in particular competition climbing is changing, the IFSC decided it wanted it to become an Olympic Sport and with that came a whole load of hoops they had to jump through to qualify. It managed to be successful in that aim and it's now a regular Olympic Sport, which will be expanding to more athletes and medals next time out this will generate revenue for the IFSC at those events, but in 4 years between them it now has to generate more revenue in order to meet its increased operating costs.
Its most valuable asset is it's live content, and although none of us want to start paying for something that we've always got for free, when a Sports Federation gets to a certain level it's just not able to give away its live content for nothing.
Sports Broadcasters have moved away from filling their airtime with 'filler' sports content, and now prefer to fill the time in their schedules with live sports content of smaller, more minority events - it looks better on the EPG and reenforces their status as a home of live sports (even if it is the Fencing World Cup, or the Field Hockey League) which means there is good money available to minority sports federations - especially if for an oven ready sport like climbing which already has good production on the event, which comes over the course of several days, lasts a predictable amount of time and isn't weather dependent (in other words, ticks ALL the boxes).
Yes, this sucks, none of us are happy about this but it's a part of the growth of the sport and it becoming a more mainstream event. That might not be something that any of us want, but that's the path the IFSC has taken competition climbing down and given the money available, the position the federation is in and the market available I think it was inevitable that something like this was going to happen.
Of course, this may result in less of us seeing the content, but money talks, and the IFSC is not the only sport to have taken a decision like this.
Take UEFA - the Champions League and Europa League used to be on a combination of Sky and ITV, and thus got really good viewing figures in the UK. Then it sold all the rights to BT Sport (far fewer subscribers) and their viewing figures went down by approximately 70%. But still they persisted as the money BT offered was just too good to turn down, and this is UEFA who have more money than god.
In short, getting a load of money from Discovery/EuroSport to put it on their channel and have nobody watch it is a more inviting offer than having lots of avid climbers watching it for free. That sucks, but the IFSC can't pay its bills and staff with our smiles.
I've seen other, larger more mainstream federations than the IFSC struggle badly in between Olympics. One in particular I worked with was on the verge of being wound up so had to cancel all their events apart from one, lay off 75% of their staff, cut back everything to bare bones. And that's a much bigger, more well established sport than climbing...
So look, I'm not defending this, I'm not saying I'm happy about it. Maybe it'll get turned over like the last time. But what I am saying is the path that the IFSC have decided to take climbing down inevitably led to this.
In summary, this sucks, but was always going to happen.
I think you're right about the inevitability of what's happening with the IFSC - They are in effect becoming an entertainment company with more in common with the producers of Gladiators than with the general climbing community*. That's a decision you make (consciously or otherwise) when you go down the professionalism/Olympics road. Their motivations will increasingly be aligned with catering to short attention span non-climbers. Once the novelty value wears off, the current style of climbing competitions is not (IMHO) all that interesting to the general public, so they are going have to find a way of 'spicing up' their offering to compete with other minority sports for public eye-time. 'Artistic climbing'? More head-to-head competitions? Good luck to them, it won't be easy - as you pointed out.
My only worry - since I'm not all that bothered by competition climbing - is what collateral damage this does to the rest of the climbing community.
* OK, I admit, I'm not really sure what I mean by 'climbing community'. I tried a few definitions in my head, but none were very convincing!
They don't have to be cash strapped now, they just have to not have enough cash to meet the ambitions and commitments over the next few years to make the signing of a broadcast deal sound like a good idea.
In any case, that document shows a tiny net profit being made from a huge turnover, and profits and revenues falling with rising costs right across the board.
The TV production budget alone has gone from 112k to over 400k in the space of a year (though Covid may make the 2020 figure artificially lower).
You don't think that sounds like an organisation who ought to seek new revenue streams?
Yeah in effect they've now become a Sports Broadcast Rights owner, which for most sports (well mainstream ones anyway) is the biggest revenue generator for the organisation. It's not a revenue stream they were ever going to be able to ignore the potential of forever.
You're right about federations looking to spice things up - one of the federations I worked with fiddle with the rules of the actual sport every few years to try and make it more interesting and exciting. I won't tell you which one it was, but they made some fundamental rule changes to a well known sport a few years back, all in the name of attracting more TV viewers.
The 2020 TV budget is irrelevant, due to covid, so why even raise it?
The balance sheet seems OK to me for such a not-for-profit organisation in a pandemic.
I didn't comment on the deal but even though seeking revenues that way might be a success, it also might annoy the federations and seriously reduce viewing figures (in what is a fledgling market) such that it could well turn out to be a big mistake.
The TV budget was just an example, if you look in detail at the document there are dozens of examples of rising costs and falling revenues. I picked this one as that's what we're discussing here, and what I have knowledge and experience of.
> You're right about federations looking to spice things up - one of the federations I worked with fiddle with the rules of the actual sport every few years to try and make it more interesting and exciting...
When I was much younger, I was heavily into target archery (even less of a spectator sport than climbing). The same thing happened there: The rules were changed in an effort to make the sport more 'casual viewer friendly'. Instead of competitions lasting hours/all-day Olympic archery became a quick fire knock-out style competition lasting less time than it took to set up your equipment. It became a different sport requiring somewhat different skill sets. I suppose it satisfied some criteria, but I doubt it really revolutionized the viewing figures! Meanwhile 99% of archers ignored all this and carried on treating archery as a nice day out in the fresh air.
Yep, that sounds a very familiar tale - something that happens a lot especially those slightly fringe sports that enjoy a bit of a bounce in popularity around the Olympics but struggle to maintain throughout the following years.
This means a lot of sports have developed a format that really isn't part of the sport - I had a friend who was an Olympic level windsurfer, her Olympic board and sail were totally different to anyone else's at the surf school and none of them did that racing format at all... Just wasn't part of surfing mainstream.
Same with BMX. How many people do you know who have or di ride a BMX? How many of them ever do 80's style BMX racing around a track?
There's countless others where the Olympic Format of a sport is something that very few people outside of high level competition ever do, but are the way the sport is most often presented to the general public.
Climbing is already doing that a bit - par cour style boulders, lead wall that are always oeverhanging and full of dynos (plus onsight only) so perhaps that will continue even more. But I think it won't affect how the rest of us climb at all, just like it hasn't for windsurfing or Archery or all the others?
I disagree. The climbing activities in the Olympics are not that dissimilar to the competitions from grass routes to nationals; there is just often a different scoring format. Climbing is a series of games and only a few of them are competitive sports.
Exactly this really - "Olympic Climbing" could end up as a sub-genre of comp climbing, which actually, I'm not that averse too... Bring back 4+ rule in bouldering, more technical lead climbing, all those things which were introduced to make the sport more TV friendly can be left for the TV version of the sport. So things like e.g. CWIF, RockStars or any other independent comps can be more "old school" to please the wider masses, leaving Olympic Climbing as an interesting offshoot - much like speed climbing is.
And by "sport" I specifically mean competition climbing, a sub-sub-genre of indoor climbing, which is a sub-genre of climbing.
Yes that's kind of what I meant - I was contrasting competition climbing with the wider activity of climbing, not Olympic vs. Non-Olympic climbing competitions. Competition climbing can do what it likes, it's not going to make any odds to what we do on a Sunday afternoon at the local crag!
Actually I wasn't aware there was any difference in the scoring or way the Olympics was run (outside of the combined 3 event format, of course) compared to other comps. Don't watch a lot of competition climbing.
Olympics will become the peak of comp climbing hence that style will be the basic template for competitions through all the levels - the sport is a pyramid and any good competition climber now will come through the youth system. The parkour style, steepness and dynos make it fun to watch (for both casual and 'knowledgeable' climbers). I'm also not sure what the alternative would be given how strong the climbers are - watching people trying to pull on miserable, conditions dependent razor blades would not be entertaining regularly... There's a strong correlation between being good at comp climbing and good outdoors so clearly the styles complement even if requiring a wider range of skills.
I went thru some of this with Olympic climbing. Had to create different accounts, before I figured out that VPN was what I needed. They make it super easy to sign up and very difficult to unsubscribe. Alas, even if IFSC gets $ it's not going to go to the athletes.
Podcast Mountain Air - 6. Rob Woodall, Britain's Greatest Peak Bagger?
Gear News Silva FREE: the world's first modular head torch
Fri Night Vid Fields of Gold - Wadi Rum Bouldering
In this week's Friday Night Video, Luke fletcher, Zoe Wood, Duncan Cunningham and Eadan Cunningham travel to the desert of Wadi Rum in Jordan with the aim of exploring the landscape for bouldering and putting up new lines. With the help of some...