As I am expressing ideas on the current form of Elite Track and Field (ET&F), I am compelled to continually sample what is offered. This morning (Pacific Time), I perused the US broadcast of the IAAF Diamond League Paris meeting. This included video available on NBC Sports Gold ($69.95 per year), and the more conventional, commentated product on NBC Sports Network. While things do progress slightly, fundamental change is not apparent.
As the white papers posted on this site discuss, most ET&F meetings are short-form/limited field affairs. Paris typifies this. Only 36% (13 of 36) of the possible individual events of stadium track are competed. Within a meet window of under 3 hours, the event still struggles to provide non-stop action. Even with various filler races (e.g., men’s 200m races with 22 and 23 second marks!), the entire “day at the ET&F Track meet” consumes just over 4 hour of customer interest. This is certainly “easy” on customers, relieving them of the tough decisions faced by professional tennis fans (“Which day of the [9 day] Eastbourne tennis tournament do we want to attend this year?”). While the Paris meet displays a nice venue, with a decent-ish crowd, it does not offer much customer engagement. This also pertains to video customers sitting in California.
The NBC Sports Gold video is the near-identical fare as that provided by the Olympic Broadcasting Services, at either the winter or summer games: event-focused video with no commentary. While OK for diehards, it is leaving opportunities un-seized. There are multiple streams, so any consumer really has to switch between them to see simultaneous events. For me (no IT expert), this involved opening multiple browser tabs, taking exceptional care to have only one playing at a time (2X of the 5 Mb/sec feed would crash my system!). Although I concede that silent video is OK, compared to the wrong type of commentator blather, it would be a GREAT product to dynamically switch simultaneous action from multiple venues, into a single silent feed. This would provide just about as complete a product, in a form that is much easier to observe. It is telling to see a separate “Diamond League – Paris (M High Jump M Triple Jump)TRACK AND FIELD07/01″ feed, as you begin to realize that they are not simultaneous events. You hear a W SP competition going on in the background, but this can only be observed in a different window!
When the NBC Sports commentator team entered the scene at 11AM (PDT), old normalcy prevailed. While I applaud a 2 hour window on cable TV, I note that good portions of it showed historical races, specifically those from the recent USATF Championships. Lots of prequels, that included video of numerous archival races, led up to actual race coverage. For example, NBC showed 3X more video of old men’s 110HH races, before the live race of today. Not to disappoint, there were indeed (generally-disliked) athlete interviews. During them, a careful listener can’t miss the fact that other live events are going on: events that are deemed unworthy of being switched into a live video stream, I guess. I wonder if anyone has ever thought of superimposing an audio athlete interview with video of another live event. Simply one idea.
I will enjoy my NBC Sports Gold subscription. However, I will be even happier when ET&F starts to believe more in their product.