I was recently listening to the Smashboxx podcast. Terry Miller asked Philo Brathwaite what it will take for disc golf to take that next step towards legitimacy. Behind the question is the understanding that disc golf is growing, has been growing more than 10% a year for 40 years, and is being seen and respected by more and more people every day. Philo very quickly answered, “Obviously the big goal is to be on TV.”
Other events that have been on ESPN were quickly discussed. Poker, ping pong, spelling bees, Scrabble, chess. And it’s not like they’ve only been on once. These types of events are on annually, monthly, and even weekly. Why can’t disc golf be there? We touched on this topic in last week’s news release. I’ll expand on it here.
In my opinion, several things need to be in place in order for disc golf to get on television and, more importantly, succeed on television. Through conversations with people at Sports Broadcast Networks, things like the ESPN3 broadcast by the American disc golf tour do not move the needle inside Sports Broadcast Networks. What moves the needle is eyeballs already watching a sport. The ESPN3 eyeballs that were garnered would be a small part of a larger data picture.
So, the first thing that we need to get disc golf on TV is eyeballs. We need people watching. In order to get people watching, we need compelling story lines. Protagonists and antagonists giving us a reason for spectators to be emotionally vested. Basically, a good broadcast or show which moves us as people.
So, to build a good audience we first need to build characters for our stories. The touring Pros are our characters and the tournaments and the season as a whole are our stories. Several players have started to build their followings. They do this through social media, on-site clinics, and by winning. Growing a player’s fan base should be one of each players primary goals (in addition to playing well). Additionally, it needs to be a primary focus for the tour as a whole. This is one area the tour and the players need to work together.
The players are human. We all have good days and bad days and that is the reason that competition at the highest level is so compelling. Watching Nikko wear his emotions openly draws many people to him. Watching Nikko explode when things go wrong pushes many people away from him. Overall, he is great for the tour. If you follow disc golf, you have an opinion of Nikko. Thus, if he is on the lead card, people watching are emotionally vested, for or against him. This is what makes sports compelling.
When Eagle McMahon compares himself to the Atlanta Falcons, people can’t help but like him a bit more. My guess is at the premier events this year, many people will be rooting for him to succeed. Being human, being vulnerable, being real. These are the things that we as fans want to see. They make us emotionally vested and make watching very worthwhile.
So the players are our characters. The tournament and the season are our stories. Each event is an epic battle in and of itself. Whether someone blisters the course and has a wire-to-wire finish or there are dozens of lead changes throughout the week, either way, this story can be compelling as long as we care about the characters. One additional story the Pro Tour brings to the table is the season long story. Gaining tour points is important. Where players stand determines how easy their path will be to the Tour Championship Finals. This extra story makes all of the tournaments even more compelling.
So we have our characters and we have our stories. Now we need to be able to show and tell them well. The quality of the live broadcasts improves each year. There is more and more history to pull from, there are better and more statistics to display, and we know more and care more about the characters.
The final, and most difficult, piece is telling the story. When I watch poker, the announcers explain why a play is critical, how a player can mess up at this moment, what could happen if someone gambles wrong. I become interested because I have knowledge about what could happen and its impact on the characters in the story. When I watch Scrabble, the announcers tell me what the best possible moves are bearing in mind the letters of both players. The announcers point out several possible options for the player and explain the advantages and disadvantages of each. When a word is played, I understand its impact on the game and I understand if the player just made a mistake and how critical it might be.
Telling us the story is the key to compelling disc golf coverage. We are developing the characters, we know the story lines, the technological challenges of getting a quality video feed to the masses are being overcome. The final piece is telling the story. Once we are telling the viewers a compelling story, things will fall into place, our viewership will increase, and the Sports Broadcast Networks will take notice.
Once they take notice, we can’t expect them to live broadcast a four hour round right out of the gate. They will want to start with a condensed, edited, tournament recap show. Our partnership with Jomez Productions is the first step towards creating this show. We are excited to start the process and hope that you will join us on this journey. With you, and your eyeballs, we will succeed.
In closing, I have one request for you. Please let us know what we are doing well. Praise makes us happy to work hard to become “Disc Golf Rich”. Also, please let us know what we can improve and what you would like to see more of. Helping us make the show better will push the sport forward also.
Please watch and ask others to watch too!