Figure Skating, Television and Economics

Skating on TV

By Vladislav Luchianov

The figure skating season is coming to its end and once again we should consider one sad fact – a very low percentage of TV broadcasts on the major sports channels.

Skating fans often say that the big TV channels prefer other sports, forgetting about the existence of figure skating. Some of others stand for the idea that TV stations have to broadcast this sport for its popularization. To understand why these calls have absolutely no effect, it is necessary to turn to the elementary principles of economics.

Let’s start with the fact that modern television is a big business. No one will show you on the TV in prime time just because you really want it. This means that the administration of such giants as NBC or Eurosport is guided in their choice by specific criteria.

What are the criteria? One of the most important is the popularity of a kind of sport in comparison to other sports, which can be shown at the same time. Television, like any other normal business, will always offer more of what is the most popular. It is the law of the market economy.

A role of motivation (stimulus) of a man to certain actions, another important point, is very well described in the book Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan. The author is a former correspondent for The Economist, and the author of assorted books that attempt to make serious topics more accessible (and even fun). By the way, I suggest this book to everyone who wants to understand how the world (and your personal) economics works.

The motivation stimulates businessmen to invest finances in the most profitable, flexible and transparent sectors. Modern TV is one of such sectors. The same laws of economics are working there. Always and without exception. That is why on your TV screen will appear more often only those programs that have a high rating.

Why is that so important? Because the price of one minute of TV advertising during a tennis match between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova is several times higher than the estimated price for advertising in any of figure skating event.

You can angrily ask why TV stations are interested mostly in profit. Because the success of investment allows the company develop and improve the quality of broadcasts and offer to its audience high quality TV products. The profit largely determines the development, growth and competitiveness in the market.

One may shout, get angry and be indignant, but no sane entrepreneur will invest the work of his employees, his time and money in an unprofitable industry. By the way, you do the same thing every day. When you’re in supermarket, you’re trying to find and buy products that your family wishes, not the staff they don’t need. Isn’t it?

So what to do then? Now we come to the most important aspect. In your opinion, what should be done to any country’s economic growth? You are right – the creation of necessary conditions for such growth and development. And who provides and regulates such conditions? The state. Its mechanism is obliged to create maximum conditions for the development of different sectors of the economy.

How figure skating is related with that? Skating has a direct relation to all those issues. Any sport has its own “government.” In figure skating it is ISU. I think now many things became clear. If the government works effectively, the economy of a country begins to rise and vice versa.

Unfortunately, there are lots of doubts when it comes to the present ISU’s effectiveness. Half-empty stands, the strange results of competitions and very controversial judging system of this sport speak for themselves. That is why there is absolutely no sense for the main sports channels increasing the number of skating broadcasts. They are much more willing to cooperate with those sports that are worth investing in.

According to the statistics of Topend Sports website, figure skating, unfortunately, is not included in the top ten nor top twenty most popular sports. It is also telling much.

However, we should not be too pessimistic. The market economy is a very flexible mechanism, which is constantly looking for new opportunities for its growth. And usually it finds them. The main thing is to create the necessary conditions and that depends on the “government.”

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