OH CANADA ! Why no broadcasting / live streaming of field hockey from Pan Am Games Toronto 2015 ?

Posted in Argentine Hockey, English Hockey, on line marketing, Pan Am Games on July 23rd, 2015 by John Coxon

(Please note –  I have no official association professionally or otherwise with any hockey club or organisation and the views below are my own )

Hockey - made for television!

Hockey – made for television!

For field hockey to grow & have profile/status  I feel it deserves live streaming of all major events as standard is vital but sadly that still remains the dream. The Pan Am Games, for fans of hockey, has much wider importance than for those in the New World because with the Rio Olympics now imminent , the Pan Ams are both a ticket for international teams to qualify but also of great interest for teams and their fans in Europe and the Southern Hemisphere who welcome the opportunity to see where the higher world ranked teams , like Argentina and USA are up to development wise  but why when so many around the world would like to watch live games is this how the game is currently represented ? Like this sadly :-

Blank Screen - no broadcasts

Blank Screen – no broadcasts

Like many professional photographers and journalists I empathise with so called minority sports like field hockey and where I can , use the internet and social media prolifically to offer what support I can in images and words.  To do this adequately live coverage /live streamed broadcasts are essential.  The recent World Hockey League in Valencia and Antwerp was covered by mainstream broadcaster SkySports ( where the sports governing body had paid for coverage) and crucially also available free and live streamed via Star TV India enabling those without the means to go Pay Per View to watch the games and help raise the profile of the game but fans of the game had to rely on people like myself and many others  sharing links to the alternative streaming.  The Star India TV website was not an easy to navigate one and I found it a real challenge to find live feeds there confounded by confusion about time zones.

argentine TYc

For the Pan Am Games only Argentina’s TyC sports TV has provided limited live streamed coverage via its web site where their national sides have been involved but this with sound but no commentary and for those trying to access and watch games outside of Argentina many found that the broadcasts were subject to regional restrictions.

Tyc - hard to navigate site !

Tyc – hard to navigate site !

Those with the savvy could , as I was able to do with some difficulty for the games featuring teams from Argentina,  use the trusted “Hola “ Google Chrome extension which overcomes regional barriers by enabling you to appear to be browsing from the country where there are no regional restrictions in play.

Promising but deceptively selective !

Promising but deceptively selective !

Even without language issues I found it frustratingly difficult to find the relevant live feed on the Tyc website and had to rely on fans Tweeting me direct urls

Relatively simple & affordable technology is available as an alternative to cover  * live stream games -mainstream broadcasters are not essential.

Relatively simple & affordable technology is available as an alternative to cover * live stream games -mainstream broadcasters are not essential.

But, as with Star TV, in addition to time differences both theirs and the Tyc websites proved very challenging to find the actual source of the live feeds .  Naturally, without the broadcasting rights, individual hockey governing bodies around the world would not be able to make public , nor be seen to be privy to helping fans get around restrictions by for example Tweeting alternative live feed URLS although individual fans are not constrained in that regard. ( Most if not all international hockey organisations do a valiant job, particularly on Twitter, announcing  games and then providing updates via live tweet commentary which also helps fans and supporters of the games to have at least some access to what is going on)

Even semi final between hosts & USA not televised due to rights issues.  (image source PAGH website )

Even semi final between hosts & USA not televised due to rights issues. (image source PAGH website )

 

ALL ABOUT THE MONEY, MONEY , MONEY  NOT SPORT ?

The issue is that of the trend in the way broadcasting rights are sold en masse and to me it appears very odd that the sports global governing body, the International hockey Federation (FIH) and the Pan Am Games Hockey Federation were both disenfranchised by this blanket broadcasting rights deal on offer even though in fact no provision was in place, it appears, to have field hockey games covered by TV cameras at all in Toronto.  In effect, bizarrely it seem to me,  the game somehow   does not own its own image rights and therefore is unable to license rights to view its brand and thus both gain income from it and help raise the profile of the game  and help it reach new audiences.  That does not appear to have been an issue for the International Triathlon Union who are world leaders in covering their sport proactively.

The Pan Am Hockey organisation published an explanation of the issues in detail and  they have it transpires valiantly tried to overcome them without success.

“ This company ( 3rd party to who all rights were sold) has no real interest in the Games themselves, in the competitions or in the sports fans; they are a financial institution needing a return on their investment and they categorically refused to let the continental sport organizations stream the competitions not covered by TV, unless they purchase the broadcast rights for every single country where the stream would be accessible…

In other terms, they prefer to protect their rights to nothing (since there is no feed produced) rather than cooperate with the continental sport organizations in the interest of sport and sports fans…”

WHO SOLD SPORT OUT ?

(I am left puzzled in asking the question who in fact owns the rights for events like the Pan Am Games and thus who agreed, for profit I would hazard a guess , to allow all rights to all sports featured at the events( sports whether actually  televised or not) to be sold outright to a third party with no other interest  than in financial gain ??)

IS HOCKEY MARKETABLE ?

 

Field Hockey has an ever growing number of active participants globally and the standard of the game is ever improving and has  included changing some of the rules to make it more attractive for spectators and a wider public whose attention it may  thus far have escaped. So the brand itself is in a much better place than ever before. In the UK for example it is second only to football in the number of active participants it has and yet here it still struggles to attract adequate  investment from sponsors .

 

Globally, this broadcasting fiasco in Toronto, is a global symptom of a marketing reality of major sports events like Olympics  where sports like Hockey with genuine sporting values are not the focus of global highly ethical brands but to an extent victims of opportunistic global brands  milking a good thing & paying for the kudos of appearing ethical ! It  no fault of the sport or its governance . The Pan Am Games throws up key issues which can only be addressed by the sport being even more proactive in marketing and broadcasting including securing rights to its own brand.

Live streaming not terrestrial TV is the future of all sports both as public  access to them  is increasingly on line through phones and a range of other hand held devices.

As with the London Olympics, where spectator numbers for hockey outstripped all other competitive team games , hockey has proved already that it is a marketable and potentially far more popular sport than current broadcaster interest suggests.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT (It is not without irony that the UK ,Europe ,Americas and elsewhere are under very real threat from an obesity epidemic  a combination of poor diet, junk food preferences and lack of physical activity and sports like field hockey  offer role models to aspire to be like  plus bringing a range of health benefits to those involved in it at all levels. The inclusion of both Coca Cola and Mc Donalds as major sponsors of the London Olympics  really indicates the power of wealthy conglomerates  and perhaps their cynicism  . In both cases, with those brands aware that their products  cannot be radically altered to make them more healthy without losing considerable sales, investing heavily in sport sponsorship  enables them, by dint of association, to appear to be helping fund healthier options ! )

HOCKEY – THE BRAND

Hockey is a pacey dramatic sport to view on TV these days

Hockey is a pacey dramatic sport to view on TV these days

 

Field hockey as is an exciting and ethical  brand  where played at the highest level, attractive to watch and more than worthy of more funding and sponsor investment . Hockey  does not have an image problem in the same way for example that football does.

 

Hockey  embodies at all levels including international, the spirit of traditional sporting values and is free from doping scandals, corruption scandals at governing body level and free of racism and simulation and other forms of cheating to gain advantage and players who social behaviour brings the sport into disrepute.  Governing bodies internationally , along with the hockey community have made great strides in the last decade or so  to raise the profile of the game and to attract better inward investment  in a variety of ways including making very effective use of social media  but , for it to enjoy the profile it deserves it is regular  live broadcasts of major events that it desperately needs to broaden its audience to the extent I really do feel it deserves.

 

It appears that before the Pan Am Games urgent attention was given to trying to resolve these issues including investigating hiring a company to be present videoing the games , a considerable expense where 48 games in total were involved.  Essentially , rights for sports that do enjoy more media attention already were handsomely covered for live broadcasting and hockey would have had to bid very large sums to secure rights which was beyond the games current  means.

 

For more on this sad state of affairs read the Pan Am Hockey website article on the issue  http://www.panamhockey.org/en/news-374-no-television-coverage-or-streaming-for-hockey

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