Let me ask you a question. What do you think should be the most highly prioritized method for people to consume our sport? I’ve posed this question many times to members, social media followers and players and 99.9% have the same answer: mainstream television exposure.
We certainly are on TV a lot now on many regional and conference networks, but I hear constantly it isn’t enough. The biggest qualm they tell me is it’s rarely on the mainstream stations like ESPN, ABC, FOX, NBC and CBS. That in order for volleyball to really hit it big in the media market it has to be on those networks. Getting on those channels isn’t easy as you might imagine. The market for TV ratings has to be proven where matches are already being aired before moving up to those channels.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some TV ratings. The 2014 NCAA Semifinals on ESPN2 registered a 0.26 rating, down from 0.34 from last year. The NCAA Championship Match garnered a 0.41 rating, down from 0.61. For context, last year’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship registered a 2.0 on ESPN.
At first I wasn’t too happy with the ratings, but after I took some time basking in the warm sunshine of South Florida for a post-AVCA Convention vacation, I was able to reflect and turn the question I asked others back on me. Maybe hitting those mainstream networks isn’t the be-all end-all solution. By no means is anyone here at the AVCA throwing in the towel, but numbers never lie. It’s well documented our main playing demographic in girls and young women are watching less and less TV, especially sports on TV. Is it worth the 100% time, money and effort to keep going after them in that medium or do we try reaching them elsewhere? This is the new question I pose to everyone reading this.
Perhaps we have to go where they are, which is online. Going after them there can be more targeted, easier to track return on investment (ROI) and can be a lot more bang for your buck. You probably already know this, but TV is incredibly expensive no matter where it’s on. However, the bigger the network the more money is at stake. Right now, is our sport willing to take gigantic financial risks to hopefully be right even though numbers indicate otherwise?
Again, I’m not jumping ship on mainstream television. I acknowledge its importance in also reaching the casual sports fan who already watches sports on TV. We’ve been kicking around some ideas here in the office along the lines of more advertising of the championship on currently televised volleyball broadcasts and furthering the education among TV producers just to name a couple.
We’re trying to figure out new methods to do a better job of reaching the most amounts of people in a measurable way that can sell. In order for a TV broadcast to be considered commercially viable, meaning enough people watching for it to make money, it has to be at the 1.0 mark. With our 0.41 championship rating, we are a significant way from reaching that number. While we will continue to try our best to get that number up, let’s all put our heads together to see if we can make our sport commercially viable in perhaps less than traditional sectors.
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