What might we expect from the new media ownership?
While the ASP has issued a formal statement relating to the sale of the ASP to ZoSea media, details about the nature of the deal remain unclear. The founders of ZoSea, Terry Hardy and Paul Speaker, are already well known in the industry but their vision for the sport is yet to be sketched out for the surfing public. Hardy is Kelly Slater’s manager and was one of the key backers of a proposed rebel tour back in 2009, while Paul Speaker is a board member at Quiksilver
While comments in relation to the sale from both the surfers’ rep, Kieren Perrow and ASP international media manager, Dave Prodan, have been overwhelmingly positive, a few of the key, potential variables are yet to be discussed. One main issue is whether or not the ASP will transfer from a not-for-profit organization, as it is now, to a more commercially driven entity. At present the ASP survives predominately on the licensing fees received for events from sponsors hosting said contests. The terms and conditions of the ASP currently state.
“The not-for-profit entity Association of Surfing Professionals …
ASP acts exclusively as an intermediary and is not an organiser of professional surfing events but licenses the rights to the relevant organiser to run the particular event to an ASP standard (Event). ASP acts exclusively as an intermediary and is not an organiser of professional surfing events but licenses the rights to the relevant organiser to run the particular event to an ASP standard (Event).”
The injection of cash the ASP is about to receive is likely to serve the skeleton-staffed organisation well. However, it is highly likely that the new owners will want to recoup costs via various means.
One obvious potential income stream would involve making the webcasts, which fans can now watch for free, available exclusively through a pay-per-view arrangement. This is only a hypothetical but the bottom line is that an ASP that strips itself of its not-for-profit tag is likely to aggressively pursue a profit model. Several other sporting organizations around the globe operate this way.
The English Premiere League [soccer] is one example. The Premiere League, which boasts tens of millions of fans around the world, operates as a corporation in which the 20 member clubs are each shareholders of the League. They therefore each receive a split of the profits derived from TV rights and sponsors.
This is one model, which may be employed by the ASP, with the surfers themselves in essence becoming shareholders of their sport and receiving a dividend of the profits acquired. Already there are rumours that the new deal involves major cash incentives for the surfers on the WCT.
Whether this will be achieved through increased prize money or more creative financial means is not yet clear.
Given that a singular company will now control the ASP media, we may also expect to see greater uniformity in the delivery of the product that is ASP surfing. Under the current model each event sponsor owns their own media rights. Commentators chop and change from event-to-event and each sponsor is given a great degree of flexibility in how they choose to present their respective webcasts. ASP’s most valuable asset is arguably the sale of the media associated with its events. However, the package is devalued when it can’t be delivered in a consistent fashion. Blanket ownership of the media should make the sale of the package more efficient. For example a network in say Europe that wanted to buy the rights to screen the whole tour, no longer has to deal with four or five different companies [Quiksilver, Billabong, Rip Curl etc] who each own their media rights; ZoSea will simply negotiate an arrangement to screen every event.
Ultimately the question is about the sport reaching its full potential. Most would agree that there has been too much instability and change over the past few years. Yet despite the volatility in relation to mid-year cut-offs, contest formats, world title miscalculations and disappearing CEO’s, it seems we are more in love with professional surfing than ever. Until the details of this new deal become clearer we can only cross our legropes and hope that sport gets even better.
Read the ASP's full statement: HERE
– Luke Kennedy
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