Part 1: Firefighter Combat Challenge and TV
In 1992, at our inaugural championship, FETN did a 30-minute special feature that was distributed to their satellite customers. In 1993 we were on ESPN and stayed there for 10 years with a one-hour show. For a variety of reasons discussed below, our show was not renewed and we have subsequently moved to Versus.
The purpose of this article is to provide the reader with an overview of how television works, how we fit into the equation and what are our plans for the future. As always, every Challenge competitor is solicited for his or her opinion and suggestions on how we can grow the sport. So, here goes.
TV comes in two flavors; network and cable/satellite. Advertisers pay for production costs and content is freely distributed with the hope that viewers will purchase their product. With cable, the subscriber pays for content with some channels also subsidized by commercials.
Sport on TV is an interesting model. Because some sports are so attractive to the masses, sponsors will provide lots of money to associate their product with those qualities that we hold so dear- strength, speed, etc. Professional sports attract varying levels of paid attendance. The rights-holders (team owners) can command large sums of money to control access to their events. They do this through ticket sales as well as broadcast rights. The Firefighter Combat Challenge does not have sufficient general, or even special market appeal to command a gate (the money you pay to get in). Until we are able to demand that people pay to see our act, we’re going to be severely limited in what we can do on TV.
Academic sports as differentiated from professional sports are actually the farm system for the majors; ergo they command a gate. Minor sports (wrestling, track, etc.) are able to sometimes collect a fee if sufficient friends and relatives come to watch the event and are held hostage. This simply analogy to other organized sports and the Firefighter Combat Challenge should help your understanding as to where we are when it comes to bargaining for visibility in an already cluttered field of entertainment. Said another way, while our Challenge competitors may have the fitness of world-class athletes, there are insufficient numbers of people in the general market to command an entrance fee.
If you saw the first Firefighter Combat Challenge appearance on ESPN, I doubt that you would have been impressed. We’d like to think that we’ve come a long way. But, the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge is not in a category where the viewing public will pay to attend or even pay to watch it on VOD. So how can we change that? Well, as always, we’re open to your thoughts on what you think that the masses- not your family or friends would like to see. Keep in mind, TV is about audience appeal, and audiences vote with the remote at the speed of light. Don’t like this program?, no problem, there are hundreds of others to surf through.