RG Diary: Thursday May 26
Originally published on: 26/05/11 18:27
The day started early for us with an 8.30am breakfast at the Paris HQ of Eurosport for the first of a series of debates they are hosing about the current and future challenges faced by sport and media. Today’s debate was entitled “Tennis 3.0. Can tennis reinvent itself to grow in the digital era?” Panellists included Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent for the Times in London and Mats Wilander, former World No, 1 and 7 times Grand Slam Champion, oh and regular pundit on Eurosport. The debate was interesting; you may even have followed it as it was streamed live on Eurosport.com. I can’t help feeling that although TV tennis viewing is in decline and lots of people like talking and commenting via social media, the real challenge for broadcasters lies in how they can deliver to “viewing” audiences (irrespective of the media platform) the same experience that you get served up live when you are courtside.
In my opinion, it’s not enough to use the emerging technology; you have to be clever in what you put on it. Anyone who has either played tennis at a high level, or is passionate about watching live sport, knows there’s a passion in the game that is killed by a TV camera. Is 3D TV the answer to engaging audiences or does the game need to change? Probably a bit of both, but simpler than that, my view is that broadcasters should get their people thinking about the cameras they have, where should they be placed, how they can make the live coverage smell, taste, sound and feel like you were there, on the dirt, slugging it out, fighting to win. Of course we can chat about it via facebook and twitter, and of course sometimes a match is two hours and sometimes it’s five, but come on tennis is a great game, admittedly facing a few organisational challenges. The media has a responsibility and the ability to excite and enthuse people about the game and youngsters should be encouraged to play by seeing the excitement at the top of the game. It is time to change and it’s time for media companies to examine closely what they do and what they can deliver. Hats off to Eurosport for firing up the debate.
Back on court though, there were some surprises at Roland Garros today, the biggest upset was probably the demise of Kim Clijsters was defeated 36,75,61 by 20-year-old Russian Arantxa Rus. Other seeds who exited today included Marcos Baghdatis defeated by The Argentine Mayer (Leonardo) 75 64 76 (6) and Sam Querrey who went down in straight sets to Ivan Ljubcic76 64 64. The other Mayer (Florian), seeded 20, was defeated by qualifier Alejandro Falla 46 76 (4) 61 62.
The good news on the entertainment front is that Andrea Petkovic, who won her match against Czech Lucie Hradecka 76 62, is reviving the dance “Well, I said I wanted to stop dancing, and it’s not a real dance anymore. But after I stopped, I lost two times in the second round, and I played the most horrible tennis of my life probably. So I figure I think I have to change something. And in Strasbourg, because I think it fits for clay, the moonwalk, and I brought it in and I won the tournament. And I’m here in the third round, so I think it’s going well. I have to keep it up”. Bring it on, the sport needs it!
And so to the tennishead award for innovation at Roland Garros. It’s not really new because it’s been around for a while, but that TV camera that glides its way across court is a sight to behold and it’s been branded for the broadcaster, so in case you’ve never seen it, and so we can give the broadcaster an unashamed plug it wins today’s award for innovation. If tennis is to innovate and attract new people, it needs its sponsors and all tournaments will want to innovate to keep the money, to pay the players, who want to win and so we come full circle back to breakfast.