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Sports that should be on TV

The Game of My Life By Bill VelascoThere are many new developments in audience profile, technology and advertising that have made the television market ripe for new sports to get live (or taped as live) coverage. Just this week, the PBA’s team owners discussed the future of their own television broadcast.

High ratings for college sports like volleyball have made even the second semester sports calendar appealing to sponsors.

The Filipino sports audience over the last 20 years has become more discerning, more patient, and more savvy. Television is no longer merely the domain of basketball, boxing and billiards.

Soccer, just to give a more recent example, has made great inroads. Thanks to football camps all over the country and the newfound popularity of the Younghusband brothers and Azkals. Through them, Filipino fans have rediscovered the beauty of the game. But there are more sports out there merely waiting for an advertiser to claim them as their own.

I remember a conversation I once had with former Sen. Freddie Webb, when he was chairman of the committee on youth and sports. He didn’t really like American football when he was very active in politics. But because it was frequently on telvision in the early days of cable, he ended up able to watch it quite often for lack of better fare. As a result, he ended up understanding the sport, and appreciating it on its own merits.

Taekwondo. Of course, combat sports will always have an advantage when it comes to television coverage. Action is fast, scoring is high, matches can be unpredictable, and fans get rowdy. Filipinos are world-class in taekwondo, the sport has its own magazine show, and it is very popular among children. There are already regular sponsors supporting the sport, and it is very organized. The only thing missing is for fans to understand the finer points of the sport on a mass scale. Once the ordinary Juan dela Cruz gets it, it will be easier to teach.

Dancesport. In terms of grace and beauty and athletic talent, Filipinos are among the giants in Asia in dancesport. We already own one Guinness world record in it, and swept both golds in the inaugural SEA Games competition in it in Cebu in 2005. Unfortunately, dancesport was one of 14 sports voted down from introduction into the Olympic Games eight years ago, along with bowling and billiards. Still, nothing can stop us from being world-beaters. If there were more events for children and teens, advertises would jump on this bandwagon. The only thing the sport needs is a strong marketing push, tweaking it so it doesn’t intimidate the masses, and trickling down the training to students. All of these can be easily achieved. And competitions look gorgeous on TV.

Arnis. The official sports and martial art of the Philippines, despite being proliferated by so many masters, is still something many Filipinos do not comprehend. If basic scoring and the basic differences between traditional and modern forms of competition are taught to children as mandated by DepEd, we will have a much bigger audience for it. Imagine boxing, but with sticks. The sound alone has attracted at least two major sponsors. With a few more coming in, arnis could be well on its way to becoming a weekend afternoon TV feature.

Motocross. This writer covered the Lanao del Norte International Motocross event in December, and 40,000 people watched the final day of competition. Imagine if that kind of an audience – typical in the provinces – is harnessed for television? There is also a heavy monthly calendar for this year, with no less than eight national races and four international races in 2011. Motocross is also a great testing site for new television technology freeing cameras from cables, allowing them to get anywhere on the track to follow the action. And motocross has speed, danger, action, competitiveness. And even children compete in it.

Bowling. Yes, bowling. In the US, bowling has become sexy with “arena bowling”. A pair of lanes is set up outdoors, with a live audience as bowlers face off against each other. Many international competitors have very colorful personalities, and the professional side is doing well in the United States. Here in the Philippines, there are major tournaments every month, our bowlers are the best in the world, it’s an easy sport to learn, scoring is constant, and competitions are easy to cover for television. What more could you want?

Sport stacking. A relatively new sport whose world champion, Steven Purugganan, happens to be a Filipino. For more than two years now, Steven has been shattering world records at an unprecedented rate.

Each competitor is naturally videotaped in international competitions, making it convenient to show slow-motion replays and explain technique.

Imagine, one of his world records is under two seconds. You will need a slo-mo replay. More importantly, it is a sport that kids dominate by far. It is a natural for weekend afternoon programming.

Darts. For the more discriminating fan, nobody has done a decent darts coverage in the Philippines. Strangely enough, it is the easiest sport to cover. All you need is one camera on the darter, and one on the board, via split screen. The rest is easy. Venues are small, confined spaces, there is always a lot of tension, prize money is small, and there is a built-in need for beer. Believe me, darts is a television dream waiting to happen.

There are other sports out there that would be attractive TV fare, but these make the top of my list. If only the networks were listening.

Toronto, Canada

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