By Alex Webbe
“For everyone asking for the live streaming of the gold cup on pololine tv, we couldn't fulfill the conditions imposed by the club organizer” is the message being sent on Twitter by Pololine, the group that delivered the livestreaming of the Cartier Queens Cup.
After constant Internet televised coverage of the Cartier Queens Cup and a number of other high-goal competitions, it was learned that the Cowdray Park Polo Club would not allow the livestreaming of their British Open games without an agreed upon payment for the broadcast rights. What should be understood, however, is the market value of the broadcast rights.
A normal practice in American football, basketball, hockey and golf, the purchase of broadcast rights for the “minor” sport of polo has yet to demand such fees.
“There isn’t a viable audience with the numbers that command a broadcast fee at this point of the game,” said a television veteran who didn’t want to be identified. “With the limited number of viewers that the broadcasting of such events captures, there is virtually no monetary value to it. At this point in time the clubs or associations should be underwriting the broadcasting efforts in an effort to build the audience.”
The first televised sports in America were boxing and professional wrestling. Both arrived with built in sponsors with beer and razor blades stepping up, but polo has no such built in market.
The sponsors most closely associated with the game are Cartier, Piaget and of course Ralph Lauren’s POLO brand. Neither Cartier nor Piaget advertise on television, and have such a limited target market that the expense of financially funding televised coverage of polo games wouldn’t be justified by the return on the investment, and Ralph Lauren has no real affinity for the sport other than the lifestyle image with which he brands his products.
Polo might want to take a look at the evolution of the broadcasting of golf and tennis, a couple of “country club” sports that had virtually no following until they were picked up by PBS (Public Broadcasting Service), the government funded, non-profit entity that first popularized the sports.
In order to hire the cameramen, supply the audio, announcers, spotters and editors, the pioneer polo broadcasters must make significant investments, with little or no initial return on their investments. Polo clubs and associations need to step up to the plate in an effort to popularize the game, and one of those vehicles is television.
Until golf and tennis were broadcast they had virtually no following. Today they are billion dollar enterprises. Keeping the game under wraps because of a dispute over the initial funding isn’t going to do anyone any good, and will merely keep the excitement of the game of polo a secret for a few more years. There are initial steps that must be taken before any big media dollars can be realized, and promoters of the game need to be patient and allow for the audience to be developed so that there is a real market on which to trade.