The evolution of curling coverage
Pay-per-view streaming returned to the world of curling last week, with a twist.
The World Mixed Doubles Championships in Geneva once again saw World Curling Television use the Recast service (recast.app), which charges £0.50 per match. It’s the same service that was used in the Olympic qualifying event and European Championships earlier this season that prompted this column, as well as the recent men’s and women’s world championships.
Regional bans were enforced (e.g. any game broadcast on TSN was unavailable in Canada during the revamp), but there were at least two games per draw that received the full broadcast experience – with on-site commentary, multiple cameras and production, etc.
Now for the twist. If your favorite team didn’t get coverage, WCF added a “light coverage” option to the other three matches that didn’t get the full treatment. The light coverage consisted of two fixed cameras pointed at the two homes in a split-screen presentation, and the action was shown without commentary, replays or alternate angles.
Dozens of the other four sheets ran along the bottom of the viewer’s screen.
The audio wasn’t great, as the player microphones weren’t turned on and they had a microphone picking up ambient noise near the ice (and the microphone for Sheets A and B had to be near the ventilation system or something thing like that, because there was a lot of white noise there).
This lightweight blanket costs £0.25; half as much as games with commentary, bells and whistles.
Although the level of coverage is that of a curling club getting into streaming the league of the league on YouTube, it does at least provide the ability to follow any match, which is a far superior experience than waiting for line scores to update after each end. . We’ll probably never see four or five fully produced games at once, except at the Olympics, so this lightweight coverage, which has been requested on many curling newsgroups over the years, is a good compromise.
While cable television sports coverage isn’t going away, internet streaming is on the rise and will only become commonplace. I know most will complain about having to pay to watch a game, but these are essentially micro-transactions, and compared to what you have to pay to subscribe to a cable channel, either directly or through a cable subscription, it doesn’t break the bank.
So the question I posed in December remains… how much is broadcast curling worth to you?