Who watches a live stream anyway?
Statistics: Philip Goebel, Photos: Sytse van Slooten
We became curious and asked ourselves, does anyone even look at the IFSC live-stream?
A quick skim through the YouTube channel and copying down all the view-stats and twisting the data around a bit and we quickly come to the resounding answer; yes, and lots!
Over 2.8 million views of the IFSC live event-streams in 2016!
Bouldering events are by far the most popular commanding a whopping 65-66% of all views, Lead capturing the attention of 32% and Speed taking the small remaining balance.
The number of views has almost doubled since 2014, increasing from 1.5 million to the 2.84 in 2016 and a small further from Lead to Bouldering. A very interesting observation is that almost all this increased interest is in viewing semi-finals. Yes, Finals did increase views, but only by 10% from 2015 whilst semi-final viewing increased by over 100% showing the commitment from the worlds climbing viewers.
The World Cup in Paris last year was a great YouTube success, attracting almost 630 000 views, to date the single largest IFSC streaming event, but the stats also show how important the North American events are. Vail, Colorado and Toronto, Canada events are massive, generating between 250 000 and 520 000 streams, eclipsing the European masters, Munich and Innsbruck by some margin. A big, pleasant surprise from the 2016 season was the support Navi, India got, now sitting at a very respectable 195 000.
Unfortunately, the public YouTube statistics we have access to do not tell us exactly how many individuals are looking at the events nor from what countries they come from, but we feel it is safe to say that almost all countries of the world with a climber is represented. Looking at the single largest finals event, Vail 2015, with a bit over 450 000 streams we can make an educated guess that somewhere between half a million to one million people have at some point viewed an IFSC live-streamed event.
Is a subscription model financially viable?
The next interesting question we would like to get answered is how many of these users will sign up for a paid subscription? If they can achieve the high conversion earned by the likes of Spotify, which sits at around 25%, this model will become a resounding financial success, reaping some $ 15 million in annual revenues, however if they achieve norms more in line with the New York Times and others, a number between 2% and 5% is more realistic (source: Harvard Business Review). At 2%, this number will come into the $ 1+ million range. However if the numbers fall to 1% or below, it is questionable if this model is viable considering the number of events spread globally and with huge logistical obstacles.
If they can achieve the high conversion earned by the likes of Spotify, which sits at around 25%, this model will become a resounding financial success, reaping some $ 15 million in annual revenues
Financially, this would probably still be a viable business proposition, however, the number of viewers would shrink from between one half and a million to just 10-20 thousand. Even these numbers are probably optimistic considering the current negative sentiment we have witnessed across all social media the last day or two.
What are the potential costs to the Sport Climbing Community?
Even if the production company or even the if the IFSC manage to make a subscription model financially viable, what is the extended cost to the greater sport climbing community when viewership numbers drastically decline (it is safe to say number will drop, whether by 75% or by 99% or more is a bit harder to predict)? We don’t have the answers, but some of the questions it raises are:
– How will this impact aspiring young climbers, their families, friends and supporters around the world without access – will they still receive that jolt of motivation without the excitement of live broadcasts?
– How will this affect athletes and climbing federation’s ability to attracting or even retaining current sponsors? Will sponsors still see the full value if global distribution of 500 000 or a million dedicated climbers and viewers is reduced to a mere couple of thousand?
– Have the free live-stream events created any significant increase in affection for the sport and have they helped to promote its growth? If so, will limited access and lower viewerships have any longer-term negative impact?
We are sure there are many more open questions that only time will answer, but one thing seems true, the debate on free-to-air vs subscription is not over. The climbing community has come out in force with a petition to cancel the IFSC Live-streaming subscription fees and as of writing, there are now 11 446 signatures and athletes stages a protest at the opening ceremony which has had the effect of the IFSC making a concession – the Meiringen 2017 Bouldering World Cup semi-finals and finals will be free to view on YouTube.
We are following the topic with interest and will add more stories and analysis as news and information is available.