Published August 13, 2014
ASP CEO Paul Speaker calls Kelly Slater "the best athlete that has ever lived."
The two-year transformation of the Association of Surfing Professionals is showing signs of success with its management already looking to the future. Viewership and attendance numbers have been on the rise since the takeover of the ASP by ZoSea Media close to two years ago. The live webcast of the Vans US Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach had a cumulative viewership of more than 1.4 million from July 28-Aug. 3, according to IMG, which co-organized the event. ASP CEO Paul Speaker told SBD Global that the series has seen a 420% increase in its viewing audience across the different platforms. He added that the ASP’s use of social media is a driving force behind this increase. “Our sport doesn’t start at 1 o’clock and end at 3 o’clock,” Speaker said. “It is key for us to use social media to tell our fan base when we are on.” The ASP decided to split its media rights into three categories: a global digital deal with YouTube, a highlights show that is globally distributed through large broadcasters such as ESPN in the U.S., and live broadcast deals like with Fuel TV in Australia. Going forward, Speaker said, the ASP will need to be attentive to shoulder programming as distribution starts to change. “We got a 30-year archive. We have the opportunity to blow out a pretty significant relationship around storytelling, around our sport,” he said. In terms of on-site performance, all World Championship Tour events have seen a rise in attendance this season. Speaker attributes this increase to the changes in design and layout of the event beaches to move fans closer to the action. He said, “Attendance is up and the fan experience is better.” Speaker declined to comment on the ASP’s current financial situation, though he added, “We have all the revenue line items of a traditional sport, licensing, media rights and sponsorships
- Men's and Women's World Championship Tours
- Men's and Women's Qualification Series
- Men's Big Wave World Tour
- Men's and Women's World Longboard Championship
- Men's and Women's World Junior Championship
With the ASP seeing positive development in the first year under complete ownership by ZoSea, its management has already set its sight on new opportunities. ASP Global CCO Mark Noonan said it is very rare that a single property controls 100% of the content. “Working at MLS or U.S. Soccer, we always had a comparison to the great leagues in Europe and the great leagues in South America and the growing leagues in Australia and the J.League,” he said. “It really is a powerful proposition that has come together under this new ownership.” The ASP plans to use the growth in technology and user experience to strengthen the positioning and public awareness of professional surfing and its sanctioned competitions. In addition, Speaker said that the ASP will launch an initiative around special events at some point in ’15 or ‘16. “There’s an opportunity that we have, where maybe the waves are not as great or as perfect for a WCT event but gives us the opportunity to showcase our athletes -- more of an exhibition,” he said. The ASP is also patiently waiting for wave-pool technology to evolve. Speaker said that once there is a system in place that can create three-to-eight-foot waves, the ASP can create a stadium environment and schedule special events designed for TV. “It also would be a great opportunity for us to increase the potential for future athletes to come out of non-surf related communities and emerging markets.” However, Speaker believes that the technology is still two to three years away.