Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Spartan Race and OCR Back on TV - Here We Go Again....Again...

Being on the obstacle course racing (OCR) circuit the end of this summer (Summer of OCR) and without Internet for much of the time, I seem to have missed this announcement! (PRESS RELEASE: CASTING BEGINS FOR NEW NBC COMPETITION SERIES ‘SPARTAN RACE’).  I did know something was happening since I had received two invitations from one of the show's producers to after I had already (politely of course) declined.

It's obvious that both NBC Sports and Spartan Race believe that these races can be transformed somehow into good TV.  And no doubt this is an important part of the growth plan for Spartan.  Personally, the only successful TV programming I've seen is the recent BattleFrog College Championship.  NBC Sports recently aired the latest Spartan Races produced in 2015, along with one from 2014.

Again, I have to remind everyone (before the hate mail begins), I love OCR and I'm waiting...and waiting...and waiting...for the time when we can actually watch these races in real time, but the 2015 versions of Spartan races were only marginally more entertaining than the initial TV offering Obstacle Course Racing on TV...well, it's a start!.  Maybe it's me, but the NBC shows completely fail to convey any sense of the excitement of doing an OCR race or even some real drama of the race itself.

While I don't pretend to have the answers, I'm hoping that the producers can come up with something better than what we've been subjected to so far.  Or maybe I've missed the point altogether and what the masses do want are more off-the-course drama and tidbits of the racers thoughts about what was going on during their run.  It seems though that before you care about the behind-the-scenes 'fluff', you have to care about the race and the racers.

Which brings me to the next point.  Are they still trying to build an audience without a following?  (The Present and Future of Obstacle Course Racing...and other secrets of the universe (Part one). Right now, the only people that are likely to be interested in OCR TV are the racers themselves.  Well, that and their families I suppose.  And that's the sense that you have to start somewhere.  But what about an audience outside that group?

Not everyone that watches NASCAR races a car themselves.  The same can be said for any other professional sport.  The major difference can go watch them in person!  Of course, you can go watch an OCR event too.  But to watch even a relatively small part of any race you need to be in reasonably decent shape and willing to hike around the venue a bit.  Most people aren't really all that into it enough to do that.  Not yet anyway.

However, that leads us to the next seeming 'obstacle' to building a solid fan base.  At most races, spectators are charged just come in to watch!  Ok, now I get that most professional sports do charge to get in.   But they have a product that people want and are willing to pay for.  OCR is still at a point in it's development where it should be doing anything it can to get feet on the ground at the events [note to self: the Olympics don't care about federations and committees...they care about who's going to watch!!].  It also seems that the more people you have at the event, the more merchandise and food sales you'll addition to the basic goal of building some real fan interest.  Although, to be honest, even being on site there is no practical way to watch the race, nor does there seem to be a general desire to watch anyone other than that family member or friend that's racing.

I do realize of course that there may be more practical reasons behind the decision to, in effect, keep the number of spectators low.  Available parking space at events is generally an issue and actual festival space at the venues is, in all likelihood, inadequate to accommodate any significant increase in the number of people.  

It will be very interesting to see how they do end up developing this show.  I'm still hopeful they will concentrate more this time on the actual racing.  Unfortunately, history would indicate that someone, somewhere along the line, wants this to be more reality TV instead.  Well, hope springs eternal...and in the meantime, I'll still go out and enjoy the races themselves!!

What do you think about OCR on TV?

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