This year, the UnitedHealthcare US Open had one of the most raucous matches I've ever witnessed. The Men's Pro Doubles final between Kane Waselenchuk and Ben Croft and Alvaro Beltran and Daniel De La Rosa was epic. I'm not one to use that word often when describing racquetball matches, so, I may just be affirming for myself, that this match was beyond engaging. The players were animated, confrontational and visibly battling with everything they had. The crowd was "crazy loud", picking sides and responding to every play, gesture and vocal sound coming from inside the glass. Not only was the fantastic play pulling me into the action, but the energy in the stadium was admonishing me to keep focused on the match anytime I would turn may attention away. Anyone who was there or was watching the stream would know what I'm talking about.
But what about those who weren't there? Or the untold numbers of possible casual racquetball fans or racquet enthusiasts? This was the match to make available right away. At least the highlights. Done right, this one could have had anyone with racquet sports highlights sprinkled in their social feeds, finding this one popping up on their phones or laptops. As it is, when I went to find this one, (admittedly, right away,) the pay-per-view barrier was frictionally prohibitive. Frustrating, because I know it exists, yet, I easily moved on to one of the million other options I had at the moment to fill my time on social. I'm not knocking the model, indeed sports like Squash and Padel have it down pat. Both these sports feature pay-per-view models. It's not the model, it's the attention the sport of racquetball has been giving to fulfilling fan engagement and creating video content that can hold casual fans for a minute or two. Free streaming might have fulfilled my personal need immediately. Even though I don't tend to watch whole matches online, I probably would have watched most of this one because of my excitement to see it again. This particular match had everything that could engage a casual fan. Everything. For the event itself, it could have been a great summation for casual fans. Instead, it left the potential for sponsors untapped.
Even with free streaming, we are way behind social growth when it comes to video. More so than almost anyone reading this could imagine. Before you read on, watch this:
As a sport, we haven't consistently attacked the video potential with highlights. In not doing so, we've maybe fallen further behind in competing for possible casual growth for the sport. This type of technology is here. Exponential growth will mean that the technology will be more readily available to the consumer very soon. I can see "in camera" applications or portable video systems that will be able to do this type of stuff. But we are not in the practice of highlights as a sport. Which means, when it does become more easily available, so many consumers will already be using it before we can as a sport use them in a meaningful way for growth. We will be fighting to stay level with engagement.
Man, I kinda wanted to see that match again. But I got stopped by friction and then quickly caught up with the Padel Granada highlights from this weekend that popped up in my feed. Those highlights sucked the time I had allotted for that particular social session. The worst part is, I didn't see something relevant to me and my group, that I could have wanted to share.