Thursday, February 13, 2014

Shooting Sports on TV

With biathlete Lanny Barnes getting ready for her first Olympic run, my pal Paul Erhardt decided it was a good time to stir the old shooting sports pot with an excellent "Between the Berms" column in The Shooting Wire basically outlining how scoring systems are, in a sense, holding the shooting sports back:
In order to tell the story of a sport and a competition you have to tell the story through scoring. 
Think of it this way. Imagine watching a baseball game where the scoring isn't provided until the last batter is out. That's kinda how the shooting sports approach scoring. 
What needs to happen is the shooting sports have to invest in the infrastructure of scoring beyond a freshly sharpened pencil and neatly printed two-part carbonless score sheet.
Kevin Creighton from Misfires & Light Strikes piled on at DRTV (incidentally, the very first post for out Guest Blogger program):
If practical shooting isn’t a spectator sport, it is, by definition not a TV sport. There’s a vicious circle going on here: Practical shooting doesn’t get TV exposure because no one goes to the matches, and no one goes to the matches because it doesn’t get TV exposure. Solve one problem, and you’ll solve the other.
Both Kevin and Paul are right, but I'm not sure they're right enough. I've got more than a decade of putting the shooting sports on television, honestly with mixed success. In the last couple of years Producers John Carter, Mike Long and I have pretty much "decoded" how to do the sports on television in a way that draws the viewer into the event.

Along the way we've discovered an interesting "root" problem...all of us, and probably most of the people reading this blog, make the baseline assumption that the shooting sports want to grow, and increased exposure is critical to that point.

I'm not sure that's the case. My thinking goes back to BTV* (*Before TV) when I launched a quixotic run for the presidency of the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA). My platform was based on growth and what we as practical shooters heeded to do to make that growth happen. I had about a bazillion accumulated miles, so I did a lot of traveling around the country to matches.

What I did not find was a consensus that growth was in fact a desirable goal. I'd say that on the balance most clubs were totally happy with the status quo and saw growth as a negative (more people, more crowded matches, increased complications in running events, etc.). That was a long time ago, but one thing I've seen since is that despite many and varied grow-the-sport programs over the years, not all of the practical sports have grown. I have attributed that lack of/slow growth to the unstated resistance at the grassroots level.

Anyway, Marshal and I agree that for a shooting sport to be truly successful on television, we probably need to start from scratch. That's why TOP SHOT was such a success — it was a television event that featured shooting, as opposed to a shooting event covered by television.

Marshal notes that long-range shooting is a big television draw in Norway...12,000 spectators watching 6,000 shooters over a 7 day period — out of a country of 5 million! Here's a link to the televised finals. Note the world class scoring system as discussed by Paul and Kevin. It exists!

We're pretty excited about the Peacemaker World Shooting Championships, which we'll be full-court-press covering for SHOOTING GALLERY 2015. These guys are doing everything right, and I'll go out on a limb and say this looks like the composite match we've all been hoping for. Even better, we're involved on the ground floor, because we want this match to be a home run.


Anonymous said...

I don't think you could be any more right about this. My experience as a late arriver to competitive shooting is one of trying to break into a cabal of learned folks who seem to know precisely where matches will be occurring and who will be there.

Decidedly unfriendly to the newcomer and very locally based (not necessarily a bad thing that) most events are quite fine with little fanfare and a small number of participants.

In other words we like it just the way it is and has been feller...

Sheepdog1968 said...

I just watched your link. I could easily see watching this on TV. Thanks for the link.

Heck, I lived in the UK for two years in the 90s and watched the snooker championships and enjoyed that. Shooting is much more fun to watch. You are right about matches, the delayed scoring does reduce the ability to see who is winning and loosing in real time and does reduce its main stream popularity.

I could see where corporate sponsors could really get behind a new shooting sport of some kind. Maybe like a decathalon type shooting event in which it takes a well rounded individual to win. You could also tie in a NASCAR type stock system of stock weapons so it removes some of the trickness to it.

Have you ever watched the American Nijia Warrior events on TV (or the Japanese true event)? It is quite an action packed event.

There is no reason we couldn't do something like this with guns. Have a series of events, some clays, long distance, speed shooting, etc. Have companies provide stock firearms and put up decent purse money and people will watch it.

Overload in Colorado said...

Rally Racing and Bicycle road racing are both spectator sports that have stages and you don't know the winner until the very end. You could take the it further and say that a game in any major sport is a stage and that you don't know the season winner until the last game.

There's an article in this week's Autoweek about NHRA TV coverage. They pay ESPN2 to broadcast their events, and are still getting preempted by other sports, so much so that you can't even set a PVR to catch it. So, a shooting sport could pay a TV channel to broadcast their event, at their own peril.

3 Gun nation is getting broadcast weekly on a few different channels. How is their attendance? Some baseball teams draw in the low thousands and still get broadcast. I remember a shotgun event, Star Shot, on ESPN back in the 90s.

USPSA's scoring system is such that you can't follow it in real time, as it's based on a ratio of points per second. Other shooting sports where lack of accuracy is added to time can be figured out much easier.

I think it's just that watching a single person shooting isn't exciting. The 3-Gun final or any head-to-head event with a stop plate is much more TV and fan friendly.
Of course, I've been watching Curling, so what do I know? It's team shuffleboard, right? Or is it closer to skittles?

Anonymous said...

Practicescore is an amazing tool. Almost real time scoring available during the match. As competitors or spectators you can see exactly what you need to do score wise on any given stage after your first stage is complete.

E. J. Redding

P. S. Thanks for the plug Wednesday night on "Rest Stop"

Ken Nelson said...

Hi Michael,

As EJ says, PractiScore is electronic scoring for all types of Practical Shooting. USPSA, IDPA, 3GN, IPSC, Tiime Plus, Time Plus w/points, and custom.

The USPSA and 3GN use it as their official scoring software. And it's legal to use in all the others. It's used by hundreds of clubs all over the world.

It scales from single device, paper scoring, all the way up to real-time scoring used at USPSA Nationals this last Sept.

I'm not sure, but I think the Peacekeeper Worlds are using it, Larry (the MD) certainly has used it at other matches (like the FNH MG).

And it's free. (-:

If you or Paul want to know about it, just visit, and or email me (kn@kennelson,com)


Ken Nelson

Ken Nelson said...

Now... as to your comments about growth, or lack of interest in growth... ABOSLUTELY

I see that frequently. It's, frankly, more work, less fun, for the typical match manager.

IMHO the usual key to thoughts on growth is where the $$ go. At ranges that take all the money (or most), growth is not desired. At ranges, where the money goes back into the match or the people running it, growth! See Communism vs Capitalism for more info...

So Rio...growing dynamic, St George, UT, same, Vegas under Pete Rensing, same. And the prototypical long time model - JoJo in Norco, who is running L2 size matches every weekend.

There are exceptions, certainly, but human nature rules.

I'd add that the same applies to the sports as a whole. If the boards and people running them are paid on growth, boom, that's what you get. If not, then if it happens, credit is taken, but nothing really had been done. Of all the major variants, only 3GN has a real marketing effort, admittedly most of that is low hanging fruit from dissatisfied USPSA members or outlaw match shooters.

Follow the money, you will follow the interest i growth!


Ken N.

P.S. I'd be happy to host you (TV filming or not) to show you how the St. George range works every day to grow practical shooting.

KevinC said...

Practiscore is pretty good, and both the ranges I shoot at uses it for all their matches.


It still takes three minutes of walking thru a stage a score and tape the targets, paint steel and reset the targets, and unless someone is telling spectators (whether on-site on TV), what just happened, that three minutes kills the flow of the action.

Sheepdog1968 said...


Maybe while they are taping and paiting, the cheerleaders can come out and perform or .... show an instant reply on a big screen tv .... or have a golf like gallery and the TV screen at teh gallery shows what is going on in the other bays. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Shooting is like golf, if you do not play you do not care. The answer is to get more people playing the sport.

The "private club" attitude is the real killer for entry level folks. You want to get into it and the current participants turn you off. Nobody wants to teach newcomers, but most are willing to abuse them.

BBJohnnyT said...

I enjoy shooting sports, but watching it on TV? Zzzzzzzz. Watching single runs of a something that is inherently timed based gives no point of reference, and is therefore boring. Oh great, here's another bloke running and shooting his gun for some useless score on the clock. Here's a suggestion based on what the networks do with sports based on time... Overlays. Check out NBC's coverage of the Olympic speed skating. They overlay a moving leader line on the track, or sometimes the world record time, similar to the virtual first down line they overlay on NFL broadcasts. This gives the viewers an immediate point of reference of how much the current competitor is off the leader's time. I suggest overlaying flashes of light on the targets of the top run of the day, based on the times they were hit. If the current competitor is hitting them at the same time, or just before, the flashes of light, that's exciting. Even if you do something more low-tech, such as split screen the current competitor synchronized with the run of the first place competitor, even that'll make it a hell of a lot more entertaining, and useful, to watch.

Dustin Heaton said...

The "private club" attitude is a problem for more than just new competitors, it applies to new shooters in general. Just as an example, I live in one of the larger counties in Alabama, but we don't have any shooting ranges. Instead, there are two ranges just across the county line. One is a national forest range and may or may not be possible to get to, depending on your vehicle. The other is a private gun club that claims to exist to promote the shooting sports. I used to be a member of that club and I quickly observed two problems. The first was that they wouldn't accept new members unless a current member vouched for them. It turns out I got around this one because one of the founding members had worked with my dad. The second was that I was one of maybe five members under the age of forty. I'd heard that the officers of the group wanted to attract younger members so I went to a few group meetings. What I found was that whenever a member suggested trying to start hosting a sport other than Bullseye or 3 position rimfire, the leaders would vote unanimously against it. The same thing would happen when people suggested developing a portion of the land that would allow people to safely shoot pistols at distances other than 25 and 50 yards for pistol (with the target stands build to only take targets the size and shape of nra bullseye targets) or 50 and 100 yards for rifles.