Comment: Rise of the webcasts?

All games are to be streamed, but how will that be sold to fans? (PHOTO: Ice Time TV)

We’re all been cooped up at home for the last seven weeks, looking forward to being able to visit coffee shops or fast food restaurants and if lockdown is to be eased, that may happen soon.  However it will be some time before ice hockey becomes something you can go to.

We’re expecting the UK government to announce on Sunday that you can leave your home and do some basics things that involved minimal contact with people.  A good step in the right direction, but somewhat questionable considering the death rates right now.

It should be pointed out that Wales intend to announce their own measures while a state of further lockdown has just been announced in Scotland so we’re still nowhere near returning to normality as COVID-19 still spreads.

In any case, we’re all yearning to be back in our arenas, catching up with friends and watching our teams.  As we’ve said here before, events and occasions like that and football matches and concerts will be the last things off the list.

So how does ice hockey return for an audience when the season comes around again?  We’re already looking at a delayed start, with the Magic 5 Weekend set for the first weekend in October, a full month what would usually be the beginning of the campaign.

In all honesty, you could probably write off 2020 for ice hockey being a spectator sport as things currently stand. 

Todd Kelman, in a Cardiff Twitter Q & A ruled out the prospect of closed doors games in the Elite League (PHOTO: Ice Time TV)

As Todd Kelman, Cardiff Devils’ Managing Director confirmed in a “Twitter Takeover”, playing games behind closed doors is a complete non-starter for the Elite League.

Bums on seats is how clubs operate in this sport and for players to play and earn money, the clubs have to bringing it in.  This wouldn’t be happening and Kelman was right to dismiss that.

Unlike football, which is held up by lucrative television contracts and hefty sponsorship deals, ice hockey is at the other end of the spectrum so no audience, no money.

I am of the belief that webcasts have a role to play in any recovery of getting to watch games again and it may come that those resistant to having them may find them useful.

It will be some time before we see 9,000 people in Sheffield, 7,000 in Nottingham, even 1,500 in Fife and assuming social distancing measures do come in along the way, those attendances are going to be greatly reduced.

So what’s left to fill the void?  Webcasts and reaching out to the fans who cannot physically attend because of these measures.

As someone who works with a club who haven’t indulged in live webcasting, it’s something I’ve always been keen to do and something I’ve never made a secret of, but I also understand the reasons why they haven’t so far.

Fly DSA Arena’s 9,200 attendance for a game last season won’t be seen for some time (PHOTO: Dan Addy)

The other teams have their reasons to and maybe it is time for them to start exploring this as an option so fans can watch their teams as the country recovers from this.

After all, we’re all getting the hang of using video calls and Zoom as a way of talking to loved ones we can’t be with, so this is a logical step for clubs to look into.

Sure, the atmosphere will be diluted if the social distancing measures are enforced, but the teams can get the best out of webcasting if they set it up right and not overprice it.

It’s extra cost at a time when there isn’t a lot of it flowing around, but it would end up paying for itself in the long run.

While we’re still in lockdown mode, it’s too soon to start even thinking of getting games of course and this is just something floating around, but if ever there was a time to really buy into the concept  of it, then it’s now.

If lockdown has given us anything, it’s to try new and different things and explore change in these unusual times.  For me, this is definitely one.

Now if you excuse me, I’m off to learn more German.

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