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Monday, October 30, 2017

Indoor Rugby Could Save The Rugby Channel

It's gimmicky. Let's just say that up front. Indoor rugby is not really serious rugby (video at the bottom if you are unfamiliar) and it's only used to get people to tune in out of curiosity or out of novelty. That's why it is perfect for The Rugby Channel. There is no question that things haven't worked out for The Rugby Channel as the way they hoped. From everything we've been able to gather the subscription rates have never really hit the target set out and maybe the biggest sign that things aren't going as planned is the announced rate hike for subscribers. The only way you raise rates is if you need more money to cover a shortfall or that you so many people purchasing your product that you can charge them more. It's obviously it's the former not the latter.

This is why indoor rugby is the perfect fit. The Rugby Channel's main problem has always been a lack of content. Make no mistake, TRC has some good content but it doesn't have broad appeal and it's not consistent. Eagles matches are the main draw along with some selected Pro14 matches and other internationals. It's also the home for U.S.A. Rugby's national championship. However, it's never really had much original content outside of the recap hosted by Dallen Stanford. People really only want to tune into the channel because they are watching a club championship or an Eagles match. Maybe some do it for the Pro14 but it can't be that many. If that's the case then you only get people tuning in during May, June, August, and November for roughly one or two weekend's at a time. That's not sustainable.

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Although gimmicky indoor rugby could provide a good solution. One of the biggest questions for The Rugby Channel is where is your biggest audience for growth? Is it the existing American rugby community? As mentioned, they are either already subscribers or they tune in four months of the year. Is it fans new to rugby? That seems like a stretch because they would have to invest in a product before they know they'd like it. More likely they would try rugby on ESPN3/WatchESPN.

What about the larger global rugby community? Think about the number of rugby fans in other countries that TRC currently has no appeal? Even if you can bring in a fraction of those fans it can double your subscription rate. Given TRC's current content fans from any other country outside of Canada (kind of) and the United States don't have a reason to take an interest in TRC and it's clear that the fan base in the United States is not enough. Fans in Australia don't really care about U.S. matches but you might get some that tune in to watch indoor rugby because it's gimmicky.

It could also be cost effective for The Rugby Channel. All you need is a small enough venue that can have cameras. Imagine a hockey rink with enough seating for 1000 fans--that are noisy enough to make it seem intense--but has great camera angles. The rent on a facility like that isn't nearly as much as some of the outdoor venues that U.S.A. Rugby has rented. In fact, it's probably peanuts in comparison. The idea is that the event isn't for fans in person, although you could probably sell out every week and that would pay for the venue, it's for fans tuning in. A small venue with energy does more for interest than outdoors and 5,000 fans in a 20,000 seat stadium.

You also can bring in players for a good price as well. Because it's so gimmicky it's not like world-class players are going to flock to it. Imagine if you had one facility in San Diego and another in Vancouver. You could easily find 32 players that would play for $100-200 a game. That's a pretty cheap investment for The Rugby Channel if they can double their subscription rates. Hell, you might even get 32 players to play for free.

In many ways it's like WWE. Everyone knows it's know real wrestling--or "wrassling" if you prefer--but they still tune in for the entertainment value. Imagine having Friday night matches in Vancouver and Saturday night matches in San Diego. Throw in theatrics with heavy lights, weird team names, and strong personalities and you have a good product that might draw in people. You are creating a unique product that might catch on, exactly what The Rugby Channel needs.

Obviously it comes with risk. You could put a lot of money into the production and have no one watch. You could also lose your credibility among certain audiences. However, it's clear that what The Rugby Channel is doing isn't working so why not try something different. So far they haven't shown that they are willing to take many risks. Still,iIt has the chance for a big pay off if it works and it expands your reach to not just the United States but the world. Again, it's gimmicky but beggars can't be choosers.

4 comments:

  1. It's going to crash and burn. I put this in the same boat as Super 7s, bastard versions of the game. As one of the casual TRC subscribers you identified, this isn't going to pique my interest and cause me to subscribe year round.

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  2. Here is a suggestion, how about the USARL? You could webcast the matches from Boston, Atlanta, and/or Jacksonville since they seem to have the best venues. Time to get rid of the split between union and league. And you could also carry the MLR matches.

    By the way, what happen to the series about candidates for the USA Eagles 7's team? And how about our version of BT Sports Rugby Master Class? We really need our own sports network/programming dedicated to rugby (both codes).

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  3. Time for Mark Cuban to join the board...

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  4. I agree 100% with Rudy and Paul. USARL is trying to better league in this country. It's hard to find games to watch even if they are on YouTube. I under stand this is USARU baby but if you are a Rugby Channel why not try and get rugby fans from.both codes and in-between to tune in. Getting the USARL would be a better get then reviving WAR. Also I would suggest offering weekly team profile videos , similar to what World rugby does when they profile a up-and-coming country in their Union. Five to 10 minute video on youth, College ,men's and women's teams.

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