Rowing Commentary Needs to Modernise

News reporting for rowing events has lagged behind in innovations until recently, with the advent of the drone camera at Henley Royal Regatta and now at the World Rowing Championships – the photos below were shared by Robert Treharne Jones (thanks)!

Rowing camera drone
Rowing camera drone
IMG_1506
Drone launch and management team

Social media means there are lots of fabulous news streams delivering our friends’ updates but the availability of professional journalism has taken a corresponding nose dive.

Rachel Quarrel published a tongue-lashing to her employers at The Telegraph newspaper over their lack of support for the rowing media coverage she writes for them.  Interestingly she reports a different perception of “public interest” from the print and digital media teams.

She asked for displays of support and discussion from her readers – and got 50 comments on her most recent article – but compared to other ones getting 0 to 4 comments, this is unrepresentative.

Audio commentary has similarly changed – FISA invests heavily in its on-site team and is widely cited to be doing a fantastic job.  Sadly the TV channels insist on re-hiring the same old commentary teams whose dull descriptions and bloopers cause howls of derision on social media.  When will they realise that a retired athlete is NOT a skilled commentator?  Use them, but do it in concert with a commentator who can actually describe the racing and give insight for the viewer into why the race is developing in this way.  Much as I revered Dan Topolski for his talents, describing racing was not one of his skills – he said the same old stuff over and over and bored me to hell.

Television rights are auctioned to raise money and protected country by country.  Despite the FISA WorldRowing website offering live streaming audio to anyone tuning in during racing, the “video was not available in your country” message showed up for most of us.  Bloody annoying.  I even tried masked IP address browsing from Afghanistan, France and other likely choices but to no avail, it seems everywhere was “not available”.

Fans want to watch top quality rowing.  Many of us can use online sources and it’s now clear that we have to tell FISA what we want – or else we’ll be left with second hand reporting from second class sources for ever.

So what should we, the rowing fans demand?

  1. The ability to pay-per-view to see live & recorded coverage via a webstream – anywhere in the world
  2. A recorded audio report downloadable as a podcast MP3 of each day’s racing
  3. Curated links to all the local media stories in every country (like Row2k offers)
  4. The ability to mute the commentators we don’t like [not really, Gary!]

Is this too much to ask?

7 thoughts on “Rowing Commentary Needs to Modernise

    • Rebecca Caroe says:

      Walter, I’m not prepared to pay for a year’s subscription to satellite TV for one week’s sports coverage. Personally I’m happy to pay $25 – 50 for the streaming service just for that week.

  1. Jessie says:

    Completely agree with your description of the poor quality of commentary. I watched one of the races from Henley Royal Regatta this year via their YouTube channel to hear a description of the colours each crew was wearing twice and a straight list of one boat’s crewmembers without any additional information about them… We deserve better service than that!

  2. Gabrielle says:

    As a coach with crews at HRR I think the commentators deserve some slack- they couldn’t really talk about the crews they just don’t know who the athletes were (many they would have never come across before, being club level), I doubt they would have had much time to prepare and while crews were asked to provide information on each member it was up to the athletes themselves to put forward any decent info and I know a lot of mine didn’t really bother. Some commentary was better than none and having them on YouTube was AMAZING. In the UK you can stream World Rowing semis and finals (on my network provider at least) and it is fantastic, and I have no real complaints on the commentary. It is a shame that is not the case everywhere. I would disappointed if it became pay-per-view, but I would probably pay it!

  3. Thomas Weil says:

    Agree with all of the foregoing comments. Was lucky enough, in the US, to catch all of the HRR and Worlds racing that I could get to. While commentary was generally competent to excellent, the one HRR race about which I cared the most – Yale vs. UW in Ladies final – was quite a botch up, including UW boating given, but not Yale’s, and commentator using Yale stroke’s name when talking about the UW stroke. Pretty basic gaffes. All of that said, kudos to all for getting so much on the air – when it was good, it was very, very good!

    • Rebecca Caroe says:

      Thanks for adding your voice, Thomas… as a former member of the Regatta Radio crew I was disappointed that HRR chose to put former athletes on air rather than practiced commentators. As you know, to do effective commentary you have to “paint a word picture” for the viewer/listener. Waffling on about the colour of their shirts, ducks and who the crew have already beaten doesn’t cut it, IMO.

  4. Craig Allely says:

    FISA commentry is OK ,sometimes they say the wrong thing,when they get excited .Generally its for the uninformed person who does not have such an in depth knowledge of the sport such as moi.
    Sometimes I turn the commentry off and just have a exclusive visual experience,.Races dont take long.I like to watch a couple of times to get the feel of a race.
    Overall the FISA commentators do a good job they are knowlegible and generally speak with respect about the participants.

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