Thursday, August 28, 2014

Laird Hamilton Shoots the Pier in Malibu on a SUP Board..

This came just in the last couple days as the surf has been kicked up big time by a hurricane in the Pacific sending surfers across the West Coast scrambling to call in sick for a few days.  Now Hamilton has "shot the pier" a few times in the past--on a surfboard.  This is the first time I've seen on video of him doing it on a SUP board with a paddle in hand.

Oh, and he also swam out and rescued a drowning man on this same day...Some men are just blessed by the gods...


Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review: Gunship Ace--The Wars of Neall Ellis, Helicopter Pilot and Mercenary

I've always been interested in the lesser known conflicts of South Africa and Africa in general which receive little media interest compared to say Europe and the Middle East here in the US.  I also have always found those who choose to participate in war for money or ideals as mercenaries.

This then provided a nice joining of the two interests as Neal Ellis fought on the side of South Africa against Angola and its Cuban proxies during the '70s and '80s and also fought in a number of other conflicts--Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Afghanistan, etc. as a helicopter pilot in a number of roles ever since.

Unfortunately the author, Al Ventor, is not exactly a skilled writer.  More of a newspaper reporter trying his hand at a long form story, the book is a regurgitation of interviews he has done with Neall Ellis added to Ventor's own dry observations from his time in the field as a war correspondent.  There is little story flow or connection between the various parts of the work.  We're here one minute and there the next with no threads between the two places.  Neall Ellis also remains a cardboard cutout and not a fully fleshed character as we get little insight into him as a person and only get a paragraph here and there of his own words to describe his thoughts and feelings.

Ellis' resume is impressive, piloting Mi-8s and Mi-24s across the globe in addition to his earlier flights behind the rudder of a number of South African helicopters.  He comes across as an honorable individual who was not solely driven to fight out of a desire for money but more out of need for employment and few options for a man of his very specific skill sets.  His history includes the participation in missions that saved the lives of a number of UK serviceman who had been taken captive in Sierra Leone where he earned the majority of his fame (and a sizable bounty on his head).
Ellis is currently (or at least most recently) operating in Afghanistan with a number of NGOs supporting US and other operations.

Most interesting within this work is the shear number of conflicts that Ellis was involved in and that one generally forgets are actually taking place at any one time.  That Ellis survived the antiaircraft fire present at every turn in this piece is amazing.  You do get to learn a good deal about the modern mercenary here as well as a fair introduction into a number of lesser known conflicts but its style, structure and disjointed nature of its telling leaves Ellis deserving of a better encapsulation.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Global RallyCross and Offroad Motorsports Ratings for 8/2/14 & 8/3/14

Though there are some positives to take away from this past weekend's GRC broadcast rating, the bottom line is that it reinforces its status as a marginal TV product for prime sports viewing hours.

Admittedly, this past Sunday's show was not a live race, nor even a tape delayed one.  Instead it was a recap of the first five events of the season packaged into a neat hour and a half, edited down format.
On network TV it was competing directly against golf over on CBS.  Most concerning here is its ratings within the middle of NBC's motorsports/Red Bull oriented shows with a Mecum auto auction related and a Red Bull sponsored multi-sport adventure in Patagonia programs preceding GRC and brief show on Kurt Busch's attempt at the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 double coming after.

The GRC broadcast failed to hold the lead-in 0.4 ratings of a car auction or cross country trek and failed to support the 0.5 rating of the KB program.  Given NBC already had a full hour of the KB special in the tank (they would broadcast it the following day on NBCSN) they probly are kicking themselves for not running a full hour or more of that and cutting back on the GRC broadcast--though this is likely mitigated by the money Red Bull paid NBC for the airtime, perhaps Red Bull paid NBC more for the airtime than NBC could have sold the advertising space for on an extended KB show...perhaps.

On the positive side...the in house produced World of X Games surfing event and MLS soccer game on NBC both also saw 0.3 ratings so Red Bull can at least say--Hey, we'll pay you to put on our broadcast which will likely grab the same ratings as these other programs that YOU have to pay to produce.

So the 8/3 GRC broadcast saw some 347,000 households watching with an estimated 381,500 actual viewers.  Ratings for GRC's broadcasts for the year now are as follows:

5/24--0.4
6/22--0.3
7/20--0.5
7/26--0.3
8/3--0.3

TELECAST
DATE
NET
TIME (ET)
RATING
World of X Games: ASP Surfing
8/2
ABC
3:00-4:00pm
0.3
"ESPN Sports Saturday"
8/2
ABC
4:00-6:00pm
0.5
"PGA Tour 2014: Playing With A Purpose"
8/2
CBS
1:00-2:00pm
0.5
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Third Round
8/2
CBS
2:00-6:00pm
1.9
MLS: Galaxy-Timbers
8/2
NBC
3:00-5:00pm
0.3
Breeders' Cup Challenge: Whitney Handicap
8/2
NBC
5:00-6:30pm
0.6
Guinness Int'l Champions Cup: Manchester United-Real Madrid
8/2
Fox
4:00-6:00pm
0.6
"PGA Championship Preview: This Is Major"
8/3
CBS
1:00-2:00pm
0.6
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Final Round
8/3
CBS
2:00-6:00pm
3.1
Mecum Dealmakers
8/3
NBC
2:00-3:00pm
0.4
"Red Bull: Project Acheron: Patagonia"
8/3
NBC
3:00-4:00pm
0.4
"Global Rallycross: Season Review"
8/3
NBC
4:00-5:30pm
0.3
"Kurt Busch 36"
8/3
NBC
5:30-6:00pm
0.5
Pro Football HOF Game: Giants-Bills
8/3
NBC
8:15-11:00pm
5.8

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bret Michaels for Nissan Commercial Vans

I'm not 100% sure what Nissan is going for here...

We have a aging rock star long past whatever prime he had to the point where he and his band are most often associated with a lack of talent, bad hair, worse makeup and decidedly misogynistic lyrics.  He and his band are not exactly viewed as tough, macho men either...so what audience are you targeting??  Carpenters and plumbers are not looking at Bret Michaels and saying they want a truck or work van like he is promoting, nor are many women going to be attracted to the vehicle by this "man" in makeup.

Now is it good for a laugh?  Sure...the number of phallic and sexual innuendos contained in this advertisement are so over the top as to actually make fun of Mr. Michaels and his history rather than a tribute to him.  Maybe that's the angle...promotion and attention through humor...it got me to watch that's for sure, if only for the juxtaposition of two seemingly unconnected items like Commercial Vans and the lead singer of a hair band.  Nissan sure put a lot of effort into this as well.  Not only is there this 4+ minute long "Endless Love" music video but there are a series of other videos where Mr. Michaels extols the values of various features of the Nissan Commercial Vans.  He looks like he's having a good time, probly came pretty cheap and I'm betting this gets a good deal of attention...so I guess this works?????

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Down Weekend for Offroad Motorsports on Network TV...

Well, that's not progress...

Global Rallycross has not generated any appreciable growth over the course of '14 and has actually regressed in terms of ratings over the past two events and LOORRS has continued its regular broadcasts on CBS but its ratings have stayed flat to marginally down over the past two years.

Now I'm not on the inside of the companies paying for these events to be broadcast on Network TV so in truth I really have NO IDEA whether perhaps even at the current ratings levels that their producers are happy.  It is certainly a possibility that NBC and CBS sell their airtime to Lucas and GRC at a low enough level that they can sell their advertising spots at a rate for them to turn a profit...maybe.

What I can tell you is that I've been tracking these ratings on a general basis for a number of years now, dating back to the old CORR days.  While its been great to see offroad motorsports (primarily short course) appear on network TV on a regular basis over the past few years, the ratings generated from it have not moved.  We now regularly see short course, Baja events, rallycross, stage rally, motocross, Best in the Desert and more on Network and near network (see NBCSN, CBS Sports, etc.) sources yet the broadcasts most accessible to the America public (the over the air broadcasts) have stagnated in terms of ratings/viewers.  There is a core audience here and these broadcasts are reaching this audience but they aren't bringing in a growing audience of viewers.  You can debate the reasons but the facts by now are fairly clear.

There is a lot to be said for the inconsistency and "random" nature of these broadcasts.  If you are a NASCAR fan you KNOW that pretty much every weekend there is a race (which is often EVERY weekend) you can sit down around 1PM Eastern and catch the race.  If you are a football fan (college or NFL) you KNOW that every Saturday or Sunday the games will be on during the season.  For offroad motorsports??  Well, there you can look up the schedule on any one of a dozen or more websites for the various series and see if the event is shown on a Saturday or a Sunday, early afternoon, late afternoon or if it will be another month before another broadcast is available (often the case), is it on CBS?  CBS Sports?  MavTV?  Do I get MavTV?.  This is just the nature of the beast with offroad racing at this point.  Its not NASCAR with live events taking place every weekend at the same time on the same channel and thus it has an uphill battle to to fight just in terms of getting casual viewers to watch.

For this past weekend, GRC saw a 0.3 rating on NBC which tied for the weekend's lowest rated sporting event on Network TV with the LOORRS which it faced off directly against in the same time slot over on CBS from 2-3PM Eastern.  Perhaps you could make the argument that either show's ratings would have been higher if they hadn't been facing off against one another and instead were competing for viewers against say...gymnastics or golf or the like.  Certainly I've made a case here before of combining the audiences of offroad motorsports that are shown at the same time, so I'll do so here again for the sake of positivity.  During this time period there was a combined 0.6 rating for offroad motorsports on Network TV equating to some 694,000 households and 763,000 people watching offroad racing of some kind during this period.  Now this doesn't help the advertisers who paid only to be on one broadcast or the other and got their message in front of "only" about 350,000 households and 382,000 people during this time.

The NBC broadcast of the Red Bull Hare Scramble which followed the GRC broadcast beat out both of the "car" oriented race shows with a 0.4 rating grabbing about 460,000 households and 510,000 viewers.  This holds true to another long term trend that I've noticed--whether its motocross, supercross or various Red Bull motorcycle events, they do usually out-rate the offroad "car" racing.  I would have a tendency to attribute that to the larger fan/participation rate of motorcycle racing.  While an extreme minority of people have ever driven in a SCORE, BITD, or Rally event of any kind you can show up in nearly any geographic region in the country on any weekend and find a number of motocross tracks, hare scrambles, trail rides, etc.  The sheer participation rate of offroad motorcycle riders dwarfs that of any combination of desert/shortcourse/rally drivers by what has to be many magnitudes and thus its a lot easier to find an individual who is familiar with jumping their motorcycle through the woods or over a tabletop, flipping through the channels and staying with one of these shows than it is short course, desert or rally.  That said, these motorcycle event ratings are never MASSIVELY better than these other offroad broadcasts...just marginally better...


TELECAST
DATE
NET
TIME (ET)
RATING
"World of X Games: Women of Action"
7/26
ABC
3:00-4:00pm
0.3
"ESPN Sports Saturday"
7/26
ABC
4:00-6:00pm
0.5
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing
7/26
CBS
2:00-3:00pm
0.3
PGA Tour: RBC Canadian Open: Third Round
7/26
CBS
3:00-6:00pm
0.4
Guinness Int'l Champions Cup: Manchester United-AS Roma
7/26
Fox
4:00-6:00pm
0.5
"UFC on Fox 12": Prelims
7/26
Fox
6:00-8:00pm
0.8
"UFC on Fox 12": Robbie Lawler-Matt Brown
7/26
Fox
8:00-10:00pm
1.6
Global Rallycross
7/26
NBC
2:00-3:00pm
0.3
Red Bull Hare Scramble
7/26
NBC
3:00-4:30pm
0.4
Asics World Series Of Beach Volleyball
7/26
NBC
4:30-6:00pm
0.5
"Road to the PGA Championship"
7/27
CBS
2:00-3:00pm
0.5
PGA Tour: RBC Canadian Open: Final Round
7/27
CBS
3:00-6:00pm
1.8
Tour de France review show
7/27
NBC
2:00-3:30pm
0.4
Asics World Series Of Beach Volleyball
7/27
NBC
3:30-5:00pm
0.6
Breeders' Cup Challenge Series: Haskell Invitational
7/27
NBC
5:00-6:00pm
0.8

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Film Review: Cronos

Watched this film as I've been interested in director  Guillermo del Toro since watching Pan's Labyrinth a while back.  Cronos is del Toro's first film and is mostly narrated in Spanish though there are significant portions spoken in English from Ron Perlman's character.

The film itself is a twist on your traditional vampire tale.  Here vampirism is caused by an ancient alchemist's device in which he trapped an insect of some kind that has the ability to impart extended life upon an individual through its bite.

The twist here is not only from the basis of your typical vampire tale but in its presentation too.  There is more here to laugh at than there is to be horrified of.  The main characters are not young and beautiful as is the case in most vampire films.  Instead they are old and aging.  They aren't placed in any particularly horrifying situations despite Ron Pearlman's character being tasked with chasing down the elderly Jesus Gris (yes, we have a vampire named Jesus who also rose from the dead) and taking the mechanism that will hopfully extend the life of Pearlman's dying uncle.

Separately but just as distinct from most vampire films is the setting.  We aren't in any sort of aged or gothic landscape.  We're in a modern city and amongst just normal everyday people.

Del Toro shows off some of his later penchant for blood and body horror as the main character transforms and suffers from his new state of living.  Peeling skin, needle piercings, licking of blood off a bathroom floor, mouths sewn shut, etc.  It all works here and it leads the story forward so there's no complaint about any gratuitous nature of any of it but there isn't anything groundbraking like the filmmaker's later work.

I marginally enjoyed the film.  It was an interesting look at a very creative director's early work.  Unfortunately whether due to its foreign language nature (which typically doesn't present any issue for me) or some other factor I was never really hooked.  There is no real item to grab your interest.  Yes its a bit of a novel twist on your usual vampire tale but its not so different to carry the entire film.  Nor are the performances or characters anything that I could latch on to.  If you're a del Toro fan its worth seeing just to compare his early storytelling with where he is now.  Otherwise??  feel free to pass, its not in what I would consider a "canon" of film of any kind.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Global Rallycross TV Ratings 7/20/14


Benefiting from Red Bull's ongoing relationship with NBC, the NYC round of the 2014 Global
Rallycross season appeared as a live broadcast at 2PM this past Sunday.  This is the third time GRC has appeared on the primary NBC broadcast during the traditional network weekend sports block.  I am going to try and go back and see what the ratings were on these prior broadcasts (6/22 as a live broadcast and 5/24 on a delay).

The 0.5 rating seen below compares quite favorably to recent "offroad" oriented broadcasts on network TV.  First off, it did fairly well as compared to the rest of the weekend's sporting events, besting the UFC and Dew Tour shows while equaling the Tour de France broadcast.  The WNBA All Star game over on ESPN also drew a 0.5 though it is not reflected here.  GRC did fall a bit short of an XGames related recap and did not draw as well as some old guys golfing...but not many (any?) non-NASCAR motorsports do.

Also not shown here but broadcast over on ESPN in this same time frame was the NHRA's Mello Yello series which generated a 0.7 rating.  Which makes you wonder--the NHRA has been on the decline in terms of attendance, revenue, interest and ratings for some time with the series long rumored to be about to fold--how GRC and the other "offroad" motorsports survive on Network TV while the NHRA is relegated to ESPN or ESPN2.  Food for thought....

With each full rating point equating to 1,156,000 TV "households" being tuned into a broadcast, the 0.5 seen by the GRC show means there were some 578,000 "houses" watching the broadcast (which doesn't include the rebroadcast over on NBCSN on 7/23).  With a conservative estimate of 1.1 viewers per "household" this should mean that there were at least 636,000 individual viewers of this past Sunday's GRC event.  This is a bit ahead of the 0.4 ratings seen with the Mint 400 and AMA Motorcross events shown on the 7/5 weekend and significantly ahead of the 0.3 rating for the LOORRS broadcast that same weekend.

Update--
Prior GRC broadcast ratings:
6/22 Live from D.C. generated a 0.3, 347,000 households and an estimated 381,000 viewers
5/24 Tape Delayed from Barbados generated a 0.4, 462,400 households and 509,000 viewers

TELECAST
DATE
NET
TIME (ET)
RATING
"World of X Games: 20 Years, 20 Firsts"
7/19
ABC
2:00-3:00pm
0.7
"The Open Championship Today"
7/19
ABC
3:00-6:00pm
1.2
"UFC's Road to the Octagon"
7/19
Fox
5:00-6:00pm
0.4
Tour de France: Stage 14
7/19
NBC
2:00-3:00pm
0.5
Golf: American Century Championship
7/19
NBC
3:00-6:00pm
0.6
"The Open Championship Today"
7/20
ABC
3:00-6:00pm
1.3
Dew Tour: Best of Ocean City
7/20
NBC
1:00-2:00pm
0.4
Global Rallycross
7/20
NBC
2:00-3:00pm
0.5
Golf: American Century Championship
7/20
NBC
3:00-6:00pm
0.7