April Fools and the Fans Shall be Heard

Well, I got several emails from readers who didn’t realize that my recent post on the IHF, EHF and National Handball Leagues forming a TV partnership was an April Fools Day joke. My apologies to those that thought it was a real news item, logged on to handball.tv and pulled out their credit cards. This isn’t our first April Fool’s article as last year we had Stefan Kretzschmar joining David Beckham in LA. http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.291

I guess the good news is that the possibility of such a partnership forming to bring Handball to more TV and computer screens world-wide no longer seems so outrageous. Certainly the technology is there, even if the willpower and audience isn’t there yet. Things are, in fact, trending in the right direction. Recently, handball fans had the opportunity to watch the IHF sponsored Women’s Olympic Qualification matches for free via web streaming. The EHF has been making Champions League matches available on their website as well with 2 more free matches scheduled for Sunday. And if you want to shell out a few dollars or Euros, you can also watch German Bundesliga matches with near TV picture quality. Just last night I watched Hamburg and Kiel in the German Cup Final. It was a great game and the viewer experience, thanks to the higher bit rate is much better than the IHF and EHF offerings. And while I’m looking forward to seeing those same 2 teams take on Ciudad Real and Barcelona on Sunday, I can’t help but think about how awesome it would be if I could watch those matches at the HBL.TV bit rate. Add good English language commentary and on demand (watch any time) to the package and I would have no problem paying for that. And I don’t think that I’d be alone.

If the IHF, EHF, and the National Leagues were to set aside their differences and combine forces for one web TV package they surely would save money by pooling their resources. On top of that they would better realize the inherent synergy and cross marketing opportunities which might not seem so obvious. Case in point, are the National Team competitions which seem at odds with the club system. While the National Team competitions do disrupt the club schedule and add to player fatigue they also provide a bigger stage and undoubtedly draw in viewers not familiar with the club leagues. Some of these new viewers could then be easily steered into watching the club matches, especially if those matches were to be hosted on the same platform.

Of course, each of these entities can continue to develop their products in an uncoordinated fashion. But, if handball ever wants to be more than a niche sport, a coordinated effort is probably needed to make real inroads into new markets. Such a combined effort might even have a chance in getting Handball on a traditional TV outlet in the United States and other countries. It won’t be easy. Heck, if it was easy it would have happened years ago. Getting a toehold in the US market will cost money upfront, but sharing that investment cost together might make it more palatable. And the long term gain could be enormous. Alternatively, the Handball World can sit idly by while the NBA gets their own network on TV in Europe and China. And other sports like Rugby, Baseball and American Football also make inroads into new markets. Did you know for instance that the NBA has a staff of 50 working full time in China promoting basketball there. Do the IHF, EHF, HBL and Liga Asobal have even one employee doing the same for Handball on a part time basis?

I don’t want, however, to sit by and just complain. That’s why we’ll soon be adding a new page to our site devoted to getting Handball on TV in the USA and other non-traditional markets. The new page will keep viewers up to date on offerings in their market and will contain information on networks and delivery platforms that might carry Handball matches in the future. The goal will be to organize and mobilize Handball fans to support and encourage any TV network that is considering the possibility of broadcasting matches. While it might seem we are a bunch of Don Quixote’s chasing windmills I’ll point out that a similar organization, the Australian Football Association of North America (AFANA) www.afana.com was instrumental in getting that even lower profile sport on TV in the USA. Yes, I do see a Quixote in my future, but it’s an arena in Ciudad Real and I’m watching a match there on a High Def TV.