We’re just days away from the 2016 United States Disc Golf Championship. The focus will soon turn to the action on the course and eyes will be firmly focused on the scoreboard. Up until now though the focus has been entirely off the course.
Organizers of both the USDGC and Disc Golf World Tour, which uses the event as their finale for the season, have been quite busy leading up to the tournament.
The last few weeks have been filled with news about course changes, media announcements, and more. Every announcement has been followed by strong opinions on both side of every announcement. For example, while we won’t have a true dedicated live broadcast, DGWT’s Avery Jenkins will be live on Facebook following the action every day. This is enough for some, but has also left others wanting more.
To get a deeper look at what to expect this week and answers to some of the decisions that have been made, we talked with DGWT Tour Director Jussi Meresmaa for details.
We’re finally here. The United States Disc Golf Championship, not only the last PDGA Major of the year, but the finale of the inagural year of the Disc Golf World Tour. A year ago you first announced the Disc Golf World Tour. You had big plans and expectations. How have things played out when you compare reality to what you had in your mind?
“What can I say: It’s been crazy year. This job grabbed me two years ago and there has been awesome moments and lots of learning curves. Our announcement last year took us into the spotlight for sure. All that was intentional—we wanted to create something bigger. Our first season has been successful in many ways. We have been able to execute our plans pretty much on point. This year we have been proofing the concept. Off course I would have liked to reach more with our promotion, but it is hard. I thought we would have little more media exposure, but La Mirada showed straight from the bat that we have longs ways to go in US. Our European events have been much more presented by local medias and we have reached much more people in Europe.”
Disc golfers have grown to know the prestige that the USDGC has. What will the DGWT bring to it to bring it to another level?
“We will bring our A-team. DGWT Media production is built from a different perspective than regular disc golf event media: We need to offer richer media content to potentially wider audience.”
“We are not just making one sort of coverage to one sort of target audience: We announced our media plan last week I encourage you to check it out.”
In regards to the media plan, we’ll talk about the live streaming in a moment, but how did you and your team come up with this specific approach?
“At this years USDGC, we concentrate on Quality and Reach. By providing a scripted and hosted high quality video content we serve larger masses that we plan to reach through our productions. This is our fifth event this year. After LaMirada, we tweaked our media production plan and I have been really happy with that. We have been executing it precisely and on each event we have done something special. For example, at the Konopiste Open, Czech Republic, we produced videos to two Czech TV stations (Česká televize and TV Sport5) and were able to reach out to half a dozen papers and magazines. Our reach outside the regular disc golf fan was well over 200,000+ people. And best of all what a show we were able to offer them! One more time, here´s the insane eagle shot from Simon.”
“At the European Open, we advertised the event on national TV to 280,000+ people in our target group (people between 18 to 45 years). DGWTs plan is to get Disc Golf in front of more people, internationally. We will release our numbers later after the USDGC.”
The thing that many have been vocal about is the lack of a true online live-stream of the tournament. Ever since you and I have had a working relationship, you’ve been very consistent in your stance on the use of live streaming during a tournament. After doing a live stream last year at the USDGC, and one at the La Mirada Open as the first event of the DGWT, why are you opting to go without one this year?
“After LaMirada it was pretty clear for us that we want to put our media efforts to elsewhere than multi-camera live stream. The numbers are not there. You need to remember that we do offer live stream through our Facebook channel where the most enthusiastic fans can tune in. This year, we want to reach out from our traditional viewers. While I can feel the frustration of a hard-core disc golf fan, I trust that we both share the same goal to make disc golf bigger. Getting more eyeballs makes it possible. People should look this as what is best for the sport.”
It was announced by SmashBoxxTV that they were part of an approach by the PDGA to livestream the event. If the PDGA approached you earlier, would you have done the deal?
“Shortly: no. As stated above, we tweaked our plan and stuck with it. I started discussions with the PDGA in May 2015 and presented them well-thought cooperation proposal. The time was not right then. Now, we have set a meeting with Brian Graham and Company for Championship week and I’m looking for a fruitful future with the PDGA.”
Let’s talk course changes. Were you involved with the tweaks to the course this year? Do you like what the end result became?
“I was not. I’m looking forward to test the course and get a better feel of the changes. I’m a USDGC veteran (10 events played and 2 witnessed from Media professional’s perspective) and I’m used for tweaks. This is the science lab for disc golf.”
The PDGA recently announced the decision to not count the round ratings for this year’s USDGC into the overall PDGA ratings. What are your thoughts on this decision? Are you in support, or no?
“The PDGA clearly stated earlier in the year that events and courses with stroke-and-distance holes will not get PDGA ratings. That is clear decision from their end. I do not personally care much about ratings. Lowest score wins. Always.”
What is one thing you are bringing new to this year’s event—not necessarily on the course, but what is a new challenge for you at this year’s USDGC?
“We will introduce the new and improved Metrix. Harold wanted to introduce that already for the Championship so here we are. More info to come shortly. We are also bringing in new social media producer to strengthen that team. Both these enhancements will make Championship more enjoyable to follow.”
“We also have a new, improved production team. I think this crew has really good potential to make this year’s Championship truly special. It almost hard to understand how fast and far things have elevated. It was few years ago, when there were only few events in the season that had any coverage. The biggest winner this year has been disc golf fan: think about how many events they have been able to follow and speculate this season! Steve Dodge and the Disc Golf Pro Tour is doing a great job serving both touring US players and disc golf fans. PDGA and their National Tour have been producing great events. We at DGWT have little different approach by reaching out to the new, larger audiences. That does not mean we turn our back to existing disc golf fans. If that would be the case, we would not have over quarter million views on our 2016 European Open Final Round videos, right? To me, those numbers do not lie. I’m happy that there are several promotions who offer events where fans can choose from.”
What are you looking forward to the most?
“Meeting all the people on and off the course. USDGC has a special place to my hart. One thing that I’m specially proud of this year is the attendance of Finnish players. We have a team of 18 players making the trip. That is simply awesome. That also shows how prestige USDGC is: very few player will turn that offer down.”
For the 2016 USDGC to be considered a success when everything is over, what needs to happen?
“I want to see my customers happy. We are doing this because of a support of Innova. I could not be more thankful for their support. Dave, Harold and Jonathan. Amazing people.”
“I want also to thank our Tour Partners, Grip-EQ, DUDE, Discmania and DiscGolfPark. On a smaller level, I want to see our numbers going up.”
Are you ready to go?
Anything else you want to include?
“If you want to support Disc Golf become bigger and the Championship, follow us, watch and share. If you want to see more post-produced videos, watch and share those. If you want to see more live stream, watch and share. Simple.”
We always appreciate the conversation with Meresmaa. We further appreciate his candidness and honesty with some of the topics discussed.
We won’t be able to be at USDGC this year, but we’ll be taking it all in from home. We can’t wait to see how the course changes play out and how the top pros attack it!