Column #354 The Future of the Las Vegas Desert Classic

Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Column 354
The Future of the Las Vegas Desert Classic

It isn’t often that Dartoid’s World passes on the writings of someone else, let alone someone sane – however it is rare that word leaks out, such as those below from Superstars of Darts, Andy Fairclough, that portend such massive and negative ramifications for the sport of darts in America.

It behooves all of us to take this report seriously and act accordingly.

See you in Vegas baby!
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Word has reached me from various sources that this year’s Las Vegas Desert Classic is the last to be broadcast by Sky.

Before mass panic sets in – Sky remain fully committed to all their other events namely the World Championship, the Premier League, UK Open, World Matchplay and World Grand Prix.

But this is the last year the Sky team will be going to Vegas?

It may not be all doom and gloom, as the PDC are looking for a broadcast partner for the event in 2010, but we all know the difficult global market we are in at the moment, particularly in broadcasting. Nothing is free of course and any potential broadcaster would have to secure the rights. Although the Las Vegas Desert Classic doesn’t traditionally haul in as many viewers as some of the other Sky tournaments, the
final usually attracts between 100,000 and 200,000 viewers on average – which aren’t bad for a premium sports subscription channel.

However Vegas’ future may not be all about broadcasting interest.

For the first time it seems the PDC may be questioning whether there is real commitment in the USA for professional darts and that perhaps the following just isn’t there. The US Open won’t be televised this year and it has been downgraded to a Players Championship
event.

Attendance from American darters at the Las Vegas Desert Classic has been consistent, but there is a feeling that the same number and similar faces turn up year on year. In other countries darts audiences have grown dramatically over the past few years, but even a casual observer will notice that while a few extra faces are seen at the Mandalay Bay each year, it has really not caught American darters interest in the way that was anticipated.

So a lot of whether there is a future for the Las Vegas Desert Classic lies in the hands of the American darts community itself. If the perceived apathy for professional darts in the USA doesn’t seem to improve, the PDC may not invest money forever.

UK TV coverage for the European Darts Championship hasn’t been fully guaranteed for this year, let alone the future, but the event will be take place in Holland this year.
Hopefully this means that Dutch broadcaster SBS-6 will be on board. The future of the tournament is assured but as with other events, TV rights have to be sold and it won’t be
broadcast in the UK if a broadcaster doesn’t acquire the rights.

However if ITV do perhaps pass on the event in the future, they could well do something else, so the amount of darts coverage broadcast in the UK is unlikely to be reduced greatly.

No news yet on the South African Masters, a broadcaster for 2009 is still being sought. The global downturn has hit television broadcasting as much as other industries and
progress won’t be at the same rate as in previous years.

I’m sure darts fans will hope as I do that we will still get to see Vegas, the European Championship and the SA Masters in future years on British television – but I think if we are all honest these are the televised tournaments you would expect British broadcasters least likely to support going forward due to the expense of overseas coverage. Fingers crossed though.

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Dartoid
Author of the column that since 1995 has been featured by Bull’s Eye News, the American Darts Organization’s (ADO) Double Eagle and numerous other darts publications and websites around the globe.
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