Although there doesn’t seem to be a clear picture of when the structure of the financial system began eroding, most chief economist agree that the beginning of what we now know as the economic recession began sometime in August 2007. The cause of the crisis was, in large part, due to a series of failures and poor decisions at the highest levels of multiple agencies that led to the most catastrophic day in the history of global economy on September 9, 2008 when the New York Stock Exchange dove head first off a cliff with a cinderblock tied around its neck when it plummeted 777.86 points in a single day that accounted for an estimated 1.2 trillion dollar loss. The next day, September 10, 2008, was the second worst day in the history of the stock exchange and saw the complete collapse of Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs; three institutions that had essentially built Wall Street and laid the foundation for global finance were either on life support; bleeding and suffering worse than the last guy who challenged Mike Tyson in a bar fight, or gone into a pile of smoke, flames, and debris like they were the victims of a drone strike – as in the case of Lehman Brothers.
The worlds of bodybuilding and Wall Street couldn’t be any more different; one operates like the homeless guy trying to hop onto the back of the train, while the other is like the conductor pushing the engine full steam ahead. But, when you look closely, you can see a familiar theme that represents a real problem. The financial crisis and the collapse of the economy were caused not only by a massive flaw in the system, but also because not one single person on the inside had the foresight to see it coming – or if they did no one ever gave their concerns and serious consideration.
Bodybuilding, in comparison to the top four major professional sports in America, is like a barnacle on the side of an ocean liner. People know it’s there, but it’s an afterthought at best. Take a look at the gross revenue last year of the top four professional sports leagues:
- NFL – $9 billion
- MLB – $ 7 billion
- NBA – $4 billion
- NHL – $3.5 billion
Despite the unfathomable amounts of money that these four leagues made they all had one thing in common, ticket revenue decreased. The amount of people coming to the games has steadily declined despite the great lengths taken by leagues and owners to get more bodies in the building. The hardcore fans, and loyalist to the games have continued to come in droves. However, they represent a small portion of the fan base, and no good business stays afloat by being closed minded and catering to the minority of fans. The majority of fans, hardcore or casual, follow their favorite sports and teams by watching them on TV or the internet; very few of which ever actually go to a game. Bodybuilding, just like every other major sport, has a dedicated global fan base. Yet, for some reason, promoters and executives at the highest level still focus their efforts locally and have flat out failed to expand viewership of shows beyond the arena.
For most fans, bodybuilding is a sport that exists in its entirety on the internet. Most communication between fans and athletes is done via message board, most athlete updates are followed on social media, and news about contest placing’s is seen primarily by people who haven’t had a chance to see the actually contest. The reality is, that most bodybuilding fans will never see a professional show, and many of them don’t have the means to afford travel expenses, not to mention to steep cost of tickets to both the prejudging and the finals. So, how is that both promoters and executives alike have failed to see what appears to be an obvious solution to a problem that exists for the majority of their fan base? This is 2014, and the ability to stream live video is available to every person with a smartphone. Why isn’t every professional bodybuilding show broadcast on the internet?
Despite the appearance of stable financial success, if just a few major sponsors are forced to withdraw their lifelines to the sport, much like the way just four banks nearly caused the collapse of the global economy, the bodybuilding industry could topple like a house of cards. If those at the top of the industry truly want to see it grow they need to rid themselves of the old ideas and even older belief systems that have kept them from having the foresight to see what’s coming, just like financiers and regulators failed to see the tidal wave of financial destruction that nearly capsized the economy. Print media is on life support. The new age of bodybuilding is, and will be, centered on web based content. The logical solution to grow the fan base and the revenue of bodybuilding is to do what every other major sport has already done; begin broadcasting every contest to take advantage of their global market.
By charging small pay-per-view fees for live broadcasts and playbacks you’re able to increase you revenue and audience from a small trickling stream into a river of money, that then becomes immediately available to be infused into a sport that desperately needs it. These broadcasts could even be free to viewers, and by reaching larger audience promoters would be able to maximize their dollars from advertisers. For the first time, every competitive athlete would be able to be paid a wage worthy of someone with incredible genetic talents, or at least enough to truly consider themselves a ‘professional’ athlete beyond just in title. Having the sport become a viable source of income would bring a greater pool of talent to the sport as well since, for the first time, professional bodybuilders would have the opportunity to become a real occupation as opposed to an obsessive hobby. Greater opportunity leads to greater growth and, when it all boils down, isn’t that what bodybuilding is all about? Growth.
The opportunity for the sport to expand globally and increase their revenue is literally just a few clicks away. The question is, do the captains that steer the ship have the foresight to navigate it where it needs to go? Or will their epic failure lead to a devastating collapse because they were incapable of seeing what was right in front of them?
**Editor’s Note: The IFBB may want to look into the format adopted by the WWE . Where for 10 dollars a month or a low annual fee you have access to all events for the price of what was once a good PPV, or in bodybuilding’s case, access to view all shows for the same cost as a quality seat at one pro event. All contests could be streamed which thanks to modern technology is not expensive, with the Olympia remaining a free event to draw new fans to the sport while paying viewers could get special features and would not have to watch the terrible bodybuilding.com advertisements