Triple Crown sees 6 million digital viewers

After losing to Florence, Kelly Slater reminded us of his legacy at Pipe. Joli

The 2011 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, presented by Rockstar Energy Drink, made waves by setting an action sports industry record with more than 10.4 million live streams on vanstriplecrownofsurfing.com and on mobile devices during the series' 13 days of competition, held between October 28 and December 11.

"Surfing's audience is passionate, active and adventurous, and, if they cannot watch in person, they're finding Vans Triple Crown of Surfing events on their computers and mobile devices," said Vans Vice President of Marketing Doug Palladini in an Association of Surfing Professionals press release. "Hawaii also helps us to reach a broader audience than any other surfing event given its incredible scenery, dramatic waves and rich beach culture."

Triple Crown viewership data comes from the HIC Pro at Sunset presented by Vans in addition to the series' three main contests, the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset and the crown jewel, the Billabong Pipe Masters. All four contests take place on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.

Webcast viewership peaked at more than 6 million streams initiated during the three consecutive days of the Billabong Pipe Masters, Dec. 8-10. Total number of visitors to vanstriplecrownofsurfing.com during the contest period rose from 2.6 million in 2010 to just more than 4 million this year.

More than 1.8 million unique, or first-time, visitors viewed this year's live streams, one million more than during the 2010 Triple Crown.

A sign of today's tech trends, results show a major shift to hand-held devices with an estimated 25-30 percent of streams viewed on mobile devices, many via the Vans Live 2.0 App for Apple products like the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. IPhones alone accounted for 1.1 million streams, more than 10 percent of total viewership. The Vans Live 2.0 app is now also available for Android devices.

Vans webcasts are HD productions simultaneously broadcast on television via Oceanic Time Warner Cable in Hawaii, Time Warner Cable in Southern California and the Desert Cities, and on Fuel TV in Australia.

Considering the still minimal availability of surf contest coverage on television, webcasts have become the primary way to connect surfing fans across the world to the sport's top competitions.

"The webcast is the key interface an ASP event has with its fans," said the ASP's Dave Prodan. "It's what makes a marketing spend to send a group of surfers to a remote locale worthwhile and brings the world's best surfing to fans live around the globe. Without the webcasts, you would likely see most surf events held in metropolitan areas where in-person viewing is possible."

The first webcast was at a contest in Portugal in 1996. Since then, webcasts have developed in terms of image, sound and commentary quality, and now feature multiple camera angles and replays. According to Prodan, a basic rubric of webcast standardization for events to follow exists.

"This includes minimal requirements that an event licensee has to deliver across the infrastructure, delivery and production platforms," he said. "However, as the sport's audience grows and the demand increases, it has become apparent that the level of standardization and quality control must be lifted to meet demand. The events are in agreement that this will be a priority in the coming years."

With the Triple Crown celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012, the popularity of smart phones and tablets steadily increasing, and webcasts becoming more professional with each event, Vans is sure to expect record-breaking webcast viewership again next year.