Biathlon – a winning model of mediatization of sport?

TitleBiathlon – a winning model of mediatization of sport?
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Stiehler, H. - J.
Affiliation (1st Author)University of Leipzig Institute for Communication and Media Studies Empiricial Research Department, Germany
Section or WGMedia and Sport Section
DateThurs 27 June
Slot CodeSPOT4a
Slot Code (Keyword)SPOT4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitleMediating Sport
Submission ID6551

The winter sports biathlon - a combination of skiing and shooting - enjoys in Germany great popularity, after the national sport soccer. This applies on one hand to the national events of the IBU World Cup, which will be held in Oberhof and Ruhpolding. As well as other events in Russia, Austria or Italy, they are showing itself very large attendance for years and they are organized in different ways as festivals and public spectacles. On the other hand it relates to the popularity of biathlon in television,, In the TV coverage biathlon has achieved the top spot in the winter sports and has displaced popular sports such as ski jumping and alpine skiing. The transmission period - without the Olympic Games - is in the national programs about 70 hours per year (soccer,, about 300 hours). The paper aims to explore the factors behind the popularity. This is done firstly by reference to the widely discussed in recent years, theoretical concept of mediatization (see Lundby 200; According to this concept social sub-systems - such as sports, politics, religion, etc. - fit the actual or even alleged "media logic" in order to win the audience's attention. The analysis of the development of biathlon since the 1980s is secondly based on the concept of 'infotainment' (Frueh & Wirth 1997). Infotainment can be understood as a strategy to increase attention and to facilitate the reception. Applying this concept to the sport is of particular interest because both the "real" production of competitive sports in the competition venues and the media presentation follow exactly these features for quite some time. Target size of these changes is to improve the entertainment value of sport in the stadiums and on the screen. Such changes can therefore be understood as means to reach broader audiences than the traditional fan of the disciplines and to minimize the risk of discontent at the failure of their own favorites. These include manageability and transparency of competitions and - not only as a special case of television - the fitting of competition times in the everyday routines of the spectators on the spot or in front of the screen. Empirically, the article is based, first, on a document analysis to study the competitive rhythms, competition rules since the 1980s. This shows a significant increase in the number of World Cup events and especially in the "spectator friendly" implementation of new disciplines (especially the transition from interval to parallel competitions). Secondly, the article is based on a comparison of Broadcasts of World Cup events from 1995 and 2011(in Germany). This comparison shows inter alia accelerations at the camera settings, the use of parallel images (split screens), particularly at the shooting range; further an increase of pictures of coaches and the audience – this all are production resources, which promote the (simple) following of the competitions by the audience and enrich them emotionally.

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