Last Friday (October 5, 2012) the Association of Surfing Professionals sent out a press release (along with the above pretty picture) saying they had “entered into a Term Sheet with ZoSea Media. . . designed to enhance the organizational structure of the sport as well as the direction of professional surfing in the coming years.”
That’s pretty much all the detail we got other than the names of the guys behind ZoSea Media. They are Terry Hardy (right, most well known for being Kelly Slater’s agent) and Paul Speaker the former President of Time Inc. Studios and current Quiksilver board of directors member.
According to his bio on PTTOW! site (an invite-only youth marketing summit he co-founded) Hardy is “a pioneer in youth lifestyle & media [who] has been fortunate to work with the industries leading talent and brands including Kelly Slater, Bam Margera, Tony Hawk, Quiksilver, Roxy, MTV, Sirius/XM, GoPro, Pepsi, Fox, and ESPN.” No one will forget he is also the one who spearheaded the last run at the ASP with his rebel Slater Tour back in 2009.
Paul Speaker (right), on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have much experience in action sports, but his entertainment resume is certainly colorful. Aside from his time at the National Football League in 1995 (where he was “director of marketing and ideas”) he seems to have a knack for showing up just as things are about to fall apart. He arrived at indy film production company The Shooting Gallery in 1998 and left shortly before the Shooting Gallery shut down “without warning” in 2001, according to a story in The Village Voice, for what they described as “several factors, from the slowing economy to the grandiose ambitions of head entrepreneurs Meistrich and his high school friend, Chief Financial Officer Steve Carlis.” Speaker, however, was not mentioned in the Voice story.
Speaker next showed up as President of RKO Pictures in 2003 during a period of apparent financial uncertainty for once A-list film production company. Finally, in 2006 Speaker arrived at Time Inc.’s Time4 Media just in time to see the entire division divided up and sold off. Speaker, for his part, survived the shake out and was later given the title of President of Time Inc. Studios.
Aside from creating video content for Time Inc. magazines, Speaker worked on at least one high concept project, according to a story in Variety. The idea was that Time Inc. would produce documentary and feature films based on stories that appeared in Time Inc.’s magazines. It doesn’t, however, appear that any film projects ever materialized. On February 11, 2010, Speaker joined the Quiksilver board of directors, the same year, according to Forbes, that he left his position at Time Inc.
Hardy and Speaker have worked together at least once before on an “entertainment project.” It was (as surf writer Tim Baker pointed out) Bam’s World Domination for MTV’s older, whiter, more manly channel Spike TV. (Hardy had previously produced the MTV series Bam’s Unholy Union). For those not following along Bam’s World Domination, a one-off which never turned into a series, was pretty much the last nail in Bam’s reality TV coffin.
What becomes rather obvious in all this is that ZoSea Media’s angle for the “future of surfing” will most likely be as “sports entertainment.” A play no doubt inspired by the work Dana White has done with his little UFC franchise. Own the events, own the performers, own the rights to the performers performances, and sell it all to the highest bidder.
Ignoring the fact that this move is being orchestrated by two guys with extremely close ties to Quiksilver (As a Quik board member Speaker brought in $284,850 in cash and stock last year according to Forbes, and Hardy’s piece of Kelly Slater’s sponsorship is no small change) it might be nice for Billabong, Ripcurl, and even Quik to get a little financial relief from footing the ASP bill year in and year out.
The frightening part of opening up ASP Event sponsorship to the highest bidder, however, is that the tour could end up with some pretty whack sponsors and events: a Hollister Pipeline Pro or the JC Penny’s In Memory of Andy Irons. Sure, we’re exaggerating, but you get the idea. Title sponsors from the non-endemic marketplace would mean that surfing had caught the mainstream’s attention. But is this really what ASP Surfer Rep Kieren Perrow was hoping for when he said, “The supporters of the sport have sacrificed a lot of time and energy into professional surfing, and it has brought us to our current position where we’re attractive to a larger market with the ability to take surfing to a whole new level.”
And that brings us back to the age old question: does anyone, aside from surfers, really care about surfing? ZoSea Media obviously thinks so. Based on history, however, we’d have to say the odds are heavily against them.