What does FIRST need to be on TV?

Posted by P.J. Baker at 04/29/2001 11:10 PM EST

Engineer on team #177, Bobcat Robotics, from South Windsor High School and International Fuel Cells.

I’m curious, what do people think is the answer to this question? Personally, I don’t think it has much at all to do with many of the arguments I’ve seen so far.

I am almost certainly over simplifying, but:

Between 13 regionals and 1 national competition, don’t we generate more than enough footage of high quality matches for a season of half hour T.V. shows?

Even with this year’s “non-competition” (btw - I loved it), weren’t the elimination rounds of all 14 competitions pretty exciting? (nothing more than the elim rounds would ever make it to TV)

Don’t FIRST teams have plenty of great little stories to tell that could be used as filler?

Aren’t there a lot of big time corporations that support FIRST and might be willing to purchase some ads on the shows?

It seems to me that the pieces are all there to do something on the same scale as the Battle Bots TV show. My guess has to be that they haven’t yet been put together because FIRST hasn’t yet tried properly. I have to think that if Dean, Woodie, & the gang worked with some TV production folks while they were developing the game, things could be tweaked here and there and the Elimination rounds could be run in such a way that they could be edited into the episodes of the TV show.

There’s more to say, but this post is already too long. What do you all think? Am I way off base?

P.J. Baker
Team #177

Posted by Andy Baker at 04/30/2001 12:42 AM EST

Engineer on team #45, TechnoKats, from Kokomo High School and Delphi Automotive Systems.

In Reply to: What does FIRST need to be on TV?
Posted by P.J. Baker on 04/29/2001 11:10 PM EST:

Just a guess here, but I think that the TV producers and stations do not like the fact that companies that sponsor FIRST teams would get “air time”.

Remember back when ESPN would cover the FIRST competition?

The last year that they did this was 1998. Our team was chomping at the bit to see it on ESPN, since we won Nationals. Our team leader would call FIRST every month or so, and they would give him an update about what was going on. Here’s how I remember it:

Initially, ESPN made a 30 minute show that EDITED OUT ALL CORPORATE LOGOS.

FIRST responded by saying (again, my opinion here) “if you’re going to do that, just forget about it!”

ESPN responded by doing a 30 minute show that showed some logos and stuff, but it aired in late August or early Sept. This was almost 5 months after Nationals!

And… who has never covered FIRST since? ESPN. ESPN is owned by ABC, which is owned by Disney. Go figure. You would think that Disney would be able to get ESPN to cover us. FIRST and ESPN must really not like each other.

I dunno… I think that the corporate sponsorships do scare some TV shows from putting us on. But then again, look at NASCAR. Go figure.

Andy B.

Posted by colleen - T190 at 04/30/2001 8:08 AM EST

Engineer on team #190, Gompei, from Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science and WPI.

In Reply to: It may be the sponsorships by corporations
Posted by Andy Baker on 04/30/2001 12:42 AM EST:

Since, I would at least hope, the motive behind getting on TV is not to show Battlebots,etc “hey, we’re just as good as you…” but rather to generate more interest among kids and start more teams…

Why isn’t anyone asking the Disney channel where they are??

Now granted, I know Disney does amazing amounts for FIRST… but they will cover everything from the smallest event to the largest concert… what about some spots on one of their many channels about FIRST… I personally think Disney, of all places, could put on quite an amazing show that the FIRST community could be pleased with hmmm…

Seems easy enough… and them being the closest people (i.e. no travel and crew setup, this is their home turf)… if they won’t do it… maybe there is a reason…

I mean-- I think it was amazingly cool when ESPN was in our shop my freshman year (96)… filming away for a show… it seemed to be some high end effort on their part… and CNN came to us that year too… but it suddenly died down again… Maybe there is a reason we’re all missing that what seemed like an upward trend of media attention became a downward slope of people complaining that battlebots gets more time than us…

I say, if anything, TLC has Robotica… Discovery has Junkyard Wars, Comedy Central has BattleBots… why not Disney channel have FIRST??

ah well…

Posted by Joe Johnson at 04/30/2001 9:08 AM EST

Engineer on team #47, Chief Delphi, from Pontiac Central High School and Delphi Automotive Systems.

In Reply to: But… what about the Disney channel?
Posted by colleen - T190 on 04/30/2001 8:08 AM EST:

I am telling you right now that this is one of those times (read the title of the message if you are confused).

I am a great engineer. I am not a TV exec. or TV producer (nor do I want to be, by the way).

From the few conversations I have had with those who are, I can tell you that I am not a good judge of what TV wants or needs.

If FIRST is serious about changing the culture of America (and beyond) then they should get serious about having several high level TV folks involved in the game design from Day 1.

Joe J.

Posted by Wayne Cokeley at 04/30/2001 7:49 PM EST

Coach on team #25, Raider Robotix, from North Brunswick Twp. H.S. and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

In Reply to: It may be the sponsorships by corporations
Posted by Andy Baker on 04/30/2001 12:42 AM EST:

: Just a guess here, but I think that the TV producers and stations do not like the fact that companies that sponsor FIRST teams would get “air time”.

: Remember back when ESPN would cover the FIRST competition?

: The last year that they did this was 1998. Our team was chomping at the bit to see it on ESPN, since we won Nationals. Our team leader would call FIRST every month or so, and they would give him an update about what was going on. Here’s how I remember it:

: Initially, ESPN made a 30 minute show that EDITED OUT ALL CORPORATE LOGOS.

: FIRST responded by saying (again, my opinion here) “if you’re going to do that, just forget about it!”

: ESPN responded by doing a 30 minute show that showed some logos and stuff, but it aired in late August or early Sept. This was almost 5 months after Nationals!

: And… who has never covered FIRST since? ESPN. ESPN is owned by ABC, which is owned by Disney. Go figure. You would think that Disney would be able to get ESPN to cover us. FIRST and ESPN must really not like each other.

: I dunno… I think that the corporate sponsorships do scare some TV shows from putting us on. But then again, look at NASCAR. Go figure.

: Andy B.

Interesting observations Andy- Did you ever notice that nowhere in the Disney website or any of their advertising do they ever mention the FIRST competition? I looked for it all of last year and could never find that FIRST even exists anywhere in the Disney postings. Not even on their events bulletin boards.
I doubt if they really have that much interest in FIRST other than as a client to rent the facility. At least a commitment isn’t evident in their publicity. If they really were on the band wagon with FIRST to help kids, their publicity would reflect more of it. They could reach millions of kids if they really wanted to…
WC

Posted by Adrian Wong at 04/30/2001 8:04 PM EST

Student on team #596, SciClones, from Hopkinton High School and Zymark, EMC, and Computer Associates.

In Reply to: Re: It may be the sponsorships by corporations
Posted by Wayne Cokeley on 04/30/2001 7:49 PM EST:

> Interesting observations Andy- Did you ever notice
> that nowhere in the Disney website or any of their
> advertising do they ever mention the FIRST
> competition?

In the EPCOT map for the week of the competition, one of the attractions listed was the FIRST Robotics Competition. It got a blurb about the size of the other attractions, no pictures though.

Anyone else see this? :slight_smile: Please don’t tell me I’ve been hallucinating.

Posted by Ken Patton at 04/30/2001 11:06 PM EST

Engineer on team #65, The Huskie Brigade, from Pontiac Northern High School and GM Powertrain.

In Reply to: It may be the sponsorships by corporations
Posted by Andy Baker on 04/30/2001 12:42 AM EST:

Maybe its all that bumpin’ and grindin’ on the race track! :))

Ken

Posted by Bill Beatty at 04/30/2001 10:54 AM EST

Other on team #71, Team Hammond, from Team Hammond.

In Reply to: What does FIRST need to be on TV?
Posted by P.J. Baker on 04/29/2001 11:10 PM EST:

An unnamed source told me that they were shooting a lot of footage which could be used if there is a writers strike. I guess we have to hope for a labor dispute so FIRST can become fill.

Another unnamed source told me they were considering doing a large amount of coverage in exchange for an exclusive on “it”. Pretty clever, Dean. I guess whatever works.

Posted by P.J. Baker at 04/30/2001 10:59 AM EST

Engineer on team #177, Bobcat Robotics, from South Windsor High School and International Fuel Cells.

In Reply to: Re: What does FIRST need to be on TV?
Posted by Bill Beatty on 04/30/2001 10:54 AM EST:

Devious soul that I am, I’ve actually been hoping that Dean would use “IT” as bait to get expanded coverage of the 2002 Nats. I’m not surprised to hear this rumor. I hope that IT’s true.

Posted by Dan at 04/30/2001 11:47 AM EST

Other on team - from Carnegie Mellon sponsored by -.

In Reply to: Re: What does FIRST need to be on TV?
Posted by P.J. Baker on 04/30/2001 10:59 AM EST:

Ok, I can’t hold it in any longer. I know how Dean’s going to reveal IT. It’s not well known that, while Dean is not an avid moviegoer, he has been obsessed with Willy Wonka and the Chocalate Factory since he was a child.
So, in due fashion, he has decided to place 5 Golden Tickets in the 2002 FIRST kits. The 5 lucky teams will receive a tour of the IT factory and a, um, lifetime supply of IT. To receive their prize they must complete their robot and compete with it.
Now if only I could find that $5,000 in the sewer so I could buy my own kit, find the last Golden Ticket, move into the factory, and take over Deka.
Dan

Posted by Kevin Sevcik at 04/30/2001 9:29 PM EST

College Student on team #57, Leopards, from BT Washington and the High School for Engineering Professions and Exxon, Kellog Brown & Root, Powell Electrical.

In Reply to: Re: 5 Golden Tickets
Posted by Dan on 04/30/2001 11:47 AM EST:

I mean come on. Regardless of whether Dean is a Willy Wonka fan or not, DEKA happens to be a major company. Do you know the kind of uproar there would be if they tried to pull a stunt like that? There’d be legal suits flying all over the place. The 2002 game would have to be designing a litigation bot…

Posted by mike oleary at 05/01/2001 9:29 PM EST

Student on team #419, rambots, from bc high and sponsors are overrated…go pocket-change robots!!!.

In Reply to: Shouldn’t this be in the Rumor Mill?
Posted by Kevin Sevcik on 04/30/2001 9:29 PM EST:

i suppose a litigation bot would be sorta more practical then building a bot that can put balls in a goal

: I mean come on. Regardless of whether Dean is a Willy Wonka fan or not, DEKA happens to be a major company. Do you know the kind of uproar there would be if they tried to pull a stunt like that? There’d be legal suits flying all over the place. The 2002 game would have to be designing a litigation bot…

Posted by Al Skierkiewicz at 04/30/2001 2:46 PM EST

Engineer on team #111, Wildstang, from Wheeling High & Rolling Meadows High and Motorola.

In Reply to: What does FIRST need to be on TV?
Posted by P.J. Baker on 04/29/2001 11:10 PM EST:

All,
I answered this to some extent in a previous post. (See Answers…Answers below) There is obviously some interesting factors in getting TV coverage. We here at Wildstang, even with a long time adult team member who is a broadcast engineer at a big time TV station(me, with WTTW in Chicago (PBS)) took three years and a new show to convince anyone to do coverage of FIRST. We were able to get 17 minutes on a show called “Chicago Tomorrow” and then only of our mini competition (training for the big show) and some CDI. You would think that PBS stations are trying to get corporate sponsorship and would jump at the chance to get a Xerox, Motorola, or Baxter exec looking at their station for an outlet but it doesn’t happen that way. Money and investment is always an issue.
FIRST is commited to TV coverage and as I understand it , at least one of the PR people in NH has TV experience.
The tough part is to get audience interest and that we do whenever we get even a minute of news time, like Beatty recently on WGN. We need to get a campaign going for all those interested parties to contact their local stations, PBS in particular, and ask for coverage of the events.

Al

Posted by Kevin Sevcik at 04/30/2001 9:41 PM EST

College Student on team #57, Leopards, from BT Washington and the High School for Engineering Professions and Exxon, Kellog Brown & Root, Powell Electrical.

In Reply to: Re: What does FIRST need to be on TV?
Posted by Al Skierkiewicz on 04/30/2001 2:46 PM EST:

Actually, a PBS station has picked up a FIRST special that’s focusing on the season of 3 different teams. Since I was slightly involved in the whole thing, I think I’ll let you in on a bit of what actually happens for these PBS things.
First off, PBS stations don’t have much money. At all. To film this special, they actually had to fundraise the entire budget for the special. When they started filming, they actually had to have a contingency plan in case they couldn’t get funding. I don’t think PBS stations have much in the way of day-to-day funding. So, a coporate sponsor pretty much signs on just for one special, though I suppose they might come back later if they find another special they like.

That being said, corporate funding of these specials is apparently a VERY sensitive issue. Since they were focusing on our ExxonMobil funded team, Exxon couldn’t actually donate money for the special. Apparently it doesn’t look good to say “This special funded in part by X” and then have X’s logo popup all over the place during the special.

I think this is part of the problem with getting a TV show about or extensive TV coverage of FIRST. Having corporations logos show up on a show could entail a rather lot of legal issues. A company might take offense if the producers focus on the losses of a robot they funded, etc. So I think our litigation happy society is atleast partially to blame for the lack of FIRST coverage.

Posted by Al Skierkiewicz at 05/01/2001 9:22 AM EST

Engineer on team #111, Wildstang, from Wheeling High & Rolling Meadows High and Motorola.

In Reply to: Ahem…
Posted by Kevin Sevcik on 04/30/2001 9:41 PM EST:

Kevin,
That is really great that a station has started another special about FIRST. If you can get me a copy of the finished show, I will pass it on to producers here.
As to funding from a corporate sponsor, that is done all the time and at high level network type shows. Check out “This Old House” sometime and you will see what I mean. Yes PBS stations are desperate for funding but the only thing that may stand in the way is a station owned and operated by a college as a PBS outlet. That could be a problem in that money can’t freely flow through the college and into the station. Many PBS stations are publicly owned, that is the people of the community are the “owners” and representatives of the community act as the board of directors. At the station I work at, corporate sponsors are abundant, Commonwealth Edison, W.W. Grainger, and in the past United Airlines.
As far as commercial stations, they are simply driven by audience. A larger audience means higher revenue for commercial time. If no one knows we are out there, than no audience, and no commercial TV except news filler. As one of our adults commented, “If this was a local high school football team making it to a National Finals competition, the TV crews would be here.”
Al

P.S. Good Luck on your special.

Posted by Carrie at 05/01/2001 2:11 PM EST

Student on team #27, Team Rush, from OSMTech Academy and Textron.

In Reply to: What does FIRST need to be on TV?
Posted by P.J. Baker on 04/29/2001 11:10 PM EST:

Hey Guys,
Think of it this way we could sell some of the video to broadcasting companies like ABC, if this actor strike goes through they will be looking for things to put on TV.
:wink:
Carrie

: I’m curious, what do people think is the answer to this question? Personally, I don’t think it has much at all to do with many of the arguments I’ve seen so far.

: I am almost certainly over simplifying, but:

: Between 13 regionals and 1 national competition, don’t we generate more than enough footage of high quality matches for a season of half hour T.V. shows?

: Even with this year’s “non-competition” (btw - I loved it), weren’t the elimination rounds of all 14 competitions pretty exciting? (nothing more than the elim rounds would ever make it to TV)

: Don’t FIRST teams have plenty of great little stories to tell that could be used as filler?

: Aren’t there a lot of big time corporations that support FIRST and might be willing to purchase some ads on the shows?

: It seems to me that the pieces are all there to do something on the same scale as the Battle Bots TV show. My guess has to be that they haven’t yet been put together because FIRST hasn’t yet tried properly. I have to think that if Dean, Woodie, & the gang worked with some TV production folks while they were developing the game, things could be tweaked here and there and the Elimination rounds could be run in such a way that they could be edited into the episodes of the TV show.

: There’s more to say, but this post is already too long. What do you all think? Am I way off base?

: P.J. Baker
: Team #177