The struggling skateboard industry this weekend mounted a fresh effort to coax digitally transferred dollaradoos from skateboarders’ apparently refilling attention-span glands (based on the roaring success of the recent renaissance in hour-plus podcasts), united with the no-fi production values associated with various ‘raw files’/‘b-sides victory-lap double dipping that invite the still-hungry skateboarding content glutton inside the gruesome and glorious video part-making process.
Carefully tearing loose a page from Thrasher’s steadily thickening online-content playbook, Street League-backed telephone application developer ETN, an assumed acronym for Extreme TV Network, where TV is short for television, this weekend broadcast Aaron ‘Jaws’ Hamoki and Tommy Sandoval stepping to the UC Davis gap for the thrillment of multiple subscribing app-downloaders around the world. The format recalled Thrasher’s ‘Bust or Bail’ series that pledged cash dollars for bar-lifting tricks at famed spots, although in this instance a financial pledge was made by app downloaders to pay either $8 a month or $80 a year to tune into similarly star-powered spot assaults yet to come, as well as a range of other ETN offerings including a skateboard game show.
At a time when no less prolific a professional than 18-parter Marc Johnson pleads for folks to maybe dial down the daily firehose of skate videos, citing fatigue, it requires balls of the UC Davis gap carcass-tossing sort to not just launch a new online and mobile TV channel, but to charge spendable money for it, given the ever-thicker churn of video parts, Instagram clips, days-in-the-lifes and certain other what have yous, plus the Slap boards. While ETN’s fruitsome spread of shows suggests no more free live-streaming of venerable contests such as Tampa Pro, the idea of televising heavy-hitter sessions like Jaws’ and Tommy Sandoval’s campus romp presents its own basket of yowling logistical dilemmas. If you’re a pro with the control and cojones, a combination knowed by industry men as ‘controjones,’ do you film it for your video-part ender, hoping for some Thrasher website push before the part finds whatever second life it may on You-Tube, or do you chance trying it on ETN before a potentially smaller audience that may or may not be the only ones to ever see it, depending upon how the footage is controlled? If you are ETN, do you recruit the Kyle Walkers of this world, who landed his SOTY Thrasher cover in about 45 minutes as per Michael Burnett’s reporting, and risk leaving sadistic penny-pinchers distraught that they didn’t get their money’s worth? Do you veer toward a wider stable of shakier-legged amateurs with less to lose but who may loose more fireworks? Is there some creamy middle of name-brand dudes who are good but not ‘too good’ to achieve maximum subscribership and critical re-ups? (For kids aroused by ETN’s promise that you can try it for free and “bail anytime,” cancelling the deal allegedly presents its own challenges.)
All this though is only precursor to ETN’s true potential and inevitable destiny. Skateboarding’s inherent penchant for drama, betrayal, vengeance, despair and triumph, along with its devotion to convoluted and soapy storylines, long has drawn comparisons to professional wrestling, where the pay-per-view model yielded enough thumping paydays and created enough American jobs to recently land wrestling tycooness Linda McMahon atop the U.S. Small Business Administration, providing the capacity to use the Boston Crab on nettlesome, job-restricting regulations. After Mike Carroll aired out Marc Johnson on Jenkem.com last fall, former teammate Chris Roberts and camera-pointing journeyman Roger Bagley were the first get Marc Johnson on record with his own version of events, a coup. Now, there may well be a market for a video app that shows you Marc Johnson, Joey Brezinski and maybe some of the Primitive dudes going manual-for-manual at the Santa Monica Courthouse. But if it got out that Mike Carroll and Rick Howard maybe were going to show up? Or if Tas Pappas and Tony Hawk were one weekend heading to the same ramp? In such cases the question may be not how much one could charge, but how many yachts one can reasonably enjoy.
Is this ETN’s launch suggestive of the suggestion that the skateboard media sphere is not yet so heavily saturated as the board-making biz? How does the concept of promoting an hour-plus of roll-ups and attempts square with Street League’s ambition to draw in the more-casual sports watcher, for whom the typical skate contest run format was deemed overlong/boring? How difficult is the sale proposition for any skate video material whatsoever when you have Foundation giving away jaw-slackening footage from Corey Glick and Cole Wilson, for nothing? While on the topic, is Cole Wilson out of his damn mind? Could there possibly be any better venue than this emergent ETN for a prolonged, mysterious comeback mounted by a shadowy gap-jumper who eventually unmasks himself after jumping some giant gap to reveal his identity as Josh Kasper, whose fondness for pro wrestling is well-documented?