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AST DEW TOUR MEDIA CONFERENCE
June 11, 2008
TOBY ZWIKEL: Good day, everyone. Thank you for taking time out of your schedules to be with us today for our conference call to preview the start of the 2008 AST Dew Tour season.
With us today we have Wade Martin, the President of the AST Dew Tour. Jamie Bestwick, BMX rider, three-time Dew Cup winner and part of the announcing team. Paul Zitzer, who is a former professional skateboarder and also an announcer on the NBC/USA Network telecast.
As most of you know, our first event is coming up next week, the Panasonic Open June 19-22 at Camden Yards Sports Complex in Baltimore. And then the Tour continues with the Right Guard Open July 17-20 at the North Coast Harbor in Cleveland. The Wendy's Invitational, August 21-24 at the Rose Quarter in Portland, Oregon. The Toyota Challenge, September 11-14 at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, and concludes with the PlayStation Pro, October 16-19th, at Amway Arena in Orlando.
To begin the call, I wanted to introduce Wade Martin, and let him talk a bit about what we can look forward to on the 2008 Tour. Wade?
WADE MARTIN: Thanks, Toby. And thanks everyone for joining the call. We appreciate it.
We're really excited about this season kicking off next week. It's an exciting time to be part of the AST and the Dew Tour. We've had a lot of very exciting announcements just as recently as the last few weeks. Last week, as many know, we announced that MTV Networks has become a partner in the Dew Tour with NBC, and NBC Sports and MTV Networks now co- own the AST. That's going to lead to almost a doubling of programming for us over the course of the year. And a lot of interesting, new, unique programming - both lifestyle programming that can really bring to life the athletes, the stories behind the athletes as well as the competition programming that everyone will enjoy.
We'll announce the programming schedule shortly for the new MTV, and MTV2 programming. We're very excited about the new relationship.
We want to thank NBC, the creator of the Tour and our long time owner. And thank MTV for the support as we go forward with sort of the next chapter of the AST.
We also announce Nike 6.0 has come on board as a partner in the Tour for both the summer and winter tours, which is also exciting news for us. And we have a great stable of athletes and it is a great partner to bring on in addition to our already really strong roster of partners that have been supporting the tour since the inception.
The Nike announcement leads to one of the other exciting developments right now with the AST which is the launch of the Winter Tour, which is coming in December of '08. It will be a three-stop tour in December of '08 and January and February of '09. It will feature men and women in both free skiing and snowboarding disciplines. It will be a seamless extension of the Summer Tour, but brought to the exciting winter sports of snowboarding and free skiing.
So there is a whole lot going on with us. This will be the first year all of our events are simulcast live to Eurosport 2, and to FOX Australia. So all of the NBC shows will also be broadcast live internationally.
So, again, it's an exciting time. We have a lot going on from the business perspective and new opportunities for our fans to engage in the Tour.
But what we wanted to talk about today was really what's at the heart of all of that, which is the competitions, the athletes that make all of this work and are the real excitement around the Tour is what these guys do on their bikes, skateboards and motorcycles.
So we're fortunate enough to have Jamie Bestwick on the call today who is a three-time Dew Cup Champion, and also plays a dual role of being in the broadcast booth when he's not on the bike, so he brings a unique perspective to it. And Paul Zitzer, a former pro on the Dew Tour is now one of our skateboarding analysts who can really shed some light on what they see upcoming this year on the course and which athletes to watch.
Certainly with all the top stars returning with Ryan Sheckler, Shaun White, Daniel Dhers, Jamie Bestwick, Bucky Lasek, Dave Mirra, Ryan Nyquist, all of our Dew Cup champions from previous years will join us.
If history has told us anything about the Dew Tour, is that you really can't predict who is going to win. And the Dew Tour has proven to be a terrific platform for the emergence of new stars. And we've seen that time and again from Ryan Guettler, to Anthony Napolitan to Daniel Dhers.
It's been a great platform to really see the explosion of new talent and really that challenge to the old guard that's been on top for so long in these sports. And I think what makes for an interesting story line as we head into the year is the emergence of new stars along with the so-called veterans that have been dominating these sports for so long.
So we're really excited about just about every aspect, excited to get kicked off next week in Baltimore. And again, thank you all for joining, and I'll turn it over to Jamie.
JAMIE BESTWICK: Thanks everybody. For me I'm just stoked to come back for the fourth season of the AST Dew Tour. As a BMX Rider who has won the Dew Cup for the past three years straight, it's a good feeling coming into this year being defending champion again. Especially with the rise of new vert riders that we have last year obtaining their first rookie year behind them, they know what the deal is now and they'll be coming after the cup, so to speak, this year.
So I think the fourth year will definitely be a tough one for myself. The competition hasn't backed down, and what people can expect from this year is just, you know, the riding has progressed to an even higher level than last year. So definitely a lot of good things will happen this year.
We all know the competition venues. We all toured there last year, and everybody is quite confident and happy with the set-ups that were already in place last year and will be coming back this year.
So confidence is running high on the Tour. We're all excited and behind it. And, you know, it's just going to be another outstanding year.
A lot of guys have been putting in a lot of time in the off-season to getting ready for these Tours. That's something that in years gone by people didn't really train for, so to speak. BMX was such a one-time deal at one time in its life. But now with the introduction of the Dew Tour, it's become a proper tour, and people have seen the benefits of what can happen when you obtain the cup for the year.
So a lot more professionalism is coming to BMX. In fact, in all aspects of the Dew Tour, everybody trains. Because this tour means such a lot to all the riders who come out there.
I know from the BMX side of things, as both an announcer and BMX rider, I mean, the people who I'll be looking at this year, I think, from vert, Steve McCann and Zack Warden will be the breakout stars in that category for this year. They had a tremendous rookie year last year. But they've definitely got that experience under their belt now. They're going to try and progress from last year.
But also, I think Chad Kagy's going to start making moves on the Dew Tour. So I definitely think those three are going to be definite competition to anybody who is challenging for the cup this year.
For BMX Park, Daniel Dhers is looking for his third Dew Cup in a row. And I've got a feeling that, you know, the challenge from Mike Spinner and Ryan Guettler will be even more prominent this year. You know, both of them have seemed to have taken their BMX riding to another level by hiring personal trainers so they can both get as fit as they can.
I think that was one of the problems for them last year. They just couldn't keep on par with the Dew Cup champions. So this year they'll all be playing on an even course. So it's going to definitely be exciting.
My pick for dirt this year is Anthony Napolitan. '07 wasn't his greatest year. I think coming off the win in '06, he sat down and expected to come out with the same stuff that he had the year before. He learned a very hard lesson. You know, BMX and especially progression waits for nobody. Everybody is hungrier than ever to win titles. So he learned his lesson in '07, and I think he's starting to figure that out now. He's coming off strong in this off-season.
I also had my eye on Cam White, the second place finisher from last year. He's doing good in pre-Dew Tour contests this year. He's going to be a tough one to beat, especially having to take a cruel loss against Ryan Nyquist like that. You can expect big things from him.
Also, Ryan Guettler. He was unstoppable in the first year of the Dew Tour, and I definitely think he will be rising to the top this year. He's hungry for it. He's not had the best of luck since his winning ways in the early years of the Dew Tour. But I think he's putting the time in, and he's definitely trying to make his mark on the Tour again.
For me, this year is going to be my second year as part of NBC's broadcast team. I'm really pleased to be a part of that, because BMX is something that I have a lot of passion for. I love both riding in the event and talking about what's going on through the events.
I know last year it was more of a play-by-play scenario where I called out a lot of the tricks that were being done and didn't really elaborate on them too much. I think, for me, last year was definitely a learning curve. It was just something that I had to do. I subsequently watched all the programs and learned from that.
But this year we're going to inform the viewers on why they do the tricks, and what is their strategy coming into this event and the stories behind the battles. There have been many great battles in the Dew Tour. More often than not, there have been great stories left out of there. So we intend to involve more in-depth views on the action this year.
You know, as always, I'm just looking forward to just watching some of the wildest action that the Tour has ever seen. I think 2008's going to be that year. So it's going to be great. I'm totally looking forward to it, and that's me. Paul?
PAUL ZITZER: Thanks, Jamie. Yeah, Paul Zitzer. I can't tell you how excited I am. It's my second year as part of the broadcast team for NBC Sports, calling Skateboard Vert and Skateboard Park.
I actually sat in as sort of a guest host the first two years on the Tour because I was also skateboarding. I didn't have quite the success that Jamie had, so I made an easier transition straight into the announcer's booth, and I'm loving it.
This year's going to be better than ever. In the past, we've been through some changes in the booth. But this year my co-host is going to be none other than Chris Miller, who is an absolute skateboarding legend. When I grew up, I grew up skateboarding in the '80s, and Chris Miller was already one of the best pros around. He was one of the few people to actually take down Tony Hawk in his prime in some contests.
So he's definitely coming with a wealth of experience in the sport which just makes it so much fun for me. Sitting in the booth with Chris is going to be great.
Then, as far as the competitions go, I think the big question this year - there's probably two big questions. But at least for Skateboard Park, it's all about Ryan Sheckler. Can Sheckler win another Dew Cup? With all of his kind of new found fame and, you know, his TV show and all of these commercials, and just so much attention on this kid , he's sort of become a target. He's coming into this contest series with a whole lot of pressure.
But, I mean, I have never seen anyone deal with it as well as Ryan Sheckler. So, personally, I think he's a shoo-in for winning another Dew Cup. I would be shocked and amazed to see someone really take him down. But I don't think it's not possible. He's up against some serious heavy hitters. Many of the same ones as in years past.
I think his number one competition is going to be Greg Lutzka, a street skater out of Milwaukee. Big guy. I think he lives out in Long Beach these days: But trick for trick, he's as good as Sheckler. Just not necessarily, maybe, as consistent. So if he can tweak that and get a little better with the consistency this year, he can give Sheckler a run for his money this year.
And of course the Brazilians -- there are quite a few different Brazilians that are a threat to win. Not so much maybe in Dew Cup, but a threat to win any individual contest. And that would be Rodolfo Ramos, Carlos Andrade and Danilo Do Rosario. A couple of these guys really technical skaters, but, once again, not necessarily with the consistency of Sheckler.
In Vert this year, I would love to see an all out battle between Shaun White and Bucky Lasek. But unfortunately, I think Shaun White's going to be a no show at some of the events due to scheduling conflicts with his snowboarding.
That being said, I think it's going to come down to once again, Bucky Lasek trying to fight for his Dew Cup. But if I had to put money on it, I'm thinking this is PLG's (Pierre-Luc Gagnon) year. He's been skating more consistently than anyone. And seems to have been putting in the most work lately. I personally feel like he's looking the best to win the Vert Dew Cup.
I think that's about it on my end. I think we can probably take some questions now.
TOBY ZWIKEL: Wade, Jamie and Paul, thank you very much. That was great insight that you guys offered.
Q. Wade, I have a question about the Nike sponsorship? Who solicited who, and were there any other contenders?
WADE MARTIN: We've been talking to Nike for a while. Nike was one of the first meetings we had when we initially launched the Tour. At that time, they weren't ready for such a big property and to be involved with something of this size. They were just getting started with their 6.0 line.
So we've talked on and off for the last few years. The category have been occupied by Vans. And when that freed up, we started talking again. And, you know, sort of the stars assigned on this one. They're ready, and we're ready for them. I think it's going to be a great fit, and we're really excited to be partnered with such a credible and sort of world-renowned brand.
Q. How much is this worth to Nike financially?
WADE MARTIN: Financially, we don't disclose the figures around the sponsorship deals.
Q. This may be a dumb question, but is this a men's only competition?
WADE MARTIN: The competitions on the summer side are open competitions, which means that they're not men's only. But we don't have a female specific division, as we will with the Winter Tour in snowboarding and free skiing.
So a female could come through the open qualifying, could receive a wildcard or come through the Free Flow Tour, our amateur series, to earn a spot in the open field. But there isn't female specific competitions on the summer side as there will be again in snowboarding and skiing with the Winter Tour.
Q. Do you think it hurts the tour at all that it's men only?
WADE MARTIN: , you know, I think we've gotten questioned before, and it's something we're always looking at. We make a decision on a case by case basis. What disciplines to have, and in the case of women, which ones are we going to have women's competitions. It's really based on the depth of the field, and the depth of the infrastructure for women's competitions. And right now that infrastructure really isn't in place at the same level for skateboarding, BMX and Freestyle Motocross as it is for skiing and snowboarding.
Even other summer sports, if we had wakeboarding or surfing, the women would be naturals in there. But the depth of participation in the women's classes in the disciplines we have in the Summer Tour, doesn't, from our perspective at this point, warrant a separate class.
But it's something that we're always looking at. Clearly we want that to grow. We want these sports to grow. Having more women competing is part of that growth. So it's something we'll continue to look at and hopefully Foster the development of.
Q. I know the first stop of the Dew Tour is in Baltimore, the Panasonic Open. Talk about the decision for the Dew Tour to come back to Baltimore this year?
WADE MARTIN: Well, it was an easy one. Last year when we went into Baltimore, we really didn't know what to expect. It was the first time in Baltimore. But it was really the first time in a while an event of this magnitude in action sports had been on the east coast, probably since the X-Games were in Philadelphia.
So we really didn't know what to expect. It had tremendous success. We had almost 55,000 people there. It really blew away our expectations for a first-time event.
There's a bunch of criteria we look at, but largely it's summarized as did the city and community embrace the event? I think in every way, Baltimore did. We're really excited to be back and think it's a great market for us.
Q. Paul, what do you think of Mathieu "Gumby" Therres. He got on in the open qualifier and stayed on the rest of the time. What do you think of his chances this year?
PAUL ZITZER: First of all, I was highly impressed. To be honest, I had never heard of him before in my life. Skateboarding is my life, so I was kind of surprised to see a kid that I wasn't aware of come out and actually qualify for the Tour and go on and do very well.
So, yeah, I was impressed. His chances this year, I'm sure -- I haven't seen him skate since the end of last year -- but whether he can win the Dew Cup, I doubt it. But could he qualify and skate and get Top 10 in a couple of these events? Absolutely, because he has a really great style. Looks really comfortable and natural on his board. He has a lot of the tricks you need to be up there running with the pros, so, yeah.
Q. Wade, I want to know how much the success of athletes like Bucky Lasek and Gumby as just mentioned, have helped to establish the extreme sports scene in Baltimore and having some local people to market it around?
WADE MARTIN: I think that always is helpful. Bucky was one of the initial people pushing us to bring the event to Baltimore. So we worked really closely with him last year. I remember right after the event on Monday morning I got a call from Bucky eager to find out what did you think? Are you going to come back? I thought it was great.
So, you know, it's always great to have local stories that make the event a little bit closer to home for all of the spectators to come.
It's a huge advantage when we have those opportunities, and we generally do. Anthony Napolitan in Ohio, and a bunch of athletes in Florida, and the whole scene out in Utah. But it's really rare.
I think Bucky might be -- certainly Bucky's the biggest star from a hometown of any event we're hosting. So it's a great story. I think the fans really -- it's fun to see the fans get behind their hometown athlete.
Q. Wade, you talked about participation and things like that. With the X-Games sort of adding their Superpark discipline to a playoff of sort of the growth of concrete skate parks in the country and for a brief while using that as a replacement for vert, was there any thought of doing something similar with the Dew Tour this year in adding a new discipline?
WADE MARTIN: No, there really wasn't. I'm really anxious to see the Superpark discipline. I think it's a great addition. But I'm glad that it's an addition and not a replacement. Because vert has tremendous heritage. There's a tremendous, you know, talent field out there. And I think there's an emerging talent that we're just starting to see right now in both vert or excuse me, in both skateboarding and BMX on the vert ramp. I think we're going to be able to enjoy that new wave of talent come in over the next few years.
So I think it's critical to remain true to where the sports have come from, the legitimacy of the sports and the heritage of them. I also think it's great to keep evolving these sports. Which is why I'm excited to see the Superpark discipline. You know, it's something we may look at in the future down the road.
But for now, I'm really excited about the vert discipline. I think for us in what we're trying to accomplish from a competitive perspective, it's really important for us to stay true to the heritage of the sports.
Q. Jamie, can you talk you've had such an amazing career and still evolving, can you talk a little bit about the story of how you originally got into BMX? How old you were and what the circumstances were surrounding that?
JAMIE BESTWICK: Well, I got into BMX when I was 10 years old. BMX at that time was the -- it was all the rage. It was the first time it had come around. So at that point in time, it was just BMX bikes. BMX tracks were few and far between in England, and most of the footage and competitions that I ever saw were all coming out of the United States.
So at that early stage it was just more to me about having a bike and enjoying this radically different bike that had come on to the market.
But, yeah, it was a lot less progressed than it is now. It's just the kids of today are so lucky to have such places like Woodward Camp, and the AST Dew providing an outlet for them to go and challenge and compete against the best guys in the world. It's something that wasn't readily available when I first started riding.
That's not a bad thing, you know. I feel that it's done me a lot of good to be competing at this time of my life rather than early on. I feel if I would have had to go through this in my youth, I don't know how long, BMX, I would have stayed with it.
Q. How do you evolve into freestyle and vert and things like that?
JAMIE BESTWICK: It all came from the racetracks, really. We were lucky enough locally to have a racetrack built by our local government. I had always seen pictures of races and how great they looked. But actually coming in and putting it into place, it never gave me the feel of how the pictures looked.
But the one thing that use d to draw me back to having fun with the bikes is I would always jump the last table top on the track and that was something that really got me hooked. Around the same time as the track being built, our local BMX club started up. Once we found out about that, the difference between the two was they had four to five jump ramps rather than a full track.
So once I caught my teeth on the track and learned how to jump, I went to the BMX club and found that the ramps were far more interesting than racing around like a full BMX track.
So for me, it was just a matter of I just dropped into this club at the right time and just went from there. It was all I wanted to do at that point.
Q. How old were you then?
JAMIE BESTWICK: 10.
Q. Paul, do you know what events Shaun White is actually probably going to miss, if the scheduling conflicts are already apparent, which ones he's missing?
PAUL ZITZER: I'm not sure, Wade, do you know?
WADE MARTIN: I believe what we know now is he'll be in Cleveland, and probably not in Baltimore and Portland. Then the last two stops are TBD.
Q. About FMX, you didn't talk about it much today. But I know that two of the stops that are being converted into exhibitions and with like a street contest. If you could talk about that decision, and let us know if the Dew Cup going to be the same payout even though there's only three stops versus the five?
WADE MARTIN: I'll take that in order. The rationale behind the changes to FMX, again, we're always looking at the competitions and what is the best format, and how do we continue to evolve and help evolve and progress these sports?
We've looked at Freestyle Motocross, particularly over the last two years, and felt like it wasn't perhaps progressing. The tricks may have been progressing, but I'm not sure from a competitive aspect the sport was progressing certainly at the same rate that skateboarding and BMX were.
I think partly that was due to two things. One, in a couple of the markets, we don't have the space and the ability to create what we think is a perfect track the way we do in Orlando and Salt Lake and in Baltimore. So wanted to focus on FMX in the markets we could hold the kind of FMX competition we wanted to with a big enough and creative enough course to really allow the athletes to flourish.
Two, I think this format will likely help the progression of these sports. Because it's not -- the progression isn't as rapid as you see in BMX and skateboarding where week-to-week, stop-to-stop tricks are changing. I think this is going to increase and improve the competitiveness of the fields for each of the three stops.
So, it's something that we're continuing to look at with FMX. We'll continue to review it. This is one effort that hopefully, you know, fostering the progression of the discipline.
As far as the purse payout, it is slightly prorated from five events to three. It's not a straight line prorated number. But the pool is a little bit less than it would have been with five stops. Which I'm sure Jamie would agree with is fair. Right, Jamie?
JAMIE BESTWICK: Yeah, that's pretty fair.
Q. Quick question of the festival in the lifestyle portion of the event. Any big changes this year? I know there was a rumor that the houses were going away. It sounds like with some of the bands you've started to announce that maybe the MTV connection is helping in that area. But just what's going to go on for the festival?
WADE MARTIN: I think the fun part of the festival for me is I find out when everyone else does what's going on this year. The partners are unveiling their new pavilions. So it's always changing.
The Mountain Dew is changing up the House of Dew, and has a really innovative new strategy. They're going to have a big, interactive area. But there's also going to be a large studio and some other exciting elements to that they're going to be announcing shortly.
The bands, I think you're right. We've had some great success with some great acts this year. Starting with Good Charlotte coming home to Baltimore, which is, you know, we think is going to be a great concert.
So the festival just continues to grow and evolve every year. Our biggest challenge is finding space for all the fun stuff that our partners are bringing in. But it's such an added value piece of the event, and so great for families to come out and engage with.
You know, we're excited to sort of offer what we think is a unique component to any sporting event where you're bringing almost a festival right next to some of the world's best athletes.
TOBY ZWIKEL: Thank you, everyone, for taking time out of your schedules to be with us today.
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