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Saturday, October 6, 2012
ASP announces new partnership deal

By Jamie Tierney
ESPN Action Sports

ASP World Tour
With media rights at the heart of the discussion, the ASP has entered into a new partnership and looks to restructure the tour by 2014.

At a meeting Friday in Hossegor, France, a few hours after Kelly Slater won the Quiksilver Pro France, the Association of Surfing Professionals announced that it had joined forces with ZoSea Media, a group led by Slater's manager, Terry Hardy, and Paul Speaker, a former president at Time Inc. and board of directors member at Quiksilver.

The two groups had been in behind-the-scenes negotiations for the past year. The decision to go with ZoSea will create new organizational structure for the ASP modeled after leading sports organizations such as the NFL and the NBA.

"We've known this is the right model for a long time," said Quiksilver event director Rod Brooks, who also sits on the ASP board. "But we hadn't found the right partner until ZoSea came to the table with their proposal."

An ASP news release was sent out immediately after the initial agreement was put in place, but the specifics of the relationship between ZoSea and the ASP won't be finalized until Dec. 17, when the long-form agreement will be signed.

ASP International media director Dave Prodan said all parties are excited about the new direction.

"The ASP Board of Directors, surfers, events and staff are all extremely supportive of the next evolution of professional surfing," Prodan said.

At a time when the leading surf brands, Billabong, Rip Curl and Quiksilver, are either for sale or dealing with serious financial difficulties, the move will at the very least save them the future cost of producing live webcasts. The issue of media rights has long been considered the linchpin of the issue. Currently the brands pay between $250,000 and $500,000 per event to stream the contests online, and it can run upwards of $2 million to $3 million to produce one ASP World Tour event from beginning to end.

ASP/ZoSea will take over media rights starting in 2013. Currently the main sponsors of each event will continue to hold those rights. The live webcasts will continue to be produced by the major brands for the 2013 season, but starting in 2014, the websites for all world tour contests will be standardized and ASP/ZoSea will hire a single production team and commentary team to work all events.

Also part of the deal, ASP/ZoSea will hire a new commissioner and CEO in 2013. They will take over the securing of secondary sponsorship deals for the events from the brands starting in 2014. The new coalition also only will produce world tour webcasts. WQS and Junior webcasts will continue to be produced by brands.

"It's an important time for surfing," ASP surfer representative Kieren Perrow said in the news release distributed by the ASP. "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. Everyone, from the surfers to the fans to the events to the sport, will benefit and it's an exciting time for the ASP."

The current endeavor between ASP and ZoSea won't have any bearing on the 2012 world tour season. The next event will be the Rip Curl Pro in Portugal starting Wednesday.