Meet the director of the Texas Sports and Media Program

Michael Cramer is the director of the Texas Sports and Media Program at UT.

Longhorn Life sat down with Michael Cramer, the director of the Texas Sports and Media Program at UT, to talk about the media’s coverage of alternative sports.

Longhorn Life: How do you think the media treats alternative sports in comparison to traditional ones?

Michael Cramer: The media clearly spends a lot less time [on alternative sports]. TV, like most media, is driven by the number of dollars the coverage will generate, and alternative sports don’t generate a lot of dollars unless it’s one of the new, X Games-type events that have almost become manufactured for TV. So, you’re always going to see a small amount unless you can somehow tie that into dollars.

LL: Why do you think these alternative sports are only shown on smaller stations like ESPNU or other affiliates?

MC: They’ve got a lot of time to fill. ESPN has six different channels — you do the math, times 24 hours a day — there’s only so many NFL games, MLB games and major sports. Plus, they don’t hold the rights to all those, so they’re always looking for filler. That’s why you’re seeing some of that on the stations that are totally dedicated to sports — they’re filling programming time.

LL: How do you think the coverage of alternative sports has changed over time?

MC: Ten years ago, there wouldn’t have been any [coverage]. Early TV only had what we would know as smaller sports. It wouldn’t have been unusual 40, 50 years ago to turn on the TV and what you got was hunting and fishing and some skiing, some water sports. TV was founded on some lesser-known sports with an occasional game of the week for baseball or football; then it became almost full-blown major sports. So, in a way, TV is sort-of returning to its roots, and the reason is because there are an expanded number of channels with time available. In the last 10 years, a lot of those alternative programs have been well-received, especially by young people, such as skateboarding and snowboarding.

LL: In Austin specifically, how do you think the media coverage of alternative sports has changed or will change with the arrival of Formula 1 and the X Games?

MC: If it weren’t for Formula 1 being here, nobody in Austin would care, because it’s not a big-time sport in the United States. Austin could care less until that track was built. Will they watch it on TV? Probably not. This is a great city for X Games. It’s like a big party — and what better place to party than Austin?