There has been a sizable increase in outdoor participation across the board during 2020. The rediscovery of the outdoors has been a silver lining in this rough and rocky year. Mitch notes that people seek different things from the outdoors - some are using it to fill newly free time, others use outdoor activities to reconnect with friends and family and others are taking advantage of the opportunity to hunt and fish as a means to fill their freezers. The use of local, state and national parks has increased. Boating registrations are up, fishing licenses have increased, hunting licenses have increased and educational courses are often at max capacity with people wanting to take hunter safety, bowhunting and trapping classes, firearm training and more. The demand that sporting goods stores are seeing for firearms, ammunition, bows, crossbows, fishing tackle and other hunting and fishing accessories is enormous. Sales for these kinds of products are surging right now which is great for manufacturers. Indicators like the increase in license sales and hunting and fishing gear suggest an overall increase in outdoor participation. Mitch says he is hopeful that this renewed interest in the outdoors will usher in a resurgence of hunting and fishing to North America that is sustainable in the long term, although it's too soon to really understand what the long term impact of the pandemic will be on the outdoor industry.
If there was a way to describe the impact of COVID across the board, in all industries, Mitch says the word would be "disruption". Disruption is the new norm and for the outdoor and outdoor television industries it has been significant. While some businesses in the outdoor industry have thrived with hunting and fishing gear moving off of their shelves at rapid pace, Mitch notes that there are challenges for those businesses as well. An interruption in the supply chain, and in some cases difficulty accessing raw materials, have made it difficult for those manufactures to keep up with demand. For other businesses like guides and outfitters and the tourism industry that benefits from the travel of American hunters, the halt of travel has been devastating. It's taking a lot of time for businesses to adapt to this new reality, Mitch says. For hunters themselves, and in the case of outdoor television, show producers have struggled to adapt their production schedules to hunt cancellations, border closures, halting of travel and more. Mitch highlights the closing of the Canadian border earlier this year, and with the persisting nature of that closure he says viewers can expect to see much less outdoor television content coming out of Canada in the coming year because those hunting and fishing opportunities weren't available. The same can be said for international travel to popular outdoor destinations like New Zealand, Africa and more. Guides and outfitters in the U.S., Canada and abroad have all struggled with cancellations and the travel restrictions that have plagued them through their seasonal hunting and fishing schedules. The cancellation of hunts beyond America's borders has pushed producers to be very creative and resilient, Mitch says, and through the trials they have still found a way to lock down great hunts here at home, and bring quality entertainment to viewers.
With the increase of participation in hunting and fishing, outdoor television plays an important role in educating a new wave of outdoorsmen and women. Mitch says Outdoor Sportsman Group and all of their brands are focused on meeting the new demands of this moment. In particular, he highlights Fly Fishing magazine and the way they have created a new section on their website for beginning anglers. He notes that the new category has taken off in popularity and is one of the most popular sections on the website. There is definitely a demand for content and information for new hunters and anglers, he says, and Outdoor Sportsman Group is going to satisfy this demand with more beginner related content in their magazines, on their websites and in their programming. Another area of growing popularity that has piqued the interest of many during this moment, and was already on the rise before the pandemic, is the 'food' aspect of hunting. Mitch says they have a lot of new content and some new shows that are focused around the field to table aspect of the hunting and fishing lifestyle. What to do with the meat being harvested, how to butcher animals yourself, how to cook it - these are topics that really interest people right now. Because Outdoor Sportsman Group and their large family of outdoor brands put out so much content on the daily, Mitch says they have created a new website, www.OutdoorChannelPlus.com, a place where you can get the best of the best when it comes to outdoor content, all in one place.
Be sure to listen in as Mitch Petrie, Vice President of Programming for Outdoor Sportsman Group, joins The Revolution this week to talk about the impact of COVID on the outdoor industry, the challenges it has created, as well as the positive takeaways.