We were just reading a blog about the highlights of the 2010 Pro Cycling season. Interestingly, one of the highlights included the fact that the Versus TV network (in the USA) abruptly ended their coverage of the Tour of California while the race was still going on. Even better, they did it right before the race finish. I guess they felt that watching the hockey pre-game was more important than the stage finish. If the “cycling” network can’t get it right, what hope is there for good cycling coverage on TV?
It may be “forever” before the USA embraces the sport of cycling. If the Lance phenomenon can’t sway TV audiences, it’s doubtful that anything will. There’s been plenty of discussion already about how cycling is not inherently an American sport and thus doomed to the 3rd, 4th or 5th tier of sports (or maybe worse.. hey, bowling gets better coverage on the major networks). In an age in which there’s a TV channel for just about any interest conceivable, why can’t their be a “cycling only” channel. (we can dream right?)
In the pre-TV era in this country, cycling was popular. So was it the TV advertisers that killed cycling? Perhaps. But as we move into the 2011 and beyond, we would suggest that cycling is better off if it doesn’t get noticed by the US TV networks at all. The fact is: cycling gets plenty of coverage in other countries, especially in the European countries that host many of the races. And as we move forward with technology, it seems that every year offers improvements to the ability to view bike racing over the internet.
We remember just a few years back when RAI (Italy’s national TV station) would broadcast the Giro d’Italia live in a tiny little streaming video. We’d wake up early just to get a glimpse of the live racing action. And while the picture was choppy, as was our Italian, it was far better than anything we’d see directly in the States. Then came OLN (the Outdoor Life Network), the precursor to Versus. THAT was like Christmas: a network that actually showed the races on the same day they took place. Sure they were abbreviated recaps and sure they were biased (our friends and we would call OLN the “Only Lance Network”…. geesh, could you please report on some of the other riders too?)
But sadly, after all of the years, the TV networks haven’t changed much. We’d argue that they are stuck in the old media. While they are stuck in their old ways, the internet is poised to (and already, in some cases) pass them by. Sites like Cycling.tv and Cyclingfans.com show a vast majority of the pro races each year, live and streaming online. Even big companies like Universal (Universal Sports) are getting in on the action. But perhaps nothing has been more impressive this past year, than the Tour of California’s own website. In an unbelievable integration of the latest technologies, viewers could watch the racing action live, while following the route on a Google map, keep track of rider heart rates, and get a live feed to your mobile device… All at the same time! It goes to show what the future holds.