Only one TV Network in the US covers Pro cycling races: Versus, formerly known as Outdoor Life Network. To get that network, I’m required by my cable provider to subscribe to the highest tier of service they offer. It’s expensive. It’s ridiculously expensive considering the relatively few hours of racing that gets covered throughout the year. But it’s the only way I get to watch the races I love. So, when those few hours of racing do get coverage – I expect to see every minute. Especially the most important part of the race: the end.
Apparently, Versus does not agree. I am stoked that Versus has decided to cover this years Tour of California live. And, really, why wouldn’t they? All the stars of racing have converged on Cali making this event one of the best fields of pro racing ever assembled on American soil. It’s of Tour de France quality. It’s amazing. So, why then did Versus decide last night in covering Stage 3, to cut out of it’s live coverage with only about 15K to the finish, in favor of National Hockey League coverage?
As a cycling fan and cable subscriber, obviously, I’m pissed off. Really pissed off. But, the fact that I work in TV, and have an idea of how things work, makes me even madder because I personally feel like, executively, it was the wrong decision. Here was Versus’ plan: After 2 hours of live coverage drop out of Stage 3 with 15K left (15k in a cycling race is equivalent to about 10 minutes) and cut to NHL Hockey Match coverage. And not even NHL match coverage…it was the pre-game chit chat, fat head at a desk trying to predict for everyone the outcome of the upcoming match. That same fat head was to apologize to cycling fans and assure them that they would be given race updates in the breaks of hockey coverage. Gee thanks. Yeah, that’s the same as watching it live.
The correct plan would have been this: stick with Stage 3 through the finish; there was only 15k left anyway. Run a crawl stating that NHL coverage would begin upon completion of the Stage. After all, you weren’t really missing anything on the NHL side - guy at desk, National Anthem, and maybe a minute of actual match play. I suspect that a contractual obligation could have been why Versus went to NHL exactly at 7PM. If that be the case, I still fault Versus with agreeing to that contract. How can you follow live coverage of a sporting event with a hard out? Can you imagine that happening with the NFL? You’d get to the 2 minute warning, go to a break and never come back – oh, but you’d get updates on the score in the breaks of Desperate Housewives or 60 Minutes or whatever comes on after football.
I have contacted Versus with my extreme disappointment. If they happen to reply, I will post it here. Feel free to contact them yourself, as well: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, and to the sportscaster I called a fat head, I apologize. That was immature of me.