Can’t Find the TV Schedule for Tour de France? Here’s Why–It’s NBC.

July 9, 2013. By Jen Benepe.

If you have been searching for the schedule for the Tour de France on television with little luck, you aren’t alone. That’s because the job of covering the Tour has now fallen to NBC Sports, who took over the rights to broadcast the big stage race in 2012.

Try and Google, “Tour de France TV Schedule” and the only thing that comes up is a schedule on–and it’s wrong. On Saturday morning it said the stage was aired at 8 am: no it was aired at 6:30 AM, and if you got up at 8 to watch it, you missed the whole thing.

Here is what we found:

None of these links were direct to the schedule, and all of the links above them were from other media outlets.

Given that NBC paid an estimated $10 to $30 million dollars to broacast the Tour, this leads us to only one conclusion, that NBC doesn’t seem to understand rankings in the digital universe.

Oh sure, you say. They are a multi-billion dollar broadcast network. Yes, they are, a multi-billion dollar BROADCAST network, darlings. And therein lies the rub.

Add to that, heavily American-dominated, [okay we edited this section because we got serious objections on our Facebook page from a reader. He said they are nice people and passionate about cycling].

It’s almost entertaining watching their American announcers side by side with seasoned TDF Brits Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. Okay let’s just say it appears that NBC producers decided to consciously use the American announcers as dummies asking Liggett and Sherwen questions (even if they do know a lot about cycling.)

So what does that say about what the producers think about our knowledge of cycling?

The big question is, did NBC Sports do any market research of who their viewers of the Tour are, before starting this endeavor?

Last summer we tried to use their digital subscription service for $29.95. It didn’t work on a MAC.

What cretin invented that software? And what noodle head was in charge of setting up the non-existent infrastrcuture to support it? [Note to readers, this is unedited: the facts still stand. The software didn’t work: there was no customer service structure to support it. End of story.]

There was no contact phone number anywhere on the NBC site for customer service. So we called the station directly, and rather frantically too because the stage had already started and we didn’t want to miss a second of it.

They switched us to one group: who switched us to someone else: who switched us to someone else, and so on. About 10 phone calls later we were told someone would call back. They never did. That was already one hour into the stage.

Working remotely, we searched frantically for a house nearby where we could watch the Tour on TV, and only caught the tail end of the tour on cable. Later we wrote a note to their online (only) customer service, and asked for a refund.

The answer back? “You never told us that you had a problem so you will not be refunded your money.” That from the head of digital customer service.

I won’t even bore you with the amount of effort it took to find that arrogant S.O.B. whose name I have misplaced, but wish I had now to out him as the idiot he is.

Talk about highway robbery: imagine if all the MAC users experienced the same problem. Pretend there were 50,000 of them.

Nice going, NBC. We won’t be using your digital software again anytime –ever.

Now remember, we never had these problems with Versus when they covered the Tour in the good old days prior to 2012.

So, by the way, what ever happened to Versus, that lovely cable station that covered the Tour de France?

Well, they were owned by Comcast, and Comcast bought NBC Sports, and decided to combine the two. They should have kept the structure, and personnel, of Versus, which was previously the Outdoor Life Channel. At least they knew bike racing.

Here’s the background: Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s NBC Sports Group signed a new 10-year agreement for coverage of the Tour de France race in June 2012.

The financial details of the amount they are paying to the Amaury Sports Organization, the race’s owner, for broadcast rights in the U.S. were not disclosed, according to Bloomberg News.

But France Television pays 24 million euros ($30 million) a year to show the Tour de France and other sports events managed by Amaury Sport Organization, according to a statement by the French public broadcaster.

“We’ve noticed a continuing interest in cycling in the U.S. and the ratings for this event have been strong,” Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network told Bloomberg News in 2012. “Our sponsors like it. We’re finding a real strong audience for this race and this sport.”

Broadcast advertising for the race was 85 percent sold out in 2012, Adam Freifeld, a spokesman for NBC Sports Group had told Bloomberg at the time of the signing of rights. Advertisers in the first year included Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD)NV, Radio Shack Corp. (RSH)Nissan Motor Co. (7201)General Motor Co. (GM)’s Cadillac brand, and McDonald’s Corp. (MCD), Freifeld said.

Many of those same advertisers are still with the Tour today (see our Tour de France advertising article).

The new multiplatform agreement gave NBC Sports Group the U.S. television, digital and mobile rights to the famed bike race through 2023.

The tour was the marquee event on Comcast‘s Versus channel, which was rebranded and relaunched at the start of 2012 as NBC Sports Network folllowing Comcast’s purchase of NBCUniversal.

The Tour broadcast includes 295 total hours of coverage.

Wrote Bloomberg, “The race’s stunning backdrop — its stages include stretches in the French countryside, and in both the Pyrenees and the Alps — make it one of the best-looking sporting events on TV. (A certain Deadline Editor in Chief doesn’t miss a pedal of it.)”

God forbid Liggett and Sherwen should ever decide to go elsewhere.

The NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) is a cable sports channel in the United States operated as a division of NBC Sports. It previously launched on July 1, 1995, as the Outdoor Life Network (OLN), which was dedicated to programming primarily involving fishing, hunting, outdoor adventure programs, and outdoor sports.

By the turn of the 21st century, OLN became better known for its extensive coverage of the Tour de France, but eventually began covering more “mainstream” sporting events—resulting in its relaunch as Versus in September 2006.

Comcast, the original owner of Versus, acquired a majority stake in media company NBC Universal in 2011. On January 2, 2012, Versus was re-branded as the NBC Sports Network to reflect these changes. As of March 18, 2013, the entirety of NBC Sports’ operations except for Football Night in America (which will remain at Studio 8G in Rockefeller Center), including the Network, is based out of facilities inStamford, Connecticut.

, , , , , , , ,