It's not yet 6am on Saturday morning, when we'll be convening for the first Monument of the season, but if it were, I could flip on the Versus Network and look at the following options over the next couple hours:
6-7:30: Consumer Product Showcase
7:30-8: Safari Hunter's Journal
8-8:30: JImmy Houston Outdoors (fishing)
8:30-9: Fishing with Roland Martin
9-9:30: North American Fisherman
And on it goes. Meanwhile, by Sunday evening Versus will have produced 90 minutes of decent quality coverage of Milan-San Remo, plus another half hour on Tirreno-Adriatico.
It forever mystifies me why Versus won't show the races live. Consider the following...
- Can the network executives seriously be putting their kids through college on the backs of "Jimmy Houston Outdoors"? I know I'm a snob, and will always fail to appreciate whatever value there is in these shows. I'm sure it has something to do with low production costs -- how many of these shows cost more than a jug of So-Co, an ads-for-merchandise trade with the Cabela's catalogue, and $100 at the gas-and-sip? Still, even the cheapest production doesn't matter if the audience in these early morning time slots is truly marginal. People who actually hunt and fish are outside this time of day, and there's no urgency for the audience to dial up VS at 7am with several networks showing hours and hours of this stuff, day and night. Whatever these shows bring the network at these time slots can't be much... can it?
- Cycling fans, meanwhile, are a completely captive audience. Not a large enough one to get the major networks excited. But... Versus/OLN have stuck it out with six months of the Cyclysm for two post-Lance years now. They are putting enough money into Cycling to produce crafted shows with a mix of interviews, product stuff, studio babble and race footage. Bobke, Phil and Paul, etc... they're already on the payroll. How much more would it cost them to show the races live, and do the recap later (a la the Tour)? There's gotta be an audience for the live cast, beyond the recap show... and I'm convinced Versus wouldn't have to double down to get it. They've already made the investment.
- There could be a steep price increase in the rights, but Versus should be sharp enough to put a lid on that. Say Versus wants to show the Tour of Flanders live, but HNB says they want an extra mil to show live footage, above the cost for replay rights. No way would Versus have to pay that. Any race besides the Tour should consider themselves lucky to be aired live in America right now. Maybe not someday... but for now the American market is the great untapped resource. HNB will want in. They'll also know that Versus is the only bid they will get for the rights. So either they accept what Versus can afford to pay, or get bubkis. Given the relative negotiating positions, something reasonable should be worked out.
So why isn't this happening? Maybe one or all of my assumptions are wrong. Maybe Versus is lazy, or doesn't care. Maybe nobody knows the Cycling audience is out there. Maybe Versus executives are very sensitive and Cosmo hurt their feelings. As usual, I have more questions than answers.