Tour de France time is really unlike anything else in many respects, but it can be summarized as just... bigger. In the US at least, the viewing experience should be bigger and better than pretty much ever before. It's Year 1 for NBC Sports as owner of the Tour rights stateside, and I've been getting lots of emails about how awesome it will be.
Over the years we've all grown a bit skeptical of broadcast and webcast claims of awesomeness, but there are a few things that make me optimistic:
On the flip!
- NBC owns Versus now, which puts them in league with Universal Sports, who have delivered on the Giro and worlds. Versus will still speak its name, and if you were tired of Phil and Paul before, you probably will be again. But as big network takeovers go... these are the people who gave us Hulu and 30 Rock on demand.
- NBC will actually broadcast some free-TV coverage, so far offering just the first two stages on tape delay, but this is a very interesting sign of where the Bigs think cycling is headed. The live TV will still be thru Versus cable and their Tour de France All Access service where you can pay $29.95 and have live and on-demand video "with the ability to pause, rewind, and slow-mo the image." Screen cap heaven. There is a free All Access feature too, though it's not clear which features go with just the premium package.
- Next, the iPhone and iPad apps. Android too. They're not live yet so we can only guess how well they will work. However, last year I had pretty good success with the Versus iPhone app after about day 3. Presumably things are dialed in this time.
- Lastly, they plan to have cameras inside the Garmin, Leopard, Shack and HTC buses. [Tune in for the second rest day when Stapleton announces to the HTC boys whether they have a sponsor for 2012.] Personally I would love to see them go a bit more international -- inside the Rabo bus sounds promising -- but for now it's nice that they're spreading around the focus as American media gradually weans itself off Lance and co.