July 12, 2011

NBC Sports All Access iOS app gets on-demand stages

I typically watch Tour stages with one display on Versus, and a second showing the English-language video stream they provide, with commentary by Matt Keenan, then Phil and Paul once the on-air broadcast is underway.

I have paid for the Flash-based video stream to my Mac, but last year, I used the Versus iPhone app on my iPhone and iPad (using the iPhone app double-sized) to track the race during broadcast commercials or when I was away from a TV. Updated iOS Tour app

This year's app is much better, with far more video, at least a dozen good quality photos per stage, full iPad support, and fewer crashes. In one way it was worse, however. Last year's app allowed (and still allows, if you've got the 2010 Tour app installed) you to go back and watch the full video of the stage, while this year's offered only highlights (typically, crashes and finishes) once the live video was done.

Until today, that is. There's a new version 1.2.0 of the iOS app that allows subscribers to go back and watch previous Tour stages in their entirety. For now, the full stream goes back to Stage 6, but it's promised that previous stages will be available soon. It's done through a browser window, launched by the app, and allows you to scrub through the video to look for your particular highlight. Stage 6 and Stage 8 have about 3:20 of video, Stage 7 and Stage 9 around 4:15. As I write this at 7:25 Eastern on Tuesday, Stage 10 hasn't yet appeared.

Video quality may be a bit lower than the initial stream -- I'm not in a position to test it with a good quality broadband connection right now.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 12, 2011 in About the Tour, Television, Top Stories, Tour Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 16, 2008

Vs. seeing lower ratings for '08 Tour

OregonLive.com | Tour de France ratings down so far on Versus

Viewership of the live Versus broadcast each morning is down by around one-third so far this year, from 343,000 to 230,000.

Over the multiple daily broadcasts and rebroadcasts, the average Vs. viewership is down from 171,000 to 143,000, about 16 percent.

The article doesn't speculate on reasons for the fall-off, but presumably the absence of many top U.S. riders must hurt, as well as the continuing doping circus. On the other hand, should Christian Vande Velde continue to ride among the leaders, U.S. ratings may pick up.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 16, 2008 in 2008 Tour de France, Television | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

July 08, 2008

Vaughters works blue in the Garmin-Chipotle car

One of my favorite micro-moments of today's Versus coverage was when Jonathan Vaughters, chatting with Robbie Ventura as they followed David Millar around the TT course and unaware that Versus had cut back to the car, responded to Ventura's “How's this going for you?” with, “F---, man...”

And it was the exact right response, not the angry version of the word, but the “I don't know, man, that is some heavy stuff...” version.

Ventura jumped back in after a brief pause for shock.

Vaughters apologized via Twitter (how Web 2.0 is that?): “Sorry to all the parents out there. It was just really intense today... JV.”

It was somewhat ironic, because Vaughters was displaying a very soothing, positive vibe in his encouragement to Millar. I was thinking what a far cry from “Venga! Venga! Venga!” shouted out the car window...

Also:

re: Cycling | Stage 4: Your Phil Liggett Quote of the Day

Update: re: Cycling has found YouTube video of the footage. Watch Ventura's face.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 8, 2008 in David Millar, Garmin-Chipotle, Television | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 05, 2008

Versus ditches Trautwig

It's Christmas in July for U.S. Tour fans, as the Versus network has revamped its broadcast team.

Gone is Al Trautwig, who combined bombast and ignorance in staggering proportions. Replacing him is Craig Hummer, a former competitive swimmer and professional lifeguard who also has anchored bull riding and sailing coverage for Versus.

Hummer kicked off the network's broadcasters' jersey competition by picking outstanding climber Riccardo Ricco to win today's stage which finishes with a “sprinter's hill” over the last 2 kilometers.

Update: Ricco was 5th, so that was a pretty good pick after all.

I can't tell if Trautwig's absence is just because of all the pre-Olympics events on NBC, but best wishes to Hummer.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2008 in Riccardo Ricco, Television, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (75) | TrackBack

July 27, 2007

The Daily Show on Rasmussen

Comedy Central | The Daily Show: The Audacity of Dope

Posted by Frank Steele on July 27, 2007 in Michael Rasmussen, Television | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 23, 2007

Tour TV ratings up in Europe, steady in US

Bloomberg.com | Tour de France TV Audiences Rise in Europe Even After Scandals

MediaPost | Despite Scandals, Versus' Tour de France Ratings Steady

It's no surprise that Danish ratings are up with Michael Rasmussen looking more and more like a Tour winner. I was surprised that the Tour pulled an 80 share (80 percent of the viewing audience), when Rasmussen took the yellow jersey.

In Spain, audiences are up 11 percent year over year, and French audiences are up 6 percent. Italy's RAI wouldn't provide data, and German ratings were even with last year's before ARD and ZDF pulled their coverage. Since then, they've been way down, to as low as 500,000.

US ratings are complicated by the VS. coverage, with afternoon, prime time, and late night reruns, but live program viewer impressions are up 5 percent. Live household ratings have fallen 8 percent, so apparently, more of us are watching the reruns this year. A blurb in the New York Times notes that VS. web video views are up 25 percent.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 23, 2007 in Television | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 19, 2007

Can't a guy get a little privacy?

Apparently, during Stage 10, race video caught one of the Saunier Duvals in the middle of a nature break.

With widespread DVR use, somebody was bound to capture the mistake, and credit to Matt Haughey with the quick Tivo finger. At least it didn't air on German TV -- they might not be able to handle this.

Look for this one on the Rollastrator tonight, with circles and arrows and a paragraph explaining what each photo is.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 19, 2007 in 2007 Stage 10, Television | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sat.1 buys German TV rights

IHT.co | Sat.1 jumps in to cover Tour de France after it was dropped by two German stations

German TV station Sat.1 has acquired rights to the remainder of this year's Tour, starting today, after two German public broadcasters dropped the coverage in response to Patrik Sinkewitz's positive “A” sample for testosterone in June.

“I'm very happy that we can show one of the world's biggest sports events on such short notice — everyone connected to cycling deserves good coverage,” Sat.1 boss Matthias Alberti said.

ARD and ZDF are the two stations that dropped the coverage, and on Thursday, ZDF said it may seek compensation for lost income that resulted when ZDF stopped broadcasting the Tour.

“We bought the rights to a clean sports event,” ZDF managing editor Nikolas Bender told the Berliner Zeitung. “We will seek out talks with the Tour organizer Amaury Sports Organization.”

I hope they're not broadcasting golf.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 19, 2007 in Television | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 18, 2007

Sinkewitz “non-negative” for testosterone

Yahoo! Eurosport | Sinkewitz fails drugs test

T-Mobile's Patrik Sinkewitz, who withdrew from the Tour after Sunday's stage when he broke his nose in a collision with a fan, tested high for levels of testosterone in a test June 8.

Once officially notified, Sinkewitz will have 5 days to ask for his “B” sample to be tested.

T-Mobile's general manager, Bob Stapleton, told Eurosport:

“He is suspended and if the analysis of the B sample is also positive his contract will be terminated.”

For once, UCI president Pat McQuaid said he would await the B sample before making a comment.

German state television has suspended its coverage of the Tour until the Sinkewitz case is resolved.

T-Mobile is one of several teams that have instituted more frequent testing of riders after recent doping admissions, some by former Telekom (the T-Mobile team's precursor) team members.

Also:

Expatica.com | German television stops Tour de France coverage

VeloNews | Sinkewitz positive for testosterone

Adds Sinkewitz' reaction:

“Me? Why me? I don't know anything about it. This can't be,” was his reaction, reported in German on-line sports magazine Kicker. “I am due to have an operation and I can't think about it now.”

IHT.com | T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz tests positive before the Tour de France

Posted by Frank Steele on July 18, 2007 in Doping, Patrik Sinkewitz, Television, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (5)

July 13, 2007

Dumbest TV crew line: Prologue-Stage 6

We're one-third of the way through the Tour coverage. To be totally honest, it's been pretty good. With no clear American favorite, the commentators have been free to cover anyone in the field. Al Trautwig still grates on me, but at least he now knows a few rider names.

But it's not all roses. So I wanted to start an open thread on the dumbest thing you've heard from a TV commentator so far. I'll open the thread with a nomination: Robbie Ventura, during one of Sylvain Chavanel's long breakaways, on Stages 4 and 5, Ventura said, “He's not only a climber; he's been mixing it up in some of the sprints.” Chavanel's best sprint finish so far was 46th, but his brother, Sébastien Chavanel of Française des Jeux has four (after today) Top 10 finishes so far.

So what's your nomination?

Posted by Frank Steele on July 13, 2007 in Television | Permalink | Comments (38) | TrackBack

June 29, 2007

Tour de YouTube

YouTube | Découvrez la route du Tour en 3D

The Tour organization continues its cautious experiments in new media. The new Tour website (French, English, German, Spanish) adds a smattering of Flash for navigation, but otherwise, it's what we've all come to expect.

Over at YouTube, however, there's an official new Tour de France channel. There are 11 videos so far, mostly in French, but with a smattering of other languages. The Tour isn't giving up all control, however, as comments and embedded video both are disabled.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 29, 2007 in Television, Tour de France 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 28, 2007

Tour TV prep

I want to take a moment here to once again, for the millionth time, express my gratitude to the Versus TV network for providing live coverage of most of the world's greatest bike race.

With the Tour a little more than a week away, let's run through the race's TV listings:

US: Versus | 2007 Tour de France broadcast schedule

Canada: OLN lives on north of the border, entering their 7th year of coverage. Here's their full schedule. They'll also broadcast a show called “Lance's France: The Travellers Guide,” first airing this Sunday, July 1st at 8 pm ET/PT.

UK: Reader MJ Ray notes that itv, the official British broadcast partner, has yet to publish a Tour schedule, but he's got a rundown on his weblog based on what he could get from the tvtv listings service.

Australia: SBS broadcasts the Tour for the 17th consecutive year. They've got live coverage of every stage, a pre-Tour special called “Aussie Onslaught: 25 Years of le Tour” on July 5th, and Belleville Rendezvous immediately after.
SBS: Tour de France (I love the headline “Vino poised to make glorious Tour benefit.”)

But what if you're trapped at work during the live coverage? I took advantage of a recent super deal at Woot.com to grab a refurbished Slingbox — my boss has been raving about his for months.

The Slingbox is a smallish box that hooks to your video source -- the coaxial cable that brings TV into your house, or the box that decodes a signal and sends it to your TV, and also hooks up to the internet. Through some awesome magic, when you leave your house, software on your PC, Mac, Windows Mobile device, Symbian phone, or certain models of Treo can find your box, and stream the video and audio over the internet.

The setup works well, even on my pokey 1.2-megabit first-generation ADSL connection, and the picture quality improves with your home connection speed. There's a model with HD support as well as the normal NTSC model at right.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 28, 2007 in Television, Tour de France 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 13, 2007

Versus releases '07 US Tour schedule

Versus | Versus gives viewers all-access pass to the 2007 Tour de France

Versus continues its tradition of heavy Tour de France coverage, with an average of 17 hours per day of Tour coverage. As in previous years, they'll join the race at 8:30 a.m. Eastern most days, with coverage as early as 6:30 a.m. Eastern for key mountain stages.

Looks like the same broadcast team, too: Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen doing live coverage; Bob Roll and Al ("Average American Sports Fan") Trautwig hosting the prime-time reruns; and Craig Hummer, Frankie Andreu, and Robbie Ventura providing color and features reporting.

It looks like Sunday coverage is improved -- I seem to remember that CBS had rights to Sunday stages, trumping Versus live coverage, and limiting them to evening reruns. This year, Versus will run the live coverage on Sunday mornings, skip the Sunday afternoon show that might conflict with CBS Sports, then rerun the footage during the prime-time show at 8 Eastern.

Here's the full US schedule.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 13, 2007 in Television, Tour de France 2007 | Permalink | Comments (7)

June 12, 2007

T-Mobile pulls Tour advertising in Germany

France24 | T-Mobile withdraw Tour TV sponsorship

T-Mobile has withdrawn its sponsorship of the Tour de France TV coverage in Germany.

The company is apparently trying to distance itself from admissions by former riders for its team (then called Telekom) that team members, including 1996 Tour winner Bjarne Riis, used EPO and other banned performance enhancers while racing for the squad.

T-Mobile has pledged to sponsor its team through 2010, the end of its current contract.

In case anyone misses the symbolism, the company has asked that the money be used to strengthen the German anti-doping agency instead.

Former T-Mobile star Jan Ullrich, who won the Tour in 1997, has never admitted to doping, but retired this year after being linked to Operación Puerto. He was turned down for an audience with German Chancellor Angela Merkel today, where he apparently hoped “ ‘rehabilitate’ the reputation of Ullrich and recall his merits and performances.”

Posted by Frank Steele on June 12, 2007 in Doping, Jan Ullrich, Television, Tour de France 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 12, 2007

Vs. will offer same-day Tour of California coverage

Versus | Amgen Tour of California

Versus, formerly Outdoor Life Network, will be offering same-day coverage of the Amgen Tour of California, kicking off this Sunday.

The network will typically air stage coverage at 10 or 11 p.m. Weekend stages will run for two hours, from 5-7 p.m., with an hour-long rerun at midnight Eastern.

Coverage will feature the network's usual cycling commentators, Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, and Bob Roll.

Tour of California website

Posted by Frank Steele on February 12, 2007 in Television, Tour of California, Tour of California 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 19, 2006

Late Late Show host calls Landis "positive for chickensh*t"

I was just watching Craig Ferguson's opening monologue on the CBS Late Late Show.

Ferguson mentioned that Floyd Landis had been scheduled to appear, and gave a rudimentary overview of the current doping case against Landis. “Hmmm,” he continued, “looks like someone tested positive for chickensh*t,” which I asterisk-ize because it was bleeped by the network, so maybe he said chickenshot, who knows.

Ferguson pretended to be scooping something up with his fingertip, giving it a smell, holding it up to the light. “Yep, that's chickensh*t.”

The audience ate it up. If Landis had backed out at the last minute, solely because he doesn't want to face the press, I might have considered that a fair shot, but not under the circumstances.

The guy's father-in-law killed himself just Tuesday afternoon. There's probably a lot more important things he needs to take care of right now than the light-night talk shows.

Update: Okay, mea culpa. It was indeed a rerun; I was thrown because a) I hadn't seen it, and b) they led it off with a teaser about coming back after the golf highlights that I thought meant Ferguson was in the studio. Apparently, this was an episode from July 31, and Landis did indeed leave the show high and dry.

Posted by Frank Steele on August 19, 2006 in Floyd Landis, Television | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

August 07, 2006

Good news, bad news from Cycling.TV on Vuelta

So there's a bit of good news from Cycling.TV. In an e-mail to its premium subscribers, the web-only streaming network confirms that it has web rights to the Vuelta a España,, running August 26th through September 17th and will broadcast it live outside of Europe and Japan.

The accompanying bad news: It's an additional 19.99 euros on top of their annual 19.99 subscription.

Posted by Frank Steele on August 7, 2006 in Television, Vuelta a España | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

Landis lifts OLN live ratings 77 percent

MediaDailyNews | Tour de France Proves Nielsen Tour de Force

The incredible comeback ride by Floyd Landis during Stage 17 also brought back OLN's drooping ratings.

Live viewership of Stage 17 was 77 percent higher than the battle on l'Alpe d'Huez the previous day. Overall viewership on the day rose 50 percent to 1.3 million for the day.

Through the balance of the race, the numbers stayed up, with viewership among men in three key demographics up by more than 90 percent.

The 2005 Tour, Lance Armstrong's last, averaged 1.6 million combined viewers per day, with an OLN-record 1.7 million tuning in for live coverage of the race's final stage.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 26, 2006 in Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 21, 2006

Tour viewership down in Germany, France, U.S.

IHT.com | Tour de France takes a hard spill on TV

Turns out the decline in Tour TV ratings this year isn't localized to the United States.

For the first 16 days of the Tour, 23 percent fewer French viewers watched each stage, while in Germany, viewing fell by 43 percent. France in particular has had an outstanding Tour, with 3 stage winners, 2 riders in the top 10, and a remarkable race by French team AG2R. Of course, both countries had teams that went deep into the World Cup, compounding whatever fall-off may have resulted from Operación Puerto.

In the US, as previously reported, viewership has been down by 52 percent, but OLN was expecting a decrease with Lance Armstrong's retirement. Whether the amazing return of Floyd Landis and the crucial time trial tomorrow can turn things around remains to be seen.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 21, 2006 in Television, Tour de France 2006 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

Armstrong takes on new role as host of ESPYs

People.com | Lance Gets Bawdy at the ESPY Awards

Last night was the taping of the ESPN ESPY awards, where Lance Armstrong served as master of ceremonies. Billy Crystal he apparently wasn't, mostly relying on cheap Brokeback Mountain jokes at the expense of Jake Gyllenhall, with whom Armstrong recently went cycling.

Armstrong won the ESPY for male athlete of the year, his 4th consecutive win in the category. The awards will be broadcast Sunday night, of course on ESPN, at 9 pm Eastern.

ESPN says it tabulated 12.1 million online votes in the competition.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 13, 2006 in Lance Armstrong, Television | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 07, 2006

OLN's Tour ratings off by almost 50 percent post-Armstrong

NYTimes.com | OLN Sizing Up Impact of the Post-Lance Era

The New York Times looks at early ratings for OLN's Tour coverage, and we can now quantify the Lance Effect. So far, it's 50 percent.

OLN's ratings are down just about 50 percent in a Tour that's already had an American leader, but which hasn't yet hit the mountains, where it seems like more viewers might tune in for longer time periods, boosting ratings.

It's also worth noting that even at the current levels, that represents about a 20 percent gain on OLN's coverage in 2002, with 207,544 average viewers in 2006 against 171,975 in 2002.

OLN says not to worry, that the decline “is within the range of where we thought it would be.”

(Via PodiumCafe.com.)

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2006 in Lance Armstrong, Television, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

July 03, 2006

OLN so far

TV Barn | It's low-mileage ... trust us

Aaron Barnhart at TV Barn points out that the OLN ticker doesn't work very well if you're watching on a traditional TV. On one TV here, I get the same effect, where I can only see the tenths of a mile to race, while on the square-screen TV in the living room, I can get the full ribbon for kilometers, but the left edge is cut off for miles.

I have to confess I laughed at Al Trautwig yesterday, probably a first, when he explained that the region riders were passing through had a mix of Lutheran and Catholic cathedrals. “I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night,” he continued. Trautwig probably got a dressing down for it, since Hampton Inn and Super 8 have both been advertising heavily on the broadcast.

I feel for Phil: Liggett, the grand old man of cycling, has yet to earn any points in the commentators' yellow jersey contest. Trautwig, on the other hand, has nailed two stages, including the long-odds prologue, where he somehow picked Thor Hushovd. I have to think this is like what Malcolm Gladwell discusses here: sometimes using a simple heuristic is better than expertise.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 3, 2006 in Television | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 11, 2006

OLN Tour broadcast schedule released

Pedal | OLN Announces Broadcast Schedule for the 2006 Tour de France

Canada's Pedal magazine has an OLN press release that's not even on the OLN Press Center page yet.

We're all concerned about how the Only Lance Network is going to fill time without a certain Texan, but fear not. On the eve of the Tour, Friday June 30th, OLN will offer a one-hour special “In Lance's Words.” “Narrated by Lance Armstrong, the winner of the 2005 Tour de France, this special chronicles last year's event - and Armstrong's record breaking victory.” That's at 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Pacific.

That special will follow “Road to the Tour,” looking at the season so far, and laying out the contenders for yellow.

It also looks like OLN finally has the pull to get live coverage every single day, including Sundays, which used to be delayed to let CBS have first dibs.

Also:

OLNTV.com | Tour Schedule (PDF file)

Posted by Frank Steele on June 11, 2006 in Television, Tour de France 2006, Tour news | Permalink | Comments (4)

May 15, 2006

Lindsey: Race to Replace has "excellent disaster potential"

Mountain Bike | There’ll Never Be Another Lance

Joe Lindsey is afraid that the gimmick casting/reality show that is Discovery Channel's Race to Replace is a bad, bad, idea.

In case you've been under a rock, here's the basic idea: Team Discovery needs to find the next Lance Armstrong to lead the team. Contestants will sign up online, and on August 12th, some group of contestants will race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The contest winner will line up with the team at the US Pro Championships in Greenville, SC, in September.

Says Lindsey:

Details at this time are, as they say, sketchy. Is it mass-start or a time trial? Will there be categories? Is it part of any official USA Cycling program? Will pro racers like Danielson, or even USAC-licensed elite amateurs, be allowed to compete?

We don’t know. Here’s what we do know: This has excellent disaster potential.

What if the winner's a Fred, and wipes out half the field? What if he's dropped 500 yards into the race? Lindsey thinks the whole thing belittles the long monastic struggle most riders face before they can line up with the elite pros.

I'm a little more sanguine about the whole thing. The whole idea still isn't fleshed out, but I'll bet there's no intention for somebody with zero pack racing experience to actually race the full pro championships in September. I'm betting the winner will either a) be part of the U23 team Discovery sponsors (or another national-level amateur), or b) some member of Joe Public. If it's “A”, this is a great chance for the Discovery networks to showcase the talented young racers out there. If it's “B”, I imagine he'll get to ride with the pack through the neutral start, then, with loud cheers and plenty of media attention, be escorted off the course.

And it may yet wind up that the contest is only for “team leadership”: The team has promised a series of “webisodes” looking at candidates to replace Armstrong as the leader of Team Discovery starting today. They're pretty much who you would expect: Danielson, Popovych, Hincapie, Ekimov, Rubiera, Savoldelli, and Azevedo. How this “contest” links to the other contest is anybody's guess.

In any case, the ads (featuring personalities from Discovery shows) are cute and memorable, any interest in the contest is a plus for US cycling awareness, and the whole project should help maintain Discovery's image as the leading American cycling team.

For now, there's this teaser, a free iTunes version of the RtR's TV ad (All the other ads are available free, as well), and “raw footage” from the making of the webisodes here.

Posted by Frank Steele on May 15, 2006 in George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Links, Paolo Savoldelli, Television, Tom Danielson, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 11, 2006

OLN partners with Yahoo! for web streaming of Tour, other sports

MediaPost Publications | Yahoo Sports To Stream N.H.L., Tour de France

Stuck in an office during this year's Tour? Yahoo to the rescue, as the internet giant Yahoo! has signed an agreement to stream "video recaps and updates" from OLN's TV coverage of the event, as well as their NHL game coverage, the Giro d'Italia (can't find a link, so I guess it will start next year), bull riding, the Arena Football League, the Boston Marathon, AMA Motocross, the Davis Cup, and the Dakar Rally.

Also:

OLNTV.com | OLN and Yahoo! Sports bring network's sports programming to the web

Posted by Frank Steele on May 11, 2006 in Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 08, 2006

Kristin Armstrong on Oprah; whatever happened to Lance?

Every divorcee's nightmare will come true for Lance Armstrong on Tuesday as his ex-wife Kristin visits the Oprah Winfrey Show and dishes with Oprah about their marriage and “why it ended” (check local listings).

Update: Here's the former Mrs. Armstrong in Glamour's Sex & Love column. Hat tip to my wife (I swear!).

Meanwhile, Armstrong has not settled into a quiet retirement, sitting lazily around the ol' fishing hole. The 7-time Tour winner, whose philanthropic battle with cancer is featured in a cover story in this week's Sports Illustrated (cover), is in Belgium taking in a couple of stages of the Giro this week, then will participate in Livestrong Day May 17. On May 28, he'll strap into a special Corvette Z06 pace car as he paces the Indianapolis 500.

Posted by Frank Steele on May 8, 2006 in Lance Armstrong, Links, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 07, 2006

Reminder: Same-day Giro Stage 2 coverage on OLN today

Today's Cyclysm Sundays episode is 2 hours devoted to the Giro d'Italia so far. It airs at 5 Eastern on OLN-TV.

Posted by Frank Steele on May 7, 2006 in Giro d'Italia 2006, Giro d’Italia, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2006

OLN no more: Network to become Versus

Multichannel News | OLN to Become Versus

You won't be tuning in to OLN in 2007 for your live Tour de France coverage. Later this year, the network will change its name, to “Versus.”

“Versus works on every level of what we do: man versus man, man versus beast, team versus team, country versus country, from stick-and-ball sports to bull riding to field sports,” he said, adding that it hits “the essence of our network.”

The new name will be introduced at the end of OLN's coverage of the NHL playoffs, and should be the network's primary identification by the beginning of the 2006-2007 NHL hockey season.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 24, 2006 in Television | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 27, 2005

Sunday Tour coverage sets OLN ratings record

TV Week | OLN Sets Ratings Mark with Tour de France Coverage

Once again, OLN set viewership records during its coverage of the 2005 Tour.

Sunday's coverage of Lance Armstrong's final stage got a 2.08 rating, which equates to 1.7 million viewers.

Makes you wonder what might happen if they broadcast other races.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 27, 2005 in Television | Permalink | Comments (7)

July 26, 2005

Daily Show on Armstrong win

Quitter! 'Padrnos' on stroller duty
Daily Show: Stewart on Armstrong's retirement; how the team will help out

Comedy Central's The Daily Show did a long bit on Lance Armstrong's 7th Tour de France win. They covered Armstrong's career in some depth, including the less popular rebuttal to Armstrong's "It's Not About the Bike" written by his bike, "F*** You, Lance."

Later, chief cycling correspondent Rob Corddry explained how the Discovery Channel team will help out with Armstrong's retirement, with George Hincapie and Manuel Beltran on homework, Padrnos (above) on au pair, and Savoldelli and Rubiera handling, um, more personal activities.

I could bitch that they didn't match the pictures to the riders, but it was pretty funny nonetheless. Since it's Comedy Central, they'll be rerunning the episode several times on Tuesday.

Letterman also had the big guy on a bike that he introduces every year as "Lance Armstrong, ladies and gentlemen!"

Posted by Frank Steele on July 26, 2005 in Lance Armstrong, Television | Permalink | Comments (6)

July 22, 2005

During Stage 18, took in the noon showing of "Wedding Crashers"

CBS | Late Show Top Ten Archive: July 21, 2005

David Letterman revisits Lance Armstrong, with his "Top Ten Signs Lance Armstrong is Getting Cocky".

A taste:

10. Goodbye Gatorade, hello Colt .45

This isn't the first time around for the topic. There's also:

Posted by Frank Steele on July 22, 2005 in Lance Armstrong, Links, Television | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 28, 2005

Armstrong up for 3rd Espy

ESPN.com | The 2005 ESPY Awards: Best Male Athlete

Lance Armstrong is not only the 6-time defending Tour de France champion, he's also the 2-time defending "Best Male Athlete" in ESPN's Espy awards.

You can vote at the link above; the awards ceremony is July 17th (the day of Stage 15, possibly the hardest of the Tour) on ESPN, of course.

I was a little surprised to NOT see Armstrong on the list for "best record-setting performance", in favor of the Patriots' winning streak, Peyton Manning's 49 TD passes, Pat Summitt's 882 career women's NCAA wins, and Ichiro Suzuki's 262 hits.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 28, 2005 in Lance Armstrong, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 26, 2005

Wall-to-wall Lance TV kicking off

CBSNews.com | 60 Minutes

Bob Simon at "60 Minutes" will be profiling Lance Armstrong on the show's Sunday episode tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern.

But first, there's the last pre-Tour Cyclysm Sunday over at Outdoor Life Network.

Then, on Monday, The Science of Lance Armstrong premieres on The Science Channel and Discovery Channel, kicking off Discovery's Lance Week, running on all of Discovery's networks. On Monday, there's also "American Chopper" building Armstrong a chopper at 9 p.m. and "Chasing Lance: 100 Days to the Tour" on FitTV.

There are already some videos up, and it looks like they'll post more as the week continues.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 26, 2005 in Lance Armstrong, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 22, 2005

And then Bob Roll rides it across the N. Atlantic...

Operation Gadget | How the Outdoor Life Network Brings the Tour de France to Viewers in North America

Dave Aiello over at Operation Gadget, keeps an eye out for the Tour's technology every year, and he's kicking off his TdF coverage with a look at how Outdoor Life Network instantaneously bounces their raw Tour coverage up to a satellite, down to their Connecticut facilities for production, up to a satellite, down to Atlanta, then up to a satellite for distribution to your local cable provider.

Dave talked to OLN's VP of Network Operations, who told him they've actually got their key European satellite locked up for the entire month of July, so they can cover any breaking Tour news as it happens. That is one serious chunk of change.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 22, 2005 in Links, Television | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 03, 2005

OLN extends weekend Giro coverage, offers for-pay weekday coverage

olntv.com | Outdoor Life Network 2005 Cycling Schedule

Outdoor Life Network will offer two hours of coverage for each Saturday and Sunday stage of this year's Giro d'Italia. If 16 hours of Phil Liggett, Bob Roll and Paul Sherwen won't cut it, they're also selling web-streaming of the weekday coverage ("without commercial interruption") for $5.95.

No word on the technical details, and no sign-up is yet available, but it's likely to be linked from their main cycling page when it is.

You can download their release (in Microsoft Word format(?)) here.

Update: the service is provided through MediaZone in Windows Media, with no Mac support.

Posted by Frank Steele on May 3, 2005 in Giro d’Italia, Television, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

April 16, 2005

OLN will carry Armstrong press conference live

OLNTV.com | LANCE ARMSTRONG PRESS CONFERENCE - LIVE

Outdoor Life Network will be carrying live coverage of Lance Armstrong's press conference on Monday. They expect it will immediately follow their coverage of the Boston Marathon.

Also:

AJC.com | Some say Lance set to retire (free reg. required)

The local fishwrap quotes Phil "the man himself" Liggett on the press conference:

"Knowing Lance, I think [the news conference] will be very brief, 10 or 15 minutes," Liggett said. "Like everyone else, I'm thinking he's saying, 'At the end of the tour and the end season' [he will retire].

"I have no inkling at all. I think he's had a change of attitude. The sport is very hard. He said it himself since he turned pro in '92 that the pressures are different now."

The article also notes, erroneously I think, that Armstrong is under contract through the Tour. I believe his contract runs through 2006, but requires him to race the Tour in either 2005 or 2006.

IHT.com | The big tease: Armstrong fuels intrigue on his future

Samuel Abt weighs in with a few quotes from people around the pro peloton, including Paul Sherwen, Bjarne Riis, Lars Michaelson, Rolf Sorensen, and George Hincapie.

Hincapie's line:

"If I were to guess, he'll say he's running for governor of Texas."

I suppose Texas has had worse governors.

Update: I switched the link to the International Herald-Tribune version of the story, because, a) it has more sources, b) I don't think IHT expires its links, and c) it doesn't suggest the press conference is in Macon.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 16, 2005 in Lance Armstrong, Television, Top Stories, Tour de Georgia | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 28, 2004

That finish line story? Puh-leeze....

ESPN.com | Tour de France boosts little-known network, but must explain blunder on final day

The entire US press seems to be piling on to this story, suggesting that OLN blundered on the last day by not showing Armstrong cross the finish line during its live broadcast.

I've seen several comments that fall into the "typical French anti-Americanism" mold, but I think it's a lot simpler than that: There was a race going on, and Armstrong wasn't in it.

For the live coverage, OLN was given a TdF feed provided by French TV, which was focused on the action in the day's stage (and there was a surprising amount of that). In the tape-delayed broadcasts, OLN was able to supplement that footage with its own, and showed Armstrong's finish.

The sting of OLN's delayed finish was lessened somewhat when OLN executives learned Tuesday that Sunday's conclusion provided the nine-year-old network with its highest ratings ever. Three times during the race, OLN broke viewership records, according to Nielsen Media Research.

OLN was watched by 1.37 million viewers during the race's final stage, Nielsen said. On a typical day this year, the Outdoor Life Network is watched by an average of 56,580 viewers -- barely enough to fill a baseball stadium. The network is available in 60 million homes, a little more than half the country.

What will OLN do if Armstrong skips the 2005 Tour, or when he eventually retires?

Harvey says he doesn't necessarily wake up in a cold sweat thinking of future tours with Armstrong on the sidelines.

"We are the home of professional cycling on television," he said. "We love the fact that Lance has brought so many eyeballs and attention to the sport of cycling. But it's not just Lance."

OLN made a conscious effort this year to highlight some of the other American riders and explain the sport to viewers, he said.

"We're prepared" for a tour without Armstrong, he said. "We know the day is going to come."

Posted by Frank Steele on July 28, 2004 in About the Tour, Lance Armstrong 2004, Television | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 23, 2004

Armstrong: frosting by the fistful?

CBS - Late Show with David Letterman | Top Ten Signs Lance Armstrong Is Getting Cocky

From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska:

Top Ten Signs Lance Armstrong Is Getting Cocky

10. Race starts at 9, Lance rolls out of bed around noon.

9. Has already figured out that the trophy can hold a 3-gallon margarita.

8. He eats frosting by the fistful.

7. For the last leg, he rode one of those crazy 1920s bikes with the big front wheel.

6. Deliberately crashing into things to get more air time on SportsCenter.

5. Making a couple extra bucks delivering pizzas during the race.

4. After the starter pistol is fired, he hangs around hitting on French babes.

3. Turns to the other riders and says, "Oooh, I'm sooooo scared."

2. Instead of training, spent last 2 months pimping his bike.

1. Has started selling ad space on his ass.

Spotted at VeloNews.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 23, 2004 in Lance Armstrong 2004, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Does OLN's coverage earn a maillot jaune?

NPR audio | Armstrong's Tour Quest Boosts Outdoor Life Network

NPR's Morning Edition talks to New York Times sports columnist Richard Sandomir about OLN's Tour coverage and its audience.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 23, 2004 in Television | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 22, 2004

Bobkeism of the day

Credit my wife, who noticed Bob Roll commenting that Armstrong's performance "leaves us out of expletives."

Rock on, Bobke.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 22, 2004 in Television | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 11, 2004

Glowing OLN review from ... Anderson, SC

Anderson Independent Mail | Enjoying ride with Lance, Sharapova

This is the time of the Tour when there are usually a few grumbling sports columns suggesting that cycling's not a real sport, or that they shouldn't even run a race if Lance Armstrong is going to humiliate the field again.

These are usually the result of a local sports reporter on a deadline, wallowing in his own ignorance.

So it's a pleasure to come across this, by John Braiser in the local paper in Anderson, South Carolina:

I’ll admit it. I’m hooked on the Tour de France, an event I virtually ignored six years ago. Granted, Armstrong, who has won the last five years, is the major reason Americans have finally taken notice of the world’s top cycling event.

In addition to its grueling, daily schedule, the race features treacherous high-speed chases on narrow, winding roads and constant strategy battles between individual leaders and top teams.

But also credit Outdoor Life Network, with its informative and interesting daily coverage, for playing a major role in popularizing the race in this country. OLN, a previously obscure cable network, has successfully used the Tour de France to gain notoriety and respect.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 11, 2004 in Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 10, 2004

Armstrong's Athens avoidance to annoy audience?

One effect of Lance Armstrong's decision not to compete at the Athens Olympics will be to worsen NBC's already abysmal coverage of the road race.

We can all look forward to 35 seconds of footage of the finishing sprint.

Time trial coverage, since you can't see the other competitors while someone is riding, will still be the standard 10 seconds of each American plus the winner down in their aerobars.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 10, 2004 in Television | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 08, 2004

How will U.S. sportscasters handle it?

I'm just curious, if anyone heard their local sportscaster give results from today's stage, how they handled it.

In the 10 seconds that they're alloted for "minor sports", it's going to be very hard to explain that 1) Armstrong didn't have any interest in protecting the yellow jersey ("What, doesn't he want to win?"), and 2) How yesterday's TTT was a resounding victory for Postal when they beat the other teams by a minute (not all the local newscasts bothered with the adjusted times), but today's 12-minute "loss" isn't a thrashing.

Love to see comments on what you see or hear.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 8, 2004 in Television | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 06, 2004

Is there a US cycling commentator curse?

VeloNews | Tuesday's mailbag: OLN's on-air talent, doping, Tour history, left field and The Great Gazoo

Trautwig needs to try listening for a change

Editor:

Al Trautwig needs to listen a little more - no, a lot more - and talk less. His producers should squelch his talking over Bobke and maybe monitor the timing of Al's ADD meds a little more closely, so as to calm him down for the Roadside Tour commentary. It's not all about sensationalism, wet roads and crashes, and "riders tucking under the slipstream behind the riders 'breaking wind' in front." Reminds me of the inane comments of Paula Zahn interviewing Greg LeMond 20 years ago.


Don Schilling
San Diego, California

It appears I'm not alone in my disappointment in Al Trautwig's work during Outdoor Life Network's “Cyclysm” coverage of this Tour. My expectations were low, based on Kirsten Gum and Adrian Karsten, but I think Trautwig has undershot even my low expectations.

The way I see it, Trautwig has 2 problems:

1) He's not smart enough to discuss the sport at the level of his teammates.

2) He's not willing to show his ignorance and be the stand-in for American fans who aren't familiar with the sport's ins and outs.

I didn't have as much problem with Kirsten Gum, since she didn't try to hide the fact that she was new to the sport.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 6, 2004 in Television | Permalink | Comments (62)

July 05, 2004

I think I've coughed up a Cyclysm

I'm watching Late Night with OLN, the midnight showing of Stage 1, and it's the first time I've watched the taped coverage.

For the prime-time race coverage, all of the play-by-play is by Bob Roll and Al Trautwig. It's interesting to watch the footage in real-time (not compressed), but not being called by Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. Are Bob and Al sitting in a trailer taping their footage at exactly the same time as Phil and Paul call it live? Or, more likely, are they taping their comments after the stage finish, and taking advantage of hindsight to improve their coverage?

Trautwig is clearly enthusiastic, but most of my cringes have come at his hands: "Why don't they drop back a motorcycle to show Lance Armstrong; we haven't seen him on screen for a long time..."; "wouldn't it be great if the rain picked back up as the pack heads into town?"; "Why do these riders break away if they know that 90 percent of the time, it will fail?"

Bob is fun, as always, but I think I may tape the live coverage when I have to go back to work on Tuesday.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2004 in Television | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 30, 2004

Behind the scenes at OLN

PezCycling News | Covering Le TOUR: OLN Backstage

PezCycling has a look behind the scenes of the OLN Tour de France coverage, a 24-hour-a-day rolling circus of 105 that will be delivering 340 hours of Tour coverage over the next 3 weeks.

If you're a recent fan, I have to take a second here and explain how much I love OLN. In the dark days before they picked up the Tour, ESPN did 30 minutes a day, and CBS did their miserable 30 minutes to an hour on Sundays.

Here's how the ESPN show would go: First 10 minutes, standings and discussion; second ten minutes, a recap of the previous stage(s); five minutes of actual coverage of that day's stage, and a five-minute wrapup with the talking heads in the studio. The formula was inviolate: even if there was an epic breakaway, it got the requisite 5 minutes.

The OLN coverage is a dream, by comparison.

Money quote:

We pretty much subsist on caffeine and vitamin C.

I guess that's the 21st century version of, "In short, we ride on dynamite."

Posted by Frank Steele on June 30, 2004 in Television, Tour news | Permalink | Comments (23)

June 25, 2004

OLN can't wait

Ocala Star-Banner | Outdoor Life Network looks for big Tour de France splash

According to this story by John Lindsay at Scripps Howard News Service, Outdoor Life Network got nearly the same ratings with last year's Tour as this year's NHL Stanley Cup broadcasts on ESPN.

This year, spurred by a multimillion dollar ad campaign ("Cyclysm") and weekly shows following Lance Armstrong and his Tour preparation, OLN wants to draw numbers 50 percent higher, or around 2 million viewers.

OLN's president, Gavin Harvey, says the network will take a new approach to this year's broadcast:

"We think with our new approach, which is an Olympic-style delivery, that we can show the live event (stages or races) to the hardcore fans while also delivering the personal stories to the rest of America," Harvey said. ". . . We want to communicate the things that folks don't understand about cycling - the strategy, teamwork and more - that makes this such an epic event."

I've grown to hate Olympics coverage, but I'm cautiously optimistic here. The main problem with network Olympics coverage is the constant switching between sports, and the way the networks fill up every little down second with bios, cutaways, and promotions. Since OLN is covering a single event, and stages cover a fairly long time, I think this approach could work, and draw new viewers into the sport.

Oh, and CBS will continue to provide their crappy weekly coverage every Sunday, pre-empting live coverage on OLN.

"Our mandates are different," said Rob Correa, CBS senior vice president of programming, comparing his network to OLN. "We're just not set up technically to do what they do. We're very pleased with our partnership (with OLN) and believe we complement each other well."

Correa said the CBS coverage will be similar to "a weekly movie" about the tour, mostly focusing on Armstrong's quest.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 25, 2004 in Television, Tour news | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

July 30, 2003

sfgate.com | Outdoor Life Network gets big boost from Tour de France

Saturday's coverage from 9-11:30 a.m. EDT of the next-to-last stage of the Tour -- a time trial in which Armstrong beat runner-up Jan Ullrich by 11 seconds -- garnered a 1.5 rating, equal to about 806,000 homes, an all-time high for the network.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 30, 2003 in Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2003

OLN good, CBS bad, last day

If you're wondering why there's no live OLN today, it's because CBS takes precedence on the broadcast rights. CBS has a sponsorship that allows them to show the Sunday stages as part of their weekend sports telecast, and part of that contract allows them to broadcast them before other American outlets (i.e., OLN).

OLN will be doing a full broadcast tonight at 8. The heavily abbreviated CBS coverage is this afternoon, between 2 and 3 p.m. (both Eastern time).

Posted by Frank Steele on July 27, 2003 in Television | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 16, 2003

OLNTV.com | Chat with Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen at 2 p.m. Eastern

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen spent part of the rest day chatting with OLN-TV internet visitors in a chat this afternoon at 2 Eastern. I would have posted a transcript but technical problems with OLN's IRC server broke up the chat after only a couple of questions. OLN is supposed to try again on the next rest day.

From Liggett's Stage 10 review:

Will Lance Armstrong win? Everyone still thinks he will, but it will be his best victory of his five Tour wins, if he does. "I have to ride the best time trial of my life, on Friday," says Lance. The very fact he believes this to be so, means he can be attacked in the Pyrenees by the likes of Iban Mayo. Is he not riding as well as previously, or are the rest getting better?

Sherwen covers the same ground:

When they start racing again they will have a long, hot stage to Toulouse and then the first individual time trial. Armstrong knows and has admitted that this will be the most important time trial of his career. He'll either smash them or confirm that he is not in the same condition that he has had these last four seasons. I thought that he handled himself very well on the road to Gap and that he was superior to the Lance of the Alpe d'Huez. But in the time trial, there are no secrets and nowhere to hide.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 16, 2003 in Television | Permalink | Comments (112)