Sorry mate, today is not a g’day

January 22, 2009

I was preparing a post on the start of the cycling season.  The anticipation of seeing the new personality of the peloton as the new team kits create a new and wonderful tapestry.  A tapestry that will be unique to the 2009 season.  But, I am not writing about that.  I will, however, stay in the same country just moving my attention to Melbourne Park and the Australian Open.

This morning on the trainer, I decided to watch some TV instead of a prerecorded video.  I made the usual rounds and was having an unremarkable morning until I hit the ‘Guide’ function on my DirecTV remote.  On the guide, DirecTV was advertising the Australian Open.  On 7 Channels!  SEVEN!  Here is the breakdown.  The Australian Open Channel, Court 1 Channel, Court 2 Channel, Court 3 Channel, Court 4 Channel Court 5 Channel, and a Mix Channel allowing you to watch the other six in the ultimate Picture in Picture deal.  DirecTV did this for the Masters and it is also part of the NFL Sunday Ticket.  I have no problem with the last two.  The NFL is the biggest sport in the US and the Masters is far and away the biggest event in golf.  The Australian Open is not the Masters.  In fact, it is not the Masters of Tennis.  Of the four Grand Slam events, it ranks 4th.  Wimbledon is far and away the biggest event on the calendar.  I have to say, the Australian Open is the Vuelta a España of tennis.  In fact, each moved their dates to enhance viewership.  The Vuelta went from the first Grand Tour to the last and the Australian Open went from the last Grand Slam to the first.

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So, I’m here to make the case that if we can’t get our own cycling channel, we should at least get coverage of the Tour de France equal to the Australian Open.  I don’t have the stats for the Australian Open,  the Tour is the biggest spectator sporting event in the world. It is the third most televised sporting event in the world behind the World Cup and the Olympics.  Over 1 Billion People read, watch, or hear about the Tour each day of the race.  20 Million people line the roads of France to see it live.  During the three week period in July, 2.5 million unique visitors visit letour.fr.

I’m not bashing the Australian Open.  Each sport has the bottom of the elite tier of events.  I am just looking for a little niche where cycling can demonstrate that is can return a positive ROI for the company willing to take a chance and broadcast it.


It’s time for the Cycling Channel

January 16, 2009

Over the past year, the desire to have a dedicated cycling channel kept gnawing at me. Cable and satellite have brought all kinds of programming into my home.  Niche networks have sprung up to serve very specific interests.  Why not cycling?

In the area of sports programming, I’ve seen the introduction of the Major League Baseball Channel (MLB), the NFL Network, the Golf Channel, and even the National Hockey League (NHL)  network.  All in High Definition, no less! OK, I know these sports are bigger than cycling when you measure viewership.  But the NFL Network carries only a couple of games a year.  The Golf Channel does not carry any big tournaments.  Surely a Cycling channel can compete with these?  OK, maybe not but it started the hamster on the wheel in my head.

Then came the Tennis Channel.  Now we have to be in the right ball park (sports pun intended). That’s when I began to start thinking that the time is coming where we cyclists can have our own place on the proverbial dial.  I knew the time was here when I saw the press release for the Ski Channel.

My problem is while I know Marketing, I know little about setting up a Television Network.  For those of you who do, listen to just a few facts I have been able to find.

Market.

I’ve been able to come up with a few statistics that tell me that I am directionally correct in thinking there is a potential market for a Cycling Channel.

  • 64.3 Million Recreational Cyclists
  • 48 Million Adults
  • Male/Female 45% – 50%
  • Median age 32
  • Median Household Income $70K
  • 70% College Graduates
  • Cycling is the #1 fitness activity among doctors and lawyers over 40

Now how about serious cyclists.

  • 12M cycling fans in US
  • 500,000 daily viewers of the Tour de France on Versus
  • 300,000 viewers of most cycling programs on Versus
  • $90,000 Average Annual Household Income for the 12M cycling fans

Remember that most cycling races are in Europe so these figures are not competing against prime time TV.  These are competing against reruns of Law and Order and Battlestar Galactica.  From my knowledge, TiVoed shows do not count in the ratings.

Content

Here is where I think we have it over the the above mentioned channels.  In 2008, there were 591 professional road races ranked 1 and higher.  In addition, there are fantastic regional races.  The season for the World’s top riders start this Sunday with the Tour Down Under and runs through October 17th with the Giro di Lombardia. You can’t find that season anywhere else.

News, interviews, training and racing tips are all possible programs on the Cycling Channel.  Add to that the deep library of classic races in the World Cycling Productions libraries and you have plenty of content to fill the airwaves.

Side Effects

Once we get our slice of the airwaves, I would expect to see an increase in coverage.  Just look at what John Eustace can pull off on a shoestring budget with no real outlet for his work.  Once sponsors have an avenue to realize an ROI for their spend, you will begin to see more sponsor dollars come to cycling.

Conclusion

The first stop has to be Comcast.  Not a bad first stop since they are the cable company in the US.  Comcast owns Versus. Versus has the rights to the three major tours as well as most of the classics.  While some of the channels I mentioned above have launched without the rights to their sports top events, this would be a non-starter.  We just need to lay out for Comcast that this can make money.

I know a Cycling Channel would need to reside on the top premium tier of any cable/satellite provider.  It may even reside in a Video on Demand/PPV slot.  That’s OK.  This is coming from a guy who asked for Rosetta Stone Italian for Christmas.  The sole purpose is to watch as much of the Giro d”Italia on RAI as possible.  I also have a subscription to Cycling.TV.

Let me know what your interest level is and would you part with a few dollars each month for the Cycling Channel.


Is Lance serious?

January 9, 2009

Lance Armstrong’s training regimen is legendary.  We all know the story of David Millar calling Lance on Christmas Day and catching him on a training ride.  So when I heard Lance was training in Hawaii, I went Hmmmm.  I wonder if he is serious.

All questions were answered when Liz Kreutz of Kreutz Photography posted some ‘vacation’ footage on Twitter.  I no longer have any doubts. We all know that face.  Liz is a very nice person and as you can see, a great photographer.  I will not show you the one of me on top of a bull a few years back. When the beer is free at a function…..

Editing...a few photos... on TwitPic