It’s time for the Cycling Channel

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.

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13 Responses to It’s time for the Cycling Channel

  1. mildstallion says:

    To answer your question – yes, I would likely pay a little more on my (Time Warner) cable bill to get the Cycling Channel.

    I would LOVE for this to come around. I remember being really psyched when the History Channel launched, and I had been hoping for that for a while before it happened. That being said, I am pessimistic. I just don’t think cycling has enough traction (seriously) in the US to make it happen.

  2. Debby says:

    We are going to get rid of our cable (again) soon. But if we were keeping it, I’d definitely want a cycling channel.

    I can’t tell from your statistics if you are including all cycling, or only road cycling, enthusiasts. If you combined, say, MTB and BMX cycling with road cycling, which also have large audiences (especially teenage boys, a market TV execs seem to cater too), I think it would be even more successful.

    Throw in daily morning trainer workouts with Coach Troy, nutrition and fitness programs with Chris Carmichael, and it could put you over the top. Oh, and on nights when there are no races, throw in a cycling feature film, like “Sunday in Hell”. 🙂

  3. pelotonjim says:

    Debby, You can be the first programming director of The Cycling Channel

  4. Mark says:

    To really broaden the market, you could include Triathlons and cyclocross. This may “dirty the purist waters” of cycling, but it would afford some diversity to a very specialized channel, and create a larger marketing diversity. I for one would love the idea of the whole thing. But, please let it be in high def…

  5. CycleGarb says:

    Couldn’t agree more about the need for a cycling channel. Not sure cycling alone would encompass enough content to fill the programming schedule. Agreed with Mark in that expanding upon cycling might be the way to go.

  6. Indurain says:

    Oh my god, I am not alone! I would also pay for a cycling channel. I am a european just moved to the US this year and I dont know how I am going to live without watching the spring’s classics, the Giro, Basque country tour, Le tour,….

    Does anybody know which is the best way to watch these races in the US? cyclingtv maybe?

  7. Marwan says:

    YES! But you need money. You essentially need to buy licenses from the channels that already serve the specific races and then broadcast. Money. Money. Money. I’d say you need a few million to get started.
    As far as content, there’s plenty to fill programming. You could re-run races, work with online cycling programs that now just do 3min spots on fitness, interviews, etc, to expand their segments to fill up space. It’s totally and completely possible to do but we need is someone with an ass-ton of money who also happens to be a cycling enthusiast.

  8. Jessica says:

    I believe that this gentleman has a point. i believe that this channel would really become a hit. There is so many things that new cyclist need to learn which this channel could help in as well as give them something they can aspire to. Please take this into consideration.

  9. Biking says:

    I would so much love to see this channel come to fruition. Even if it was just part time. Anything would do.

  10. jman says:

    dont be afraid to try to expand to Canada, we’ll kill for a cycling channel, im acctually trying to get my TV provider to get one going, but there idiots.

  11. Chris McKenzie says:

    Wow, I know I am jumping in late. I was just having this conversation with my wife this morning after watching an old classic tennis match on The Tennis Channel. Why don’t they have a cycling channel? I am a competitive track racer and would love to have more exposure in the track cycling scene. With all the different cycling events, ie. road, track, MTB, cross, BMX, TT, there would be more than enough content to fill airtime.
    I agree that it would take tons of money and someone that has lots of knowledge of the TV industry. I happen to know someone whom has both and will chat with him to get his thoughts.
    I would definitely pay extra to have a dedicated cycling network and would love to be a part of getting this channel launched.

  12. Ross says:

    So it just gets worse. I found the Giro on Comcast on BEIN sports on two different channels no less, and was loving the coverage, that is until Stage 9 on Sunday. After that it has completely disappeared from the Scumcast schedule. Replys from email to BEIN says they are still showing it as does their online schedule. Phone calls to Scumcast results in the usual conversations with idiots and morons who are clueless and interminable hold times only to have them return having found out exactly NOTHING.

  13. JARO PIVARCI says:

    Love the article- great ideas, I have same exact problem! Btw it says Bein Sports is covering race today and on Sunday from Montreal and Quebec but nothing shows in their schedule!!

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