Back in 1999, I quit my cable and joined Dish network for one reason and one reason only. They had The Outdoor Life Network. Back then, the Outdoor Life Network was the only port of call for European cycling in the US. I made the change in May just in time for the Giro d’Italia. I had to endure complaints from my family about satellite companies not providing the local feed of the Weather Channel. To me, it was an easy sacrifice. No “Local on the 8s” but the voices of Phil and Paul were now in my house. Later when I switched to Direct TV, I made sure OLN was in the lineup.
In September of 2006, Comcast, the parent renamed OLN, Versus. Versus also acquired the rights to the NHL. That was fine. I never saw hockey as compition to cycling. What was increasingly supplanting cycling from the Versus lineup was Bull Riding.
Cycling now had become the red-headed step child of the Comcast Sports family. Neglected. Not allowed to grow and achieve its full potential. You heard me call for a Cycling channel but with Comcast’s vice like grip on Grand Tour and Pro Tour rights, that could not happen. So I turned to Broadband and Cycling.tv.
Cycling.tv brought the whole cycling world directly into my home (or office if you need to know the truth). Versus had all kinds of rights to the Grand Tours but was able to partner with Cycling.tv to bring them to the Internet. I was satisfied, if not happy with the arrangement.
For the first time in a long time, there is a little light at the end of the tunnel. NBC and it’s Universal Sports Channel has acquired the rights to the Giro d’Italia. No fanfare, I was just sent the below email from Universal Sports yesterday at 4:44pm.
Just a heads up we will be broadcasting the Giro d’Italia starting Saturday!!! Sorry for the late notice we just found out we got the rights. I will have more details and information shortly.
All LIVE on-line and just a slight delay on TV ( I believe all races will start at 12 on TV)!
With that, my world began to change. Could we finally get a cycling channel? Could we grow within a sports loving, nurturing company? The smell of athletic competition has replaced the smell of Bull dung.
Unfortunately, it seems that there is some collateral damage. It looks like Cycling.tv lost the Versus Giro feed and will go dark tomorrow morning. In fact, it looks like all the Italian races organized by RCS are now off the Internet. This includes Milan-Sanremo, the Giro di Lombardia and Tirreno Adriatico.
I do not have confirmation from Universal how they intend to broadcast the Giro over the Internet or if they will work out a deal with Cycling.tv. Looking at their site, I don’t see the infrastructure for Internet broadcasting. This is important to me because, I am back to where I was in 1999. My provider does not carry Universal Sports. Curse you Direct TV!
Unlike 1999, I don’t have an easy solution. I’m told by Verizon that FiOS service is still a few weeks away. Ironically, my other option is, get this, Comcast. Yes, Comcast carries Universal Sports. If this is for the greater good, I’ll need to figure out a work around until Verizon gets their wondrous fiber to my end of the street.