The TV Boom

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Surely there’s never been so much racing on TV as this year. As well as the entirety of the Tour de France, there seem to be more small races on TV and this week the Tour du Limousin, the archetypal rural French race, now has live TV. A boom? Perhaps but nobody is getting rich on this, there are more hours than ever but this isn’t necessarily worth more to the sport as a whole.

The Tour du Limousin has to be the archetypal “Tour of French region” race, there are many of these across the calendar (Circuit de la Sarthe, Tour du Poitou-Charentes, Route d’Occitanie, Tour de Provence etc) and similar events exist in Spain and Italy, think the Vuelta a Burgos or the Giro della Toscana although a lot of these events have been shrivelled down to one day races or vanished altogether. They’re all modest, low-budget affairs that rely on keen volunteers and regional government funding.

One boost for the French races is shake-up of regional government where smaller regions have been merged together and the resulting new region need an identity. What better than a bike race to thread the new lands together? It sounds good but take the Tour du Limousin, rebranded as the Tour du Limousin-Nouvelle Aquitaine and indeed today’s stage was actually for the most part just outside the Limousin’s borders but only just, it’s not covering the whole new area. Still these regional mergers are allowing several races to tap into bigger regional budgets which is increasing the amount of live TV.

We’re used to the concept of broadcast rights, where media companies outbid each other for the right to show a sports event but it’s the reverse for many pro races. They pay a TV channel to come and film their event. Revenue sharing of TV rights money for teams is an illusion because the big races don’t make that much money anyway but also because teams wanting a cut of TV rights won’t want to pay up when it comes to sharing costs rather than revenues. The tariff varies but it’s between €50,000-€80,000 a day in France for the likes of Eurosport or L’Equipe TV. Live TV coverage is valuable, first as way to promote the region as images get beamed around the world and second because it makes sponsoring the event more valuable: the host towns are on TV, the jersey sponsors are on TV, the sponsors of the hoardings at the finish line are on TV and because of this the idea is they’ll pay more meaning there’s more money… to pay for the TV coverage. Apparently the Boucles de la Mayenne race last year got an audience of one million in France which is valuable and the Tour du Limousin attracted 500,000 yesterday.

It’s not self-financing though. Paying for TV coverage doesn’t automatically make race sponsors automatically pay more, it’s a slow process. The Limousin’s neighbouring race, next week’s Tour du Poitou-Charentes, also in the same newly-created Nouvelle Aquitaine region, doesn’t have the money. “The production costs aren’t far off €70,000 a day. I’ve got a budget of €500,000, I don’t have the means to multiply this by 30,40,50%” explains Poitou-Charentes organiser Alain Clouet to French regional radio France Bleu. Why so much? Eurosport and L’Equipe deploy impressive means with several motorbike cameras, a helicopter, a satellite relay and two studio commentators as the minimum and imagine the production staff behind this. It’s a set-up that’s not changed for decades and given it is costly this helps explains why a lot of race coverage looks like it did 25 years ago, give or take the on-screen graphics for the results.

Technology can help cut costs, for example streaming services mean a race can be filmed and then shared via a 4G network but this is rudimentary. First getting 4G coverage is fine for a downtown criterium or a suburban cyclo-cross but good luck with an itinerant road race across rural France, Spain Italy. Yesterday’s stage in the Limousin included roads so rustic there was grass growing in the middle at one point: good luck phoning in live audio, let alone the bandwidth for video. Also streaming a race is fine but it’s something only a few die-hard fans are going to know about, let alone watch, it’s something we go to rather than being pumped into people’s houses and being visible in popular TV listings.

It’s the changing media landscape that drives this coverage boom. As TV audiences are fragmented across more and more channels as well as different platforms it allows specialists channels and with it niche audiences and ad agencies like this as they can target specific demographics. Meanwhile the likes of Eurosport and others are keen on live content – the same thing explains why the Tour de France is live on TV from start to finish – and so typically they’ll ask for a sum of money to cover (most of) the production costs and then make their money by selling advertising on top.

If there’s more coverage than ever, it doesn’t make cycling that much of a richer sport. We’re adding more hours into saturated markets, the Tour de France reaches all of France so the Tour du Limousin provides marginal extra exposure. It’s like having a plate stacked with food and then pouring extra sauce on top, there’s already plenty to feast on. New races in Brazil, Indonesia, Japan with matching TV coverage on main broadcast channels would be the sign of a real boom. Next week’s revived Tour of Germany is an important test, Europe’s largest country, its wealthiest consumer market.

Conclusion
There’s more TV coverage than ever, even the Tour du Limousin is live and you can watch the Tour of Hungary this week too, a first and next week Eurosport has the ultimate niche with live coverage of the Tour de l’Avenir’s mountain stages. Part of this is down to the growth of niche channels hungry for live sports, and in France regional government reform has given some events a boost. It’s good for fans who want to watch races rather than refresh live-ticker pages or just scan the results in the evening but it’s adding to existing coverage, saturating established audiences rather than reaching new ones so if there’s a TV boom it’s probably not adding much to the sport’s value. New technology could cut the broadcast costs but you can quickly spot a cheap production and the for now livestreams aren’t the  mainstream coverage the sport craves.

Anonymous August 16, 2018 at 7:25 pm

I‘d go even further and say the tv inflation not only doesn‘t add value to the sport, instead it actively detracts value from the sport. Because here our human nature comes into play and one of the words I have come to dread, as it lies directly at the root of many bad developments in the last decades: „convenience“.

I’ll explain: When people watch a race on tv they have certain expectations. They want to…well, watch a race. Be entertained, feel something. Yet the truth is, that in the most races not so much exciting is happening. And what happens are not big hollywood actions, but little neat actions, that need knowledge, love and attention to be appreciated. In 90% of the races you don‘t see a Mohoric go all out and make moves towards his fellow riders, that help to lose him the win, you rather see the little stealth move of a good positioning, a good team tactic helping secure a win. You blink and miss that move.

Not exactly „great tv“. In writing, a relatively slow, and crucially a linear, art, if done by someone, who is knowledgeable, these things can be brought alive again and be appreciated, in live tv not so much. And so these races, that bring the often uncharming truth of cycling races into the homes of people, create dissatisfaction with the sport and people somehow lose respect of races and riders. When a race is not „exciting“ it and the sport in general gets devalued. People feel they spend their time in front of a tv and therefore have the right to be entertained. And if that doesn‘t happen, they get angry. Here are we again at the word „convenience“.

They don‘t feel it is their responsibility, that they turned on the tv to watch for example a sprint stage, which btw has to exist, because sprinters are riders, too (and you can‘t have mountainous stages in the first week of a GT or the sprinters’ chances simply are stolen from them, just look at giro and Vuelta, where no big sprinter goes by free choice), no, they feel it is the race, that cheated them out of their expectations, no matter how unfounded they were in the first place (to avoid misunderstandings, I think the complaints about the impotent racing at the second and third week and the „we go slow by design“ antics of the peloton in the first week at the Tour de France are totally justified and have not much to do with wrong expectations of the viewers).

And so I think this inflation of races on tv harms cycling, as most inflations do. It raises expectations, that simply can‘t be met and this in turn creates disenchantment and anger.

Ecky Thump August 16, 2018 at 10:55 pm

You make some valid points, but television isn’t necessarily to the dearth of cycling.
Take the Giro and the “piano, piano” tempo that was ridden before the day’s tv coverage began.
With live / longer televised stages, came enlivened racing as the riders and teams strove to look good.
So more television doesn’t mean poorer racing.
Though I take your point that ‘action’ then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anonymous August 17, 2018 at 12:37 am

The giro…A race I will never watch again after selling out to israel, being happy to whitewash that country for a few millions, while a few kilometres away people are effectively jailed on a piece of land and suffer. rcs actions were tainted enough before that, but that was one step too much.

As far as I can recall the giro never was shown in full on live tv. I honestly don’t think live coverage changed anything for this or any other race. Instead this giro had a couple of the strangest things in a long, long time happening and these shaped much of the racing. First the absolute, total, unnormal, strange domination of a team, then the total destruction of this team and I mean DESTRUCTION (two, TWO, of their riders totally falling apart), then froome‘s resurrection, Pinot‘s and Aru‘s total downfall and I mean TOTAL. And a few of other strange things. And to these strange things also belongs the ability of froome and dumoulin to ride two GTs in a row on top niveau.

As cycling exists already for a long time all these things happened before, including a team fielding almost a whole podium in an important, difficult race, as it almost happened in this Tour: We have Gewiss in the past, which was for many fans and riders a pivotal point, where they stopped to accept doping as it became so visibly clear, that they were sold lies and I think this Tour maybe will prove in hindsight such a pivotal point again. Hopefully. And for the strange health happenings at the giro we have countless cases of „food poisening“ and “infections“, where whole teams or several leaders of different teams or a huge part of the peloton fell in truth sick, because they had taken a new drug, used a bad batch of something. It was reported then as „illness“, which in some way it was and the truth only came out for the wider public decades later. As it always is the case, we will only know the truth about the giro 2018 years later.

So, if you consider the strange things mentioned above, I don’t think tv coverage had any influence on the race.

What is much more interesting is the perceived idea in the public, that the giro was shown in full and that this changed the racing there for the better. This shows how the public opinion can be and is easily influenced (one of the reason why I think comments sections and upvotes among the most damaging inventiones humans ever made. With that alternative realities took over). I think this idea comes from the animosity some feel for french people. Especially the british people have a huge, brutal dislike of France and everything french, something I didn‘t know till I started to read the comments of british people in papers, blogs etc. and they often use the giro to denigrate the Tour and ASO. And through that an imagined idea gets shaped that the giro is „this and that“ and the Tour isn‘t. Very interesting and very sad, for both races.

Augie March August 17, 2018 at 6:21 am

So if you’re boycotting the Giro for going to Israel I take it you’ll never watch the Olympics again because of their embrace of Russia and China, states whose human rights record is worse than Israel’s? Ditto for the football Wold Cup, a lot of F1 races…. You’ll be running out of major sporting events to watch if “not visiting states with poor human rights records” is your criterion.

Anonymous August 17, 2018 at 11:47 am

Indeed, it is this way. I see it as the only choice I personally have to stop the corrupting of sport. Sadly not more people do the same, but I am not responsible for the conscience of these people, so that not more people do it, doesn‘t stop me.

You might have read, that in rio people were displaced and killed for the olympic games or that people slave and die in katar for the football world championship or that because of the asian games in indonesia police has the order to shoot criminals, which they do. And these are only the publically known things. I don‘t know, how anybody can justify to watch sport, when people have to die for that.

When cookson sold cycling to china I also scaled back the amount of cycling I watch enormously.

Euan August 17, 2018 at 1:28 pm

Anonymous – at the risk of going way off topic, when did Cookson sell cycling to China?

ZigaK August 17, 2018 at 10:40 am

Although I don’t agree with everything you said, I do appreciate an eloquent, almost an essay, from what I assume is a French view. Chateau!

Anonymous August 17, 2018 at 11:32 am

Na, I am not french, I am from Germany. It is funny, that so many people think other people are partial (or not partial) because of their nationality. Or maybe not so much funny, but more worrying.

For a long time I apologized for the length of my thoughts/comments, but then got tired of it. And after some time I even began to refuse to be sorry about it. I seriously try to be as short as I can (as strange as that might sound) though, but since some time I think this shortening of thoughts on social media into short soundbites just adds to the misunderstanding between people and the forming of tribes. I think this endangers societies. Because not only all nuance gets lost, but also the reasons behind a decision, thought or whatever. And when I don‘t explain my reasons or motivation, everybody else can assume what they might be. And with that the trouble often begins. To me these soundbites are no communication, it are statements and there is a huge difference between these two. I often say social media statements are the doped version of communication. Communication on steroids.

Aside from everything, I don‘t think it is really so important to agree on things, I think it is far more important to listen to and to understand each other. Because if we talk civilly and respectful with each other, we can part civilly and respectful and -crucially- without bad feelings, even with opposing opinions.

Anonymous August 17, 2018 at 12:24 pm

My last paragraph was a thank you for and an appreaciation of your comment and the chateau. I just noticed, that although I used so many words, I didn‘t manage to make that clear!

Andrew Turnbull August 17, 2018 at 1:04 pm

Re: Especially the british people have a huge, brutal dislike of France and everything french, something I didn‘t know till I started to read the comments of british people in papers, blogs etc.

As a Brit, let me assure you this is far from the truth, I don’t know anyone who dislikes the French, or much of anything that is French.

Don’t believe what you read in the comments section. 😉

Cheers, Andy

Steppings August 17, 2018 at 1:19 pm

+ 1 nowhere like France for riding a bike, fantastic.

bonjour August 21, 2018 at 6:16 pm

The reverse is also true but since you came here to bash certain Brits it seems to have been overlooked. There are no laws outlawing French in the UK but there are laws in France about use of French and not English.

Bundle August 17, 2018 at 12:38 pm

I think your rant against viewer’s expectations is only half-right at best. You are trying to blame the viewer for viewing a boring, “linear”, race, where the “scene is set” for a sprint. You can’t blame the spectator for “spectating”, it is against the very logic of the sport as a professional show. Blame everything else: the course, the teams, the riders, the rules, the equipment, anything that contributes to make the race “linear” and “set”. But never the spectator.
Having said this, I think that live coverage is not all there is to televised cycling. A good 10-20 minute summary of a stage or classic can be very entertaining and informative. And it doesn’t need a helicopter. But it has to be well done: well photographed, well edited, and with a good narrator, that reads out a good text, and with classifications and good interviews after it. In the old days in Spain, the Vuelta had no live coverage, but just this daily summary on prime-time after the news, and that’s the way people followed the race. It worked.
Nowadays, it should be possible to have (deep) evening summaries of three races that happen at the same time. I’d gladly watch. It could even mitigate sprint-train hatred, 😉 although wheelsucking tactics have always been detested by the crowd (for a reason) and that will never change.

Anonymous August 17, 2018 at 2:44 pm

First: It is no „rant“. If it comes across as such, I have not suceeded in conveying anything at all. Sorry for that. It are observations. And I don‘t „blame“ anyone, which would be a boring, useless and tiresome exercise, I point out the different expectations and needs that lead to a certain outcome in my point of view. Like it is with most things in life. Life is a difficult, complex thing and there are no easy solutions no matter how much we long for them.

Aside from it all I do think the tv viewer is responsible for their own behaviour. When they for example tune into a slapstick comedy they can‘t complain about the cheap jokes. To translate that into cycling: When there is a sprint stage on, I can‘t complain about the race being a sprint stage. And that a sprint stage is raced as a sprint stage is not a choice of the riders, it is the result of a highly complex equilibrium of things like: teams in a race, the physical abilities of human beings, the mindsets of teams, the route and so forth: A sprinter can only produce his furious effort, when he is driven to the finish with the minimum amount of energy wasted. And this truth of the human physique leads to a certain kind of racing. If someone doesn‘t like this kind of racing, I don‘t understand why they then tune in to watch 5 hours of it? And I for sure can‘t understand how if one does that anyway, how they then can complain about the race instead of blaming themselves for making a bad decision. But well, there are many things these days I don‘t understand.

Anonymous August 17, 2018 at 5:24 pm

Whats with all the Anon??

Ferdi August 18, 2018 at 4:21 pm

Maybe there shouldn’t be any so-called “sprint stages”. Sprinters could go to the track and do keirin or elimination, or else stay on the road but then fight to get in breaks, and cope with a depelotonised race, where their speed will have to be only one of many skills required. The public, “as a whole”, doesn’t want “sprint stages” where several teams in the peloton coalesce to practically guarantee a sprint. And it’s not the sprint itself that is rejected, it’s the teamwork peloton control, as uphill finishes FW-style cause the same rejection. In order to fill those TV hours, no choice but to see riders fight in isolation from teams and peloton. Too bad for domestiques. And DS should listen carefully.

Anonymous August 18, 2018 at 5:25 pm

Which „public“ as „a whole“ doesn‘t want sprint stages?

The 12 million roadside at the Tour? They mostly don‘t care what kind of stage it is. They cheer on a sprint stage and on a mountain stage. Or did you see ever one sprint stage without the beautiful joy of the fans, who wait hours for the one minute the race passes by and cheer it on? And the people at the finish will probably take a sprint stage any day over a mountain stage, because a sprint finish is a nailbiter, very exciting and produces great pictures. The millions on tv during a Tour? Only a fraction of them are really cycling fans, many watch the countryside, listen to the commentators and enjoy the event. It is nice to have the Tour as a daily companion, I never heard one of them say:I don‘t like sprint stages. In truth I think they couldn’t care less what kind of stage is on. They take the race as it is. Which is a nice thing. The millions, who only see a short clip or picture of the finish of a Tour stage? They LOVE a sprint finish, as it is a great thrill and conveys the idea of a race and the fight for the win much better than a mountain stage finish, where some skeletons slog slowly over a line.

So we then at last come to the hardcore cycling fans, which are the (only?) ones complaining about sprint stages. They are a minority in the whole picture of the Tour. And although they complain, I don‘t believe, that you even find a 50% majority, that says: Stop all sprint stages. I for one would never want such a thing. For that I love the excellency of a sprint finish, the raw power, the art of sprinting, the way a sprinter team tries to control the peloton and the way a sprint train operates way too much. Seeing Gaviria win is one of the most beautifullest things I ever saw. It is art.

I simply see no evidence of „the public“as „a whole“ wanting no sprint stages. Indeed I don’t even think this is high on the list (or on the list at all) for many people as a problem or demand. Especially as with sky and dumoulin sprint stages and mountain stages in the Tour have become the same: a more or less uneventful ride to the finish and then a race for the last kilometer. So when sprint stages should be eliminated, because they are formulaic, mountain stages should fall wayside too, right?

It is helpful to not think, that the own opinion or emotions are an universal truth (and I mean „helpful“ not ironic, but totally serious).

CA August 18, 2018 at 8:21 pm

I’m a huge fan of sprint stages… watching guys fly in at 60-70kph pushing 1,500 watts is impressive.

Anonymous August 19, 2018 at 11:34 am

I just reread, what I wrote and found the pearl „a 50% majority“ and had to laugh so much about myself! Two thoughts combined here into one (a majority and 50%) and I didn‘t even notice! It is true, although I honestly love mathematics in all it’s elegance, I am not very good at it, my brain just doesn‘t work that way, but even I know, that there is no such thing as a 50% majority (or is there? Asking the mathematical philosophers out there).

ZigaK August 19, 2018 at 6:35 pm

There was a nice exchange at inrng about degrees of infinity nestled in the broader discussion about grammatical pet peeves:
http://inrng.com/2015/04/the-exceptional-paris-roubaix/

Peter August 18, 2018 at 3:14 pm

I’d be interested to know what a bike race that wasn’t “linear” would look like, a bunch of riders riding in a plaza?

Anonymous August 18, 2018 at 4:14 pm

The „linear“ was meant for writing, which is a linear art (although I am not so sure, if in english „linear“ is the right word), while on the other side on tv or in visual art generally many different things can happen at the same time. Virginia Woolf for example tried hard to find a way to write, where things are happening at the same time (and I think as far as one can succeed at that, she succeeded) and as someone, who thinks and writes very connected, I absolutely know so well the deep frustration of writing not being fast and simultan enough to paint the thoughtpicture I have in my mind.

I’ll explain: Take a ball, that lies on the ground. Two people are running at the same time from different sides towards the ball. So these three points (ball, two people) are connected and influence each other. In writing, you will never be able to describe all three points at the the same time. You can only desribe the evolution of the situation. Yet on tv or in pictures it is possible to show these three points at the same time without any difficulties. And this is the reason, why writing on one and painting/filming on the other side are suited to express different things or things differently from each other. Especially cycling, I think, lends itself well to the linear art of writing, because you can explore all the causes and effects, while on tv often too much is happening at the same time.

Steven Choi August 20, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Can’t recall much about linear equation back in school. I do recall such a word as ‘commentary box’ in English when watching races… are they watching more angles than we audience at home. I find they all got super fish eyes. That makes all comments non-linear.

Scott August 16, 2018 at 7:34 pm

Inner Ring,
How do the finances of ASO and RCS Sport look these days? Are they profiting from race sponsorship?
Scott

UHJ August 16, 2018 at 9:30 pm

You need to take into account the UCI as well -yes, them again, I know.
For races to remain races at a certain achieved level or get promoted, able to attract major “players”, 2 things are evaluated from the UCI: The amount of prices money and the amount of media coverage. So clearly; increased TV coverage is an incentive for race organisers.

Touriste-Routier August 17, 2018 at 12:30 am

Yes and No.

Not all events want to move up in category. With increase in race category comes an increase in expense (UCI related expenses, team related expenses), and not necessarily the increase in revenue to pay for them.

And often the audience (the non-experts) don’t know the difference between Tier 1 pros and Tier 3 pros. Further the lower tier pro teams need more opportunities to race, not less, in order to develop the sport. The WT teams don’t necessarily need more race days, but there are a lot of PC and Continental teams begging for them.

The Inner Ring August 17, 2018 at 10:14 am

There are big issues for moving up to the WT, eg the Tour of California, to the point where the UCI had to revise its own rules to allow more local teams to take part meaning a lot of the new World Tour events have a different status. But it’s more relaxed at other levels, eg 2.2 to 2.1.

UHJ August 17, 2018 at 10:54 am

Correct, not all organisers want their races promoted but, as INRNG points out the UCI has had to revise participant regulations to allow for more local riders causing races to change status. Thus the media coverage evaluation done by the jury president is important for the UCI.
Anyway, media coverage plays a vital part in UCI’s race assesment and it is my opinion that this also has a say in the increased coverage we are witnessing, for better (for viewers) or for worse (more motos etc)

Velovibes August 17, 2018 at 12:50 am

I am awaiting the introduction of live drone footage in the coverage of cycling races. That has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of TV broadcast. Does anyone know if they have already experimented using drones in cycling races?

Adam Bowie August 17, 2018 at 1:06 am

The problem with drones is that you need to be within range to pilot them, and the batteries only last a limited amount of time.

Chinese drone manufacturer DJI sponsors the World Rally Championship and they use a couple of quadcopters for stages in that. But the WRC also makes large use of helicopters.

I think drones would make sense on something like a Time Trial, because you could use one repeatedly between a couple of points. Although a wire-cam, as you see at things like the Winter Olympics, could probably improve some of those too. With either of those you could actually present a front-on image while keeping away enough not to offer drafting advantages.

If we were to get to a stage where autonomous, or semi-autonomous drones are around, then that might help, but you’d still need a fair few drones or a lot of battery replacements over a 6 hour stage race.

Adam Bowie August 17, 2018 at 1:07 am

Oh, and you still need to get a signal from the drone to the TV company somehow. That probably means you need a plane or helicopter as well.

Anonymous August 17, 2018 at 3:10 am

Exactly that. And for getting the signal to a plane or a helicopter, you need large sending unit, which make s the drones heavier and reduces the battery life as well.
All these people crying for drones, don’t realize that their hobby fun drone is in no way comparable to a device, you would need for 200km of a bike race, in every weather condition. It’s just not like an event on a steady place, like skiing or F1, we are moving through entire countries, in every possible weather and height, with some speed.

Turnedge August 19, 2018 at 11:53 am

I think it’s important to remember that mass participation cycle races carry a fundamentally different risk profile to WRC.

WRC: ‘the talent’ is wearing a helmet and overalls whilst sitting inside a reinforced metal box which rides on four wheels and has no need to balance. Dropping a drone, possibly one manufactured by the Chinese intelligence gathering organisation, might dent a panel, scratch the sponsors stickers, crack a windscreen perhaps, but it couldn’t wipe out the field.

Cycle racing: the talent is wearing spandex tights and a foam hat, they need to balance, there are lots of them on the road at the same time, even a low speed chute is likely to result in serious injury.

StevhanTI August 17, 2018 at 8:50 am

Somebody who works with drones professionally told me once battery life is about 16 minutes. I imagine it could be useful to film a bunch sprint or the passage of the Koppenberg or something crazy and explosive like that but I can’t see them replace motorbikes and helicopters wholesale in the near future. They’re simply not reliable enough.

Kavan August 17, 2018 at 9:28 am

Drones, helicopters and cyclists will make an horrific mix.

The Inner Ring August 17, 2018 at 10:07 am

You could use one for the overheard finish of a sprint but this would be more the likes of France Télévisions, RAI or Sporza adding to their well-resourced coverage. Otherwise good luck trying to film a classic in the rain with a 40km/h crosswind, or following the peloton down a tree-lined boulevard in France or across the plains of Italy with all the exposed power cables, phone lines etc.

Anonymous August 17, 2018 at 3:42 pm

Give it 5 years…

UHJ August 17, 2018 at 11:05 am

Yes, that could make for great pictures, no doubt.
Though it doesn’t prohibit filming from a drone, the UCI introduced article 1.2.065 bis as of 2018:
“1.2.065
Without prejudice to stricter requirements according to the national legislation, the use of drones is prohibited above the course and within 10 meters from the course.
Moreover, the user must ensure the drone at no time puts the security of riders, followers and spectators at risk.
(article introduced on 01.01.18)”

http://www.uci.ch/mm/Document/News/Rulesandregulation/18/30/80/1-GEN-20180701-E_English.PDF#page=35

Adam Bowie August 17, 2018 at 12:13 pm

The WRC use DJI Inspire 2 drones to cover rallying. Battery life for those is about 27 minutes (although you have to stay in the air for less time than that). Also, to do a good job, you have both a drone pilot and a camera operator.

I’m sure that for some of the bigger Belgian cyclocross races, they use wire-cams to cover stretches of the course, and they feel very dynamic. And I think they got used for the MTB race at the Olympics. Of course the riders are coming through the same section 6 or 7 times for those. But I’d still like to see that kind of technology used where it makes sense – a climb on a lap of a World Championships course, a switchback section of an iconic climb or a particularly picturesque section of a route.

Ben August 17, 2018 at 1:52 pm

You only have to watch the clip of the drone that nearly hit Marcel Hirscher when racing at Madonna di Campiglio last winter (just search ‘marcel hirscher drone’ on youtube) to see why drones are absolutely unsuitable for cycling coverage. The FIS, rightly, banned the use of drones at its races afterwards.

They work great when run for short period, outside of built up areas, when it’s not windy, and away from people on the ground below. Above crowds, or bunches of cyclists, they are a recipe for disaster and probably ought to be banned – you only need one to land on the road in a crowd or bunch sprint to have the most horrific accident.

Wire/spider cameras, by contrast, are far more viable as they don’t drop out of the sky if/when they fail and can only move within a prescribed area.

Ben August 17, 2018 at 1:55 pm

Apols, it was December 2016, it seems so fresh in the memory.

Ecky Thump August 17, 2018 at 4:59 am

To put this very interesting article of Inner Ring’s into a British context (for my own understanding if nothing else), I can draw a very rough comparison with my native North West England.
Take the Lake District, a major tourist destination in the heart of Cumbria.
The annual budget of the Cumbria Tourist Board is £900,000, 95% of which is levied via its members and private sponsors. Most tourists to the county are day trippers but, nevertheless, they bring in over £2.7 billion per year and help support 63,000 local jobs.
There is also a three tier system of local government – Parish / Town, District, and County.
Allied to that are regional bodies like the North West Development Agency; where specific funding streams to support employment/ enterprise can be gained.

Cumbria has two stages of Tour of Britain 2018 and, even accounting for high television costs similar to those mentioned in this article, it becomes possible to see how and why local agencies may assist in funding the race.
What’s more, it is often the places on the periphery of already-established tourist destinations that can be more keen to be a race partner. Their economic need can be greater and, therefore, it may be possible to access additional funding.

Apologies for turning my point into a British-centric one, but I certainly understand Inner Ring’s article better by doing this exercise.

Steven Choi August 17, 2018 at 12:35 pm

Absolutely agree on this British analysis.

bonjour August 21, 2018 at 6:23 pm

Its not really the done thing to discuss Britain in this blog. Many commenters seem to want to hark back to when the British were nothing but plucky back markers just happy to be taking part. They rue the day they got organised and started hoovering up gold medals and grand tours. To hear that British Cycling is in rude health, sponsored by local government and development agencies alike, fills such people with disgust. They wish the Brits would go back to being uninterested again.

Liam Hendry August 17, 2018 at 7:44 am

Perhaps the focus on TV is wrong in itself… what about a concerted move towards social media? In what format I’m not sure – it’s beyond my pay grade – but I listen to a few business podcasts where TV advertising is stated as old shool and overpriced and that “attention” now is all on socials.

As much as I love the sports history it does have to move on, ultimately more money in the sport will attract the better athletes and increase our viewing pleasure!

Just a thought – as mentioned above streaming is an issue, but maybe courses could be modified to accommodate it?

StevhanTI August 17, 2018 at 10:05 am

So no more beautiful yet remote mountain passes or coastal lines?

Anonymous August 17, 2018 at 12:15 pm

But „streaming“ is exactly the same as tv. Just on a different technical platform. Just because a different word is used, doesn‘t mean it is something different. You can watch tv everywhere on your mobile device, so what is the difference? twitter buys rights of events just as tv does. And it sells ads just as tv does. So, what is the difference?

I am always amazed by the way „social media“ or „tech“ seem like magical words to many people. In truth social media found a way to make us look the other way, while they steal our data (and data means everything about us). Finally more and more wake up to the question how a company can employ thousands and get worth millions with giving away something for „free“. There is nothing new about this. It are the typical old school actions of hyper capitalists everywhere, just think coupons or „two for the price of one“ or „free entrance for girls“. To them we are like a herd of cattle they milk for data. It pays to keep the herd, because the data can be sold at a higher price than the „food“ for the herd costs.

Steven Choi August 19, 2018 at 7:04 am

I know this is one crazy thing to say. A LIVE YouTube broadcast whenever it’s possible. If not, cycling races (outdoor) can only entertain that limited audiences year to year. I was looking at the UCI calendar 2018 vs NBA line-ups vs World Cup vs Wimbledon. Which is more economically approachable?!

paul August 17, 2018 at 11:08 am

I kinda like the old school look of these regional races

plurien August 17, 2018 at 11:33 am

“It’s like having a plate stacked with food and then pouring extra sauce on top, there’s already plenty to feast on. ”
In Netherlands the cone of frites is filled, they put on the sauce, and then another scoop of frites is stuck on top.
Give me the Tour of Beyond over football on TV any day.

Steven Choi August 17, 2018 at 12:24 pm

Difficult to tell these days commercial motifs as accounting books weren’t open to public to evaluate as on profits and losses. If I may watching stage races has become a routine generic experience involving aerial shots on factories, castles for rent, motels, local milk houses, cheese factories of some kind … longer distance shorter stages seem to work out at the best interests of all. Talking about motor bike shots, not difficult to see some close-ups on spinning wheels, gears except bike brands where for obvious reasons self-explanatory. Look at ‘Trek’ ‘Look’ ‘Ridley’ … aren’t they making best use of TV coverage. Mind you market could very well be Asian-oriented (?). Live-streaming for a bigger market but smaller races in Europe. Inconclusive from a Chinese point of view.

Larry T August 17, 2018 at 10:33 pm

Ever more hours on TV…that nobody watches. I heard the refrain from some of our clients this past season – “I don’t bother watching cycling on TV anymore because the whole thing is corrupt and the races are boring, seemingly scripted affairs with the big-money teams doing most of the winning. And then we read about riders like Chris Froome – is he eligible to ride or isn’t he? Just in the nick-of-time he’s cleared to race in cycling’s biggest event. I just don’t care anymore.”
These comments are from long-time riders who still enjoy riding and love to talk about pro cycling back-in-the-day. Somehow for them it was exciting then and isn’t now. The sport risks becoming irrelevant unless it figures out what has happened and fixes it. Hint: I don’t think technology is the answer.

Sick of the Negativity August 18, 2018 at 2:15 am

I watched live yesterday, Binckbanck (where the break held on again [this needs underlining] and they’ve race radios and 7 man teams Larry!!), Norway (peloton split early in brutal crosswinds that even blew Barguil right off the road and ended in a small group of 11 I think fighting for the win), Limousin (a second day of great roads and non stop attacking), Ladies Tour of Norway (where it was action the whole way and bar some fortunate moto drafting by the chase, a solo break may have survived rather then be excitingly caught in the last few 100 metres.) and at some point I’ll catch up with Colorado and Hungary. I’m not the only one who would have done that and happily enjoyed every second. So maybe Larry, what’s wrong is people’s expectations and more importantly peoples knowledge because I’ve got to say I’m sick of reading peoples opinions that say the racing is boring etc whilst also saying they don’t watch it. I’m guessing even a moron (the medical definition) could understand the problem with listening to those opinions if it was explained. So here goes. If they don’t watch it how do they know there’s a problem Larry? Example; “I don’t bother watching cycling on TV anymore because the whole thing is corrupt and the races are boring…”.

So in summary Larry and Larry like ‘thinkers’, rather than tell us how rubbish it all is btl on nearly every piece by Inrng, why not employ that old adage that I’m sure you’ve heard going back to your childhood, if you don’t have anything good to say, say nothing.

I’ll now take my own advice…

Larry T August 18, 2018 at 2:47 pm

OK – shoot the messenger! I merely reported what long time cycling fans tell me, whether they are Americans enjoying our Piedmont Cycling Resort or Italians I speak with all the time. I’m sorry that you don’t like to read this or don’t believe them, but I’m just the messenger. Hearing their comments makes me sad too, but at the same time reinforces what many are saying about the current state of the sport.
Despite what you might think I’m an eternal optimist in many ways when it comes to pro cycling, a guy who spends his own good money to be at the roadside (this year a Giro stage in Sicily and two more up north in the final week plus the Italian National Championship race) along with faithfully tuning in via TV and Eurosport streaming. I’ve seen the Tour and Giro live, in-person, the World’s in CO, Canada and Richmond as well as all 5 monuments of cycling and plenty of other pro races.
Should I just stick my head in the sand and be a vapid cheerleader for the sport in its current state? I think not. If you’d rather avoid criticism of the state of the sport, you are certainly free to scroll down past my comments (as I do with Anonymous and family and a few others) if you like.

Still sick of all the negativity... August 19, 2018 at 10:28 am

A few things Larry, and thanks for the response. It’s not that I don’t believe that some people find cycling ‘boring’, even purported ‘fans’. The point was that if they don’t watch it, how do they know it’s boring? It’s also a ridiculous statement to make because no sport being shown live can always be boring to someone that likes that sport. The truth is that your fair weather friends and clients have probably changed far more over the years than the entertainment value of the sport. I too have followed the sport for many years, sometimes from a long distance as I do now (and why I have the time to watch live as it is in the evening) and, for a fair period of time, up very closely. I’m not sure why you need to tell us you’ve stood roadside when we’re talking about an article entitled The TV Boom and people’s preferences when viewing? Maybe I’m missing how you watching the peloton whizz by is relevant to whether it’s a boring sport to watch coverage of? Sometimes Larry, what people complain about, says far more about them than their target. That’s not a bad thing. Their interests and/or priorities change. Their lives change. They have kids, they have time constraints, their partners make them learn to salsa. None of this means that something they enjoy less they they use to has changed. In fact it’s far more likely it hasn’t but too many people have absolutely no idea about the realities. They’re self absorbed and easily led. Mr Trump isn’t the only manifestation of this. So to your other comment that I don’t like to read negative comments. That’s only true once I’ve read them, thought about it, asked a few questions/checked things out and then come to a conclusion. After all that, yep, I don’t like reading the same ill refined thoughts that are there to not understand the truth but to fit a narrative. That my friend is the path to ruination.

Augie March August 19, 2018 at 2:50 pm

There’s also the rosy glow of nostalgia that deludes all of us into thinking that everything was better “back in the day”. As has been noted here many times, one can’t complain about Wiggins/Froome/Thomas riding to a tempo and suffocating the race after dominating in the time trails while waxing poetic about the excitement of the Miguel Indurain years. Indeed people are now staring to look more fondly back on the late 90s/early 2000s “not normal” years, and I’m sure in future people will be reminiscing about this time, strange as it might be to consider from here.

Larry T August 19, 2018 at 4:40 pm

Augie – could you cite an example of “As has been noted here many times, one can’t complain about Wiggins/Froome/Thomas riding to a tempo and suffocating the race after dominating in the time trails while waxing poetic about the excitement of the Miguel Indurain years.” as I can’t remember ANYONE posting something so absurd. Thanks.

Augie March August 19, 2018 at 5:22 pm

I believe that charge of such hypocrisy has been levelled at yourself given your continual bemoaning of current tactics and veneration of the sport in decades past. Unless of course you deny such commentary?

Larry T August 19, 2018 at 7:37 pm

Augie – PLEASE don’t make up nonsensical quotes and attribute them to me, OK?
I have NEVER even come close to “waxing poetic about the excitement of the Miguel Indurain years.” Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows this.
On the contrary I’ve described his “defend in the mountains and mow ’em…” tactics as dull, dull, dull so many times most are sick of reading them.
To counter your nasty insinuations I’ll conclude with a few facts:
Interest in pro cycling is going down rather than up according to most any measurement you care to use.
There was a golden age of cycling.
It is not now.

Augie March August 20, 2018 at 5:22 am

I suspect it might have been more the nostalgia comment that set you off: I know you live in Italy but this last Roman act really isn’t becoming, even sans a toga. Perhaps along with your catchphrases you could also drop this misty-eyed veneration of years gone by as it doesn’t really belong in the ongoing conversation about the current state of pro cycling. That way you wouldn’t leave yourself open to misinterpretation.

Anonymous August 18, 2018 at 10:56 am

Been following/watching pro cycling since the early days of Eurosport and probably before that, I find I only have some much TV credit in me over the course of the year. Spring classics, Giro and the Tour, I will struggle with the Vuelta and thats me done for the year really. Once I have sat through the Tour its almost unpalatable watching racing a week or so later. I need to be out in the fresh air!

John I August 18, 2018 at 4:50 pm

If there could only be less regional broadcast restrictions, and easier worldwide pay-per-view. I would happily plop down a few bucks to watch random regional French races from my comfy US mid-Atlantic home, and I suspect there are plenty of potential watchers around the globe who would also tune in, if given the chance. Instead, we watch dodgy pirate feeds on Steephill or Cyclingfans and the races make nothing.

Steven Choi August 19, 2018 at 3:34 pm

Said it all.
Then comes Deutschland Tour 23-26 Aug – ‘ Germany’s only stage race of the men’s elite, kids Tour, Age Group races…’

Even better ‘Eurosport will take over the complete two-hour live TV signal for each of the four stages of the Deutschland Tour using its television channels Eurosport 1 and Eurosport 2 as well as the Eurosport Player on mobile and web-based platforms. The live broadcast takes place in 60 countries of the pan-European and Asia-Pacific territory. Together with further TV-rights holders of the Deutschland Tour, the first edition of the race is already being distributed in 190 countries’

Countries Numbers are impressive. Eurosport channels can I pay one-off for this even we’re sitting 6hrs ahead? Unfortunately your sports coverage programs and asking $$ is yet to arouse enough commercial carrier interests.

not yoda August 19, 2018 at 3:35 pm

I wonder how this exponential growth in coverage relates to getting women’s races on television. Don’t see easy solutions. Flanders classics in spring races have managed to make some footage perhaps leveraging their resources. But still need tv time, otherwise restricted to niche streaming audiences?

The USA August 20, 2018 at 7:05 am

Where is this glut of cycling on TV you speak of?

KGB August 22, 2018 at 10:56 am

+1

Quite a Eurocentric view in the lead article and in many comments. If it wasn’t for Eurosport through my Foxtel subscription, here in Australia I’d be limited to what little cycling appears on free-to-air TV: the Tour Down Under (good coverage) and the Tour de France (woeful coverage), plus some random bits and pieces. I’ll likely never visit the places these races are held to get that local TV coverage or stand by the side of the road, so I’m really grateful for any race that gets broadcast. Watching the lower level races these past few weeks has been great entertainment.

Also, there are lots of really good Australian cyclists, but the general public doesn’t have a clue who they are. I’m curious how anyone expects the sport to grow in newer markets if people can’t ever watch it on TV. The more coverage the better, as far as I’m concerned.

BC August 20, 2018 at 9:30 am

I welcome more televised pro racing. I don’t know what contribution it might or might not make to the bottom line, only time will tell. But for the fan it gives an opportunity to select which race to follow, or in some instances not to follow. Some of the best one day races on the calendar, classics aside, are local races like the Tour de Haut Var which have minimal following outside their immediate area but provide challenging courses and attacking racing.

More opportunities to be selective can only be a good thing in my view.

Andrew August 20, 2018 at 2:14 pm

Over the past few days I’ve watched live coverage and highlights of the BinckBank Tour, Utah, Colorado, Hungary and something in Norway. Usually the only sport that gets so much coverage on Eurosport is snooker.
Some of the races were exciting viewing, some very much not. Although I should have spent more time sleeping and less watching these races, I’ve learned quite a lot about the US scene and added Hungary to Croatia as places I want to go on holiday and ride a bike. And when I began to feel overdosed on low-level races, I could always turn off.
Bring on the ToB and the Vuelta!

Cranky August 24, 2018 at 12:08 am

From a personal perspective, Velogames was a game-changer for me and my cycle racing TV consumption. And, I believe betting could be an even bigger draw for viewership outside the current norm.

My background is mostly as a recreational cyclist for 40+ years. I did a little cat 4/5 and sport racing in road, track, xc and downhill in my late 20’s through mid-30’s. My main bike racing viewership was to watch TdF highlights and some longer viewing of mountain stages, live local track and BMX racing, and the occasional pro race like Tour of CA, local pro racing in San Francisco, the Catshill, etc.

In later life I was lucky enough to become a cycle tour guide for 6 day tours around different parts of CA and after one tour a client coerced me into doing a Velogames fantasy team for the TdF. I only did it to be nice. But, then I found that it made the race much more interesting. All of sudden, I cared and wanted to know about all nine guys on my team which includes guys you normally would never follow of care about. Then we started doing the Spring Classics. I had heard of all those races but my exposure was to read a paragraph or two in Velonews about who won and that was it. All of sudden I was watching every spring classic and enjoying it immensely. My other bike riding friends (99%) who don’t do Velogames don’t care to watch anything other than the TdF and maybe a stage or two of the Vuelta or Giro.

That is why I thought the TdF sort of cut off their nose to spite their face in shutting down Velogames right before the tour. It is one of the few ways to get fans interested beyond the surface level. My core group of friends who regularly participated in Velogames became much more knowledgeable of pro racing.

The sport needs more things like Velogames. And, like I mentioned in the beginning and never thought about before, putting peoples’ money in play with gambling will really ramp up the interest level.

Whale Oil Beef Hooked August 19, 2018 at 8:58 pm

Gotta defend Larry on this one.

I do think that Augie’s general point is probably correct when considering how we view (and will come to view etc.) events retrospectively.

Personally I’m pretty nostalgic about it all, doping was part of it and added to the spectacle. Is there as much now? Not likely. Do I care? No.

It’s entertainment disguised as sport and I’m still entertained whether I see any cycling live, watch a video clip, or read a report.

Augie March August 20, 2018 at 2:31 pm

I think that’s a very sensible line to take. I just don’t see the point of this perpetual “back in my day….” moaning. If pro cycling bores you, find something else to watch or just go ride your own bike. Seems straightforward enough.

Ferdi August 21, 2018 at 1:14 am

Maybe you miss the wounded sense of belonging and ownership, when old-time followers feel that “something has been taken away from them”.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: