I had a chance to sit down yesterday and watch all of the Outdoor Life Network's coverage of the Tour de France. I found it somewhat different from the coverage they put forth last year. Here's a summary:
- AOL for Broadband Pre-race Show: This program is anchored by Al Trautwig and Bob Roll with analysis and commentary by Chris Carmichael, Phil Liggett, and Paul Sherwin, and a travel segment hosted by Kirsten Gum. This show is aired at 8:30am EDT, before the live stage coverage begins, and again at 7:30pm. The difference between the two airings is that they allow some discussion of the stage results in the later airing. This is a good thing, since many of the viewers have seen the results on-line before watching the show.
- Live Coverage: Airing from 9:00 to 11:30am EDT, this program is primarily the play-by-play of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin. This is the program to watch or record if you want to hear as much of them as possible. I would say that this program is most like the daily race coverage that OLN put on last year.
- The Roadside Tour: The most unusual program OLN is producing about the Tour de France. It airs from 5:00 to 7:00pm EDT. This program is anchored by Kirsten Gum with contribution from professional mountain biker Hans Rey and a group of fans called The Cutters, presumably named after an amateur bike racing team in the movie Breaking Away. The program is a combination of humorous vignettes from around the tour, including interactions with non-English speaking fans, and long segments of play-by-play with Liggett and Sherwin.
- Expanded Coverage: This program airs from 8:00 to 10:30pm EDT. It is a combination of analysis and play-by-play from Trautwig and Roll with play-by-play from Liggett and Sherwin. This is an attempt to make the Tour a bit easier-to-understand for the new American fan. They are using a telestrator when applicable. The program also includes historical, cultural, and competitive features as well as interviews.
As I was riding my bike this morning, I came to the conclusion that OLN's wall-to-wall coverage of the Tour de France could best be described as a song with a series of verses sung by the on-air personalities, punctuated by refrains from Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin. The programming is clearly more diverse than it was last year, and offers something for a number of different audiences.