Comparing Tour de France Coverage on OLN to European Television

John Robson published a good article comparing OLN's coverage of the Tour de France to that of the major European television networks.

I thought about writing an article like this myself but I haven't done it because I would want to compare apples-to-apples: OLN's coverage in 2005 to France 2 and 3 in 2005. Most people that cover the Tour only see European TV or OLN during the Tour. For instance, when Kathleen and I went to Europe during our honeymoon in 2001, we saw the Tour on France 2 and Eurosport, but not OLN.

Regarding the differences in coverage, Robson says:

...though they share the same camera feeds, there are significant differences between the final coverage as seen in Europe versus OLN, and it's not just the "all Lance, all the time" viewpoint we see here in the states.

Depending on the stage, French television would sometimes carry the whole thing or wait until things got interesting before they went live. In the evenings, I caught some specialty tour programming, like a feature piece on one rider being allowed to get off on the bike in his hometown and be greeted by the locals before jumping back into the race....

...they create much more interesting graphics on Eurosport instead of showing talking heads. While you rarely see even a title identifying the speaker, you often see elaborate summations of who gained or lost the most time in the previous day�s stage and how that affected their overall standings in the general classification....

Eurosport also stays almost 100% on the action and rarely does any kind of feature cutaway of the sort we have grown so used to here.... It seems like American TV producers just can�t believe fans would actually want to watch athletes ride or run without learning their personal stories, where Euro producers fear for their lives if they were to cut away from the action for even one second.

Since Robson has been to see the Tour in Europe this year and returned to the U.S. before it ended, I think the insights he provided are pretty unique.

One thing I'd like to add after reading the comments attached to Robson's article: Eurosport has different feeds destined for different parts of Europe. When travelling in non-English speaking parts of Europe, I've noticed that hotels often carry the version of Eurosport that has no commentary at all. It's mostly the multi-destinational feed of the event they are covering, which includes sound from the playfield or the road but little or no other audio, except during commercials.

So when Chad Reid said, "A Eurosport commentary is seldom a necessary companion to the visuals," he's more than right. Eurosport commentary is not only unnecessary, it's not available in many places.

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