The US cable channel owned by cable operator Comcast has live audio commentary on each stage as well as short videos of stage ends. The commentary is by Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. They are contracted to OLN and only appear on ITV2’s coverage thanks to a deal done with OLN.
OLN is now available in 42 million homes across the US and Canada, compared with just 1 million in 1996. Much of the success of the channel is put down to its excellent coverage of pro cycling, not just Tour de France but also the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana. OLN will feature 500 hours of cycling in 2002.
Its three-year television rights deal to show the Tour de France cost just $3 million, a snip when you consider that the Sarre region in Germany paid $1m for staging yesterday’s race.
Naturally, having an American on an American bike is a big pull for US audiences and Armstrong’s dominance of the Tour de France came at ‘a critical time’ for OLN, said its vice-president of programming, Susan Panisch.
She told Bloomberg.com: “It puts us on the map. [Armstrong has] put the sport in the forefront of the American population, not just cycling enthusiasts.”
US viewers can tune in at the following times for daily race coverage:
9:30-11:30am ET – live coverage
3-5pm ET – Repeat of live coverage
9-11pm ET / 10pm-12am PT – Coverage and commentary
Those outside of the US and without easy access to Eurosport, ITV2 or other channels showing the event should go to OLN’s excellent website.