TV home for Tour de France in US to shut down at end of year
Programming from NBC Sports Network expected to be rescheduled with partner channels and streaming services
NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will no longer be the “exclusive television home” of the Tour de France in the US after this year, as the Sports Business Journal (opens in new tab) reported January 22 that the network would cease operations by the end of 2021.
NBC Sports will continue with its television cycling coverage through the calendar year, a network representative confirmed to Cyclingnews.
“NBC Sports is working with all of its partners on scheduling for 2022 and beyond,” the statement noted.
US cycling fans have been able to watch the Tour de France and a selection of other top road races on the cable network since it was first launched in 1995 as Outdoor Life Network, owned by Comcast. The network changed names several times, becoming Versus in 2006, then NBCSN in 2011, the year Comcast bought NBC.
By 2020, NBC Sports provided coverage of the Tour de France on multiple networks, not skipping a beat with the date change from summer to early fall for the Grand Tour due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Daily live coverage was provided across multiple platforms - NBCSN, NBC Sports Gold, a commercial-free live streaming service, and Peacock Premium, a new subscription-based streaming service.
The NBC Sports Gold “Cycling Pass”, launched in 2016, currently offers a subscription through May 2021. With the reorganized cycling calendar last year, subscribers had access to 12 races, beginning in August with the Criterium du Dauphine and Tour de France. The Santos Tour Down Under was part of that scheduled lineup, but the race was cancelled for 2021.
There are five races remaining on the “Cycling Pass” and current subscription information listed these as “TBD 2021.” It was not confirmed if this direct-to-consumer streaming product would be offered beyond this May, or if subscribers would be compensated should these races be cancelled, or rescheduled past May.
Many of the sports media rights from NBCSN will be transferred to the other stable of broadcast and cable television stations that are part of NBCUniversal, such as USA Network, Olympic Channel or Peacock. In addition to cycling, some of the major properties to which NBC Sports Group has programming in the US includes the Olympic Games, NFL, NHL, PGA TOUR, IndyCar, French Open, and Kentucky Derby.
The Sports Business Journal noted that “properties, like car shows, dog shows and some motorsports, will have to find new linear TV outlets” but made no specific mention of cycling events.
NBCSN has featured announcer Phil Liggett for the play-by-play of the Tour de France, with Bob Roll supporting as an analyst. Former professional cyclists Christian Vande Velde, Chris Horner and Adam Blythe were all part of the broadcast team in 2020 for the Tour. For the 18 stages of the Vuelta and the women’s one-day Madrid Challenge, Roll and Vande Velde called the action, with Hannah Walker as an analyst.
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Cyclingnews is the world's leader in English-language coverage of professional cycling. Started in 1995 by University of Newcastle professor Bill Mitchell, the site was one of the first to provide breaking news and results over the internet in English. The site was purchased by Knapp Communications in 1999, and owner Gerard Knapp built it into the definitive voice of pro cycling. Since then, major publishing house Future PLC has owned the site and expanded it to include top features, news, results, photos and tech reporting. The site continues to be the most comprehensive and authoritative English voice in professional cycling.