Versus How they Doing Now in HD?


by Byron on Jul 09, 2009 at 5:48 PM

BikePortland finds a reason to post on the Tour and it’s because local Comcast broke away to commercial at the finish of today’s stage. Understandably that enraged Portlanders and that brought us to the question of how well Versus is doing and in HD? This afternoon Levi asked

For all you North American fans, how’s the coverage of the #tdf on Versus, online, etc? Curious.

We think it’s been good so far. The crew has found their stride, that drafting infographic is awesome, and the camera work outstanding (yes, it’s just a feed they get). HD camera work is stunning, like their Roubaix coverage. The HD graphics are also well done.

Their website streaming is just strange. Would recommend they not charge you and just run more ads.

Our biggest criticism is with the commercials, of course. If you have Vs on in the background, it’s one loud, brash, annoying channel. Maybe they do that on purpose, not sure, but when I am watching I mute every commercial break

Earlier this year, Vs asked us to give them some input and we did. So did you.

We don’t know exactly what they heard and didn’t, but have noticed they did not bring out the intern again, are doing more interesting backstories, and being more engaging.

They also have not cut to rodeo.

What do you think? We’ll share this feedback with them again.

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I’ve been happy as hell with the Versus stream. Beats the hell out of trying sync an english audio feed with a video stream from god knows where.

If the Versus team is reading this. Thank you for all us poor slobs that can’t afford or can’t get access to a cable feed.

I don’t use the stream, but I bet it’s better than searching for and finding streams that crap out as well. By weird, I meant it was near impossible to embed the Ben Stiller video and I gave up.  Whatever CMS they’re using has some bugs and quirks.

I don’t use the stream, but I’ve been DVR-ing the crap out of the Tour.  I’ll try to record everything and leave it on my DVR for a long, long time. Nothing is better to watch when you are on the indoor trainer - staying in the the saddle for hours on end - than to watch replays of the Tour, Lance specials and the Ironman Triathlon.

I’m really loving the HD, though the feed they’re getting isn’t as good as the US coverage of ToC, which was really much higher quality. That’s not surprising, as these guys have to cover it and feed it to a lot more outlets over a lot wider distance, but the HD compression on their signal adds more noise.

Still, it makes watching the stages in SD so crazy-bad I can’t watch any of the other coverage I have Tivo’d from previous races.

Call me a cheap bastard, but I’m not getting it in HD yet.  Just for the access, it’s $5.95/mo. to get a CableCard in my TiVo… plus a $25 install fee… or $6 for the crappy box.  Lame.

They’ve been great so far. I think They have improved in most every way that I wished they would, hopefully because Universal Sports did such a great job with the Giro and they wanted to catch up. I’d say the strong points are:

1. No more Al Trautwig. Thankyouthankyouthankyou for that. Seriously, that guy was kind of annoying and I’m happy they’re without him this year.

2. Good data, good graphics, and the best commentators. I loved Universal Sports’ coverage of the Giro because you got live awesome streams online plus great tight two hour daily coverage but their announcing team sucked. They couldn’t spot top riders until they saw their numbers while Phil and Paul can just see a rider’s “essence” and know exactly who it is. Getting good comments from all the riders via Frankie and the other guys on the ground is good.

3. The HD looks good, I skip all the commercial breaks via TiVo, so it’s fun to catch up on and just stay with the action. I cannot believe Comcast layers even more ads on top (I’m watching via Verizon FiOS fiber)

That said, it’s not perfect. I’d say these are two major areas to improve:

1. Timing is still poor. I loved Universal Sports’ same day slightly delayed but edited coverage because it meant you could see the last two hours of a stage no matter how long a stage took. Versus is still bad about estimating the time of a race in their schedule, which screws up every person TiVoing the race. Not all of us can get up at 5:30 every morning and sit tight for four hours. I record 1 hour longer than expected endings and already I almost missed the end of one of the early stages (2 or 3, I forget).

2. Some of the fake internet controversy. Any time an Astana, Colombia, or Garmin rider gets interviewed by Frankie, it sounds like a muckraking snarky blogger (Is the BikeSnobNYC a consultant or something?) as they badger them about if Lance is the team leader or not, and pushing sprinters into trash talking about who they think is slow or weaker than them. It feels kind of like a Fox News ambush interview sometimes and I think the dudes deserve more respect and I think the viewing audience deserves more respect. Let us viewers figure out if Lance is faking and really going for the win. Let us viewers talk about it over beers after club rides. I don’t want to see Lance himself ambushed by a Versus interview five minutes before he starts a stage. It feels cheap, like the producers are trying to manufacture controversy and every turn.

3. The on-screen graphics look nice and The Crawl is informative after commercial breaks when you want to get up to speed, but sometimes it gets old and I’d rather have the bottom quarter of the screen to enjoy the event.

Overall, I think they’re doing a great job though, we’re talking 80-85% of perfect so far.

What is odd is the lack of Contador coverage. Here’s a total contendor and they can’t mention his name or profile him. I don’t get it at all. Maybe it’s part of the bluff or whatever, but let’s see he’s won Grand Tours, could win this one, and he’s barely mentioned.

I think The Tour has been great this year on Versus (DirecTV for me).  I’m already REALLY sick of the (horrible) McDonald minivan commercial and the CTS Wagon one (so much so that I’ve actually LOST interest in that car.. and I had contacted a local dealer 3 weeks ago to find out when they thought they’d get them!)... some of the other commercials have me curious ( or excited (Project One Madone 6 on order already). 

In any case, here are the things I’d still like to see improved:

- Please list evening ‘enhanced’ prime-time coverage as a different program and not a rerun.. so I can easily program DVR to record it (I record the early morning one).

- I still think they should cover more gear in more details.  It seems like they could be working something out with a lot of cycling companies that are launching new products for TdF (and running commercials).  I don’t just mean Frankie spending 1 minute with Shimano/Trek/Cervelo on some new bike.. spend 5-10 minutes (include some factory visit or video provided by manufacturer, etc.)

- Info about club cycling, what non-pro cyclists do, maybe commuting, what other types of bike racing exist like cyclocross and track, how gear works, how to ride better, etc… especially for those who might not be serious cyclists but gain interest during TdF.  Seriously, it wouldn’t hurt to break up the 4 hour flat stage sessions in the morning with some of that stuff in the middle.

@Champs I’m not calling you cheap… it sounds like you still pay for real Tivo.  You obviously don’t mind spending a premium for some things! ;)

I agree that Versus seems to be responding to Universal Sports to some extent.  That’s a significant development for pro cycling fans in the USA that I didn’t see coming.

Slightly OT, but I wonder if the Universal Sports / NBC combination could eventually make a play to dominate coverage of both pro cycling and the NHL down the road.

Their distribution is likely to be greater than Versus in short order if it isn’t already, and the parent company already has relationships with the organizing bodies.

We asked the same question about [Universal Sports]( and agree with you. That Sport Montage they’re doing know is new and I think a direct response to Universal’s “we play the feeds without the bio crap” or, “just sports.” Vs seems to try and redefine itself to audience demographics and the Tour coverage is really good and then they’ve got MTV’esque reality shows.

One thing that should wrap any of these convos is for years us fans suffered with near zero coverage so we’re thankful. And, I’ve been watching this for years and the crowds are bigger each year. They’ve got them 3 deep 20k out. That’s good for Europe and I think us Stateside. That is the Lance Factor.

@Bryan - How can you NOT like that Cadillac commercial?  Kate Walsh!?!?  OMG!

@Andrew Martin I like some of the other Cadillac commercials she is in.. I guess that song was funny when it came out, but it was already over-used… and listening to it on every other commercial break for 3+ hours/day for 3 weeks is just too much.  It seriously is turning me off of considering that car to replace my aging Murano. 

Why doesn’t Cadillac switch it up a little.  They’ve got a fair number of CTS and/or CTS Wagon commercials.  They play 2 of them.. but mostly just the one about the right dress.

yeah - I know.  I’m just hearing Kate Walsh talk about trying on dresses.  It’s a Cadallica commercial?  Who even notices? ;)

the original version of that commercial showed her strappy heels and foot on the accelerator.

Anyone else think Versus botched their Tour coverage this morning (Sunday)?  Not a word about the fan that died, and very, very little about Cavendish.  They had plenty of time to say something brief about the fan, and they really should’ve shown a lot of details about Cavendish getting relegated.  It was a big deal.