By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard
We’ve been critical of NBC Sports on this site but we feel for good reason. They put themselves before the fans which is a problem. From the pre game shows they sneak in when the TV listings state that the game should be starting to NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus suggesting that NHL players shouldn’t grow beards during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Well let’s add the Tour De France to this list of how NBC Sports and their parent company Comcast stick it to the fans.
It’s the 102nd running of the Tour De France and while cycling is a niche sport in the United States and lacks a Lance Armstrong-esq personality, the event is still one of sports most grueling physical and mental tests. It’s niche classification apparently makes it ok for NBC Sports (owned by cable giant Comcast) to charge fans for online access. While it’s only $30 for the entire tour – which runs until July 26th – it’s still something that sets a bad precedent.
Previously NBC Sports and other networks like ESPN have allowed fans to watch broadcasts online after authenticating a cable/satellite subscription. NBC Sports is now putting that aside and saying ‘nope, that’s not enough. You fans need to pay more.’
This hurts cycling fans and in the end hurts the sport. While the backlash will be minimal due to the small cycling fanbase, one can only image what would happen if NBC Sports pulled the same move during the Stanley Cup Final citing lack of interest due to one of the teams being a ‘small market’ team.
Is the $100 plus cable/Internet bill not enough for NBC Sports parent Comcast to cover the costs of broadcasting the Tour De France? Does the extra $30 from from say 10,000 fans put them over the top? We really doubt it. Especially since Comcast had revenue of $68 billion in 2014. It’s just another case of NBC Sports (and Comcast) sticking it to their customers.
Make no mistake, we would be complementing NBC Sports right now if they sold online access to the ‘cord-cutters’ but allowed paying cable/satellite subscribers free access….but they’re not. It’s feast or famine and at the end of the day it’s bad business. You would generate more revenue by going this route. The passive or new cycling fan who has a cable/satellite subscription could watch. The hard-core cycling fan could watch too even if they are a dreaded ‘cord-cutter’.
NBC Sports approach is short term thinking to a long term issue. It only proves once again that NBC Sports (and Comcast) puts profits in front of the fans/customers and they are still too naive to realize that without the fans/customers there would be no profits.