There’s a paradox going on in TV sports. No one of course knows what the future media landscape will be maybe as soon next February, and yet content is so coveted, networks are signing rights deals running deep into the next decade.
The latest example came Tuesday when NBC Sports inked a 10-year deal for the Tour de France. So what if Lance Armstrong is found guilty of using steroids, casting a cloud over the sport? So what if winners have their victories negated because of performance-enhancing drugs?
Unlike soccer, it also seems unlikely that cycling will gain too many more fans in the U.S., short of another Armstrong, who is widely perceived to be clean.
Yet, the NBC Sports deal runs through 2023 and includes digital and mobile rights. There will be live coverage of the whole race, including on the NBC flagship network.
By then, a cynic might say, NBC’s prime-time line-up might be so troubled, replays might draw higher ratings in prime time. That climb in the Alps sure can be gripping.
But the Tour isn’t the only part of the deal. NBC Sports properties will continue to offer the Dakar Rally and Paris Marathon and cycling events such as the Liege Bastogne Liege.
Networks are banking on sports in some form continuing to be as popular or more so for a long time. On that front, they are right. Cycling, though, may travel a different route.