Just like a TV generation ago who said "follow the money," this TV generation directs viewers to "follow the video."
On Tuesday's live coverage of the Amgen Tour of California nine-day bike race, which was the first U.S. race Lance Armstrong has participated in since coming out of retirement, Versus left the airwaves right before the finish of the third stage of the nine-day race. Versus switched to an NHL regular season hockey game between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Angry cycling fans? Some. Lance Armstrong himself complained about Versus' coverage. But this is what the world is coming to. Cycling is a niche sport, after all. Increasingly, the TV business is headed in the same direction.
With some 15 miles of the race to go, Versus announcers had no trouble offering up alternatives: One could watch the conclusion on Versus.com or the amgentourofcalifornia.com. And, without a hitch, I did just that.
In this digital TV world, there is hardly a mention of abandoning a TV sports program just before its conclusion. It wasn't always this way.
Decades ago there was the "Heidi Bowl," where NBC left coverage of a 1968 New York Jets/Oakland Raiders NFL game and shifted to the made-for-TV movie "Heidi," which resulted in a big public outcry.
Stuff like this doesn't happen in 2009. Instead,we get directions. Last year, for example, NBC told viewers to change channels from its NBC News programming on the NBC network to cable channel MSNBC to pursue further coverage of the political primary campaigns,
These days there is a lot of talk about transiting video -- from TV to the Internet to mobile devices or whatever. Some more traditional TV viewers are wondering about the transition
of more basic means -- to digital from analog TV station signals.
There are problems, to be sure: Not everyone may have had access to a computer when watching Versus on Tuesday. Still, it's pretty incredible one can watch a live bike race on a Tuesday afternoon, on any of four video platforms (one traditional TV; three Internet areas).
The real question is, what happens in future years when the public may perhaps be forced to make other more disruptive transitions, with little or no notice? What happens, say, when CBS shifts from signals through its TV affiliate stations to one on the Internet or cable distribution?
Perhaps not everyone will catch on. But I'm betting it won't be a big issue, with many complaints -- since ratings will be a tenth of what they are now.