The Tour de France wrapped up this past weekend, and while it may not be a premiere sporting event in the eyes of most Americans, it still has a major worldwide following

But the Tour’s fan base could be far greater if it put any thought into an integrated web platform.  Online video offers a tremendous opportunity in this area and would allow tens of thousands of potential international fans access to a sport that’s otherwise still very foreign. 

Here in the US, television coverage of the event was limited, but for faraway fans trying to stay involved, there were some disjointed viewing options on television and online. The Tour was broadcast live on TV network Versus in the morning hours while most people are at work.  Hardcore fans willing skip out on their day jobs also had to be willing to put up with foreign language broadcasters.

Live streams were available throughout the Tour from a few providers including German network NOS and Serbvian TV. The BBC offered a live radio broadcast in English, as did EuroSport which partnered with Yahoo! to provide live GPS cyclist tracking and live blog updates.

For those unable to watch live, there’s an enormous amount of on-demand content online. If the nightly Versus television replay wasn’t what you were looking for, the Tour has a YouTube channel. Elsewhere there are more online highlights and interviews from years past and present than could ever be consumed.

This is what the long tail of content is all about. Online video liberates and exponentially increases viewing options.  Hard core cycling fans once stayed up late overnight to watch replays on cable, only dreaming of the day they could view the race live during the day.

New media has changed this, and it has a chance to revive sporting events like the Tour de France by bringing the sport to its fans in a way that broadcast television could never do.

Above: Lance Armstrong attacks Jan Ulrich after a fall in 2003.

As the video above shows, cycling can be a very exciting sport, even despite the doping scandals and declarations of the Tour being dead

While it can’t solve the drug problem, a successful online video platform can improve access, and provide a better experience to cycling fans worldwide.  Without an integrated web strategy for syndicating content online and monetizing it down the road, the Tour has a limited ability to track the content being viewed and, as a result, a limited ability monetize and build the brand.

The Tour de France has an affluent, engaged, international audience thats not unwilling to pay to see the sport online…if done right. A solid strategy combined with that potential audience could dramatically increase cycling’s fan base and turn the sport around. All that’s needed is will and a recognition that online video changes everything in media, especially in sports.

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