Cycling enthusiasts outside of Europe looking for coverage of the recently concluded Tour de France had a tough time this year. Though there were multiple online viewing options, the Tour lacked a cohesive, integrated web platform that could offer its fans easy access to footage from the event.
The Super Bowl of cycling might be suffering from misguided digital distribution, but for coverage from the sport’s regular season, Cycling.tv is right on target.
As Paid Content notes, “the subscription site, founded in 2003, currently has about 18,000 paying subscribers who pay, on average, an annual fee of about $40. In 2006, Cycling.tv streamed more than 130 live racing days of cycling and currently averages more than 12 live streamed race days per month, it said. It has long term rights for cycling races including Vuelta a Espana (one of the three European “Grand Tour” races), Paris Roubaix, Tour de Suisse, Criterium Dauphine du Libere and the Amstel Gold Race.”
Cycling.tv’s investment into comprehensive coverage of professional racing has made it the go-to destination for hardcore fans. It’s also paid off. The site was just purchased by Canadian-based Jump TV, one of the largest broadcasters of internet television, for a cool $5 million.
More on JumpTV and Cycling.tv after the jump. ###
After announcing a distribution partnership with online video start-up Joost last March, Jump TV has made a few other acquisitions in terms of online niche sporting sites. In July it purchased the predominantly college-based video sports network XOS and last December picked up Hispanic sports site, SporsYa.
These are smart moves for JumpTV. Aside from the NHL, who is actively pursuing new web ventures with third parties to combat struggling ratings, the other major American sports are either holding tight to their heavily copywritten content or working with YouTube and national television networks to expand their online offerings. It’s tough for a company of a smaller scale to play with those juiced up big boys, so investment in niche sports with strong followings outside of the main stream is a good way to get into the game. As the sites further develop and integrate more access and coverage to otherwise unavailable events, more viewers will surely follow.
I’d expect to see much more investment in the market. There’s a lot of would-be cycling, rugby, sailing, track and field, ping-pong and (insert niche sport here) fans out on the web. They just need someplace nice to watch.