No Live TV Coverage for the Women's Amgen Tour of California?
Posted on May 19 2016
Earlier this morning, knowing it was the first day of the women’s Amgen Tour Of California (or officially called the Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease Women’s Race Empowered With SRAM – whew, that’s a mouthful!), I turned to the Interwebs to find out what time the coverage for the women’s race would start. The ATOC website didn’t yield much information regarding the time it would air. It just said “WEB” and “APP” at 9pm PDT. So I turned to Facebook to see if there was more information there. There was a post with some video announcing that the women’s race would be starting in an hour. A couple of people had the same question I had: where can I watch the race? The ATOC Facebook page responded, “There will be a recap available at 9pm PDT on the Microsoft Tour Tracker app”. So there you have it. No live coverage from the women’s race. There’s only a “recap” on the app. An app? <Sigh>
It’s incredibly disappointing to see that the women aren’t getting any live coverage in what’s arguably the most prestigious stage race in the U.S. I get that it’s expensive and requires a ton of resources to produce a live video feed, but the production crews are already in place for the men’s races…so why not use them for the women’s races? OK, so NBCSN may not be willing to allocate the time to air the women’s race, but how about a live video feed on the website? Or what about a full race coverage show that airs at a later date on another network?
How is women’s professional cycling ever going to flourish and grow if it doesn’t get some exposure? The argument would likely go something like, “There’s not the viewership to support coverage of the women’s race”. If that’s the case, what I’d like to know is how did whoever is in charge of making these sort of decisions come to that conclusion? Because “people just don’t watch women’s sports” or “women’s sports just aren’t exciting enough”? Or, god forbid, “Women athletes just don’t have the same skills as male athletes”. Really? According to a survey conducted by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, 61% of the sports fans surveyed believed that women athletes were just as skilled as male athletes. Over half the fans surveyed said they felt that women’s sports were just as exciting to watch as men’s sports. If you don’t believe it, look no further than the 2015 World Cup soccer match between the U.S. women’s team and Japan. This game was THE most-watched soccer game in history with over 25 million viewers. Not the most-watched WOMEN’S soccer game in history…the most watched SOCCER GAME in U.S. history. Ever. To put this into perspective, the 2015 NBA championship between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors got about 20 million viewers on average over six games. And furthermore, it's fairly common for women's tennis to garner more attendance and/or viewership than the men's matches.
The fact that there wasn’t any televised coverage of the women’s race just perpetuates the unfortunate Catch-22 situation that exists for women’s professional cycling. In order to gain a bigger fan base, they need more exposure. But in order to get more exposure, they need a bigger fan base. It’s a no-win situation that continues to keep the sport small…which results in less salary, prize money, and sponsorship dollars for the women who train just as hard as the men do (but that's a whole other topic).
The ATOC answered the challenge of adding women’s races to its event by adding a criterium in 2008 through 2010. More stages were added over the years with 2016 marking the most stages with four. The big question in my mind is now that there has been a commitment to include a women's race, how the ATOC will answer the challenge of giving the women more exposure in the coming years so the sport will grow and attract more fans (which subsequently attracts more sponsors...which brings in more money for everyone involved)?
Women's sports with a wide fan base such as tennis, soccer, beach volleyball, basketball, surfing, and winter sports didn't just become popular overnight. These sports became popular with fans because they received proper exposure from the media - namely television. Rome wasn't built in a day...but someone had to have the foresight to lay down the first brick in order to create a city that would be strong and flourish over time. Maybe for the 2017 Amgen Tour of California will start laying some bricks by televising the women's race, paving the way for these talented women to get the exposure they so richly deserve...and desperately need.