Watching The Media – Eurosport: Tour De France

Posted: July 31, 2010 in Cycling, Media
Tags: , , , ,

It’s far too easy to watch from our sofas at home and comment on the competency of the coverage provided by the media. Sometimes we sit and criticise, in the (usually) false belief that we, the general public, could muster such a supposedly easy job.

However, this page will now be dedicating regular features promoting and praising the efforts of those that deserve it, whilst also providing a constructive criticism of those that do not come up to scratch.

The first to come under my gaze and receiving two thumbs up are Eurosport for their coverage of the Tour De France this July.

In all fairness there is a wholesome feel to Eurosport’s coverage of everything really. They skip the whole the graphics side of things that seems to dominate television these days and strip the coverage down to the basics.

The provision of pictures + commentary and expert insight gets the job done effectively without doing anything fancy. Missing out on typical mainstream adverts for the likes of GoCompare and Halifax is an added bonus in the coverage as well, as we are treated to some more relevant commercials in the brief breaks they take.

Now the Tour De France (and any long-distance cycling for that matter) is one of the trickiest events to commentate on due to the length of it. Races lasted for between three and seven hours depending on the stage, which is an awful lot of time to fill with your own words.

Add to the mix that there are long stretches of each stage where there is little action of note on which to translate, often leaving the commentary team with a number of hours of space to fill with their own thoughts.

Yet the duo of David Harman and Sean Kelly do this seamlessly. They have perfected the art of idle chatter and casual conversation, ensuring that at no point during the several hour races do you lose interest.

Every commentary team needs to do some serious research before taking their place in the hot-seat. And those that don’t, shame on you.  But this team has gone the extra mile, locating stats about every one of the hundreds of riders participating in the run to Paris.

You get the sense that they really care about the sport. As former riders they should do, but their commentary exudes passion to the viewer. The fact they regard this as more than ‘just a job’ is something that goes a long way to drawing in the attentions of the masses.

But they don’t just impart pearls of wisdom on the sport and its competitors. The Tour De France becomes a history lesson and a cultural excursion. It’s this sort of thing that has made Le Tour compelling viewing, even when the cycling itself reaches a tedious point.

Their interaction with viewers via email and twitter is fantastic as well, as all questions get looked at and answered as best they can. This tour saw an ongoing theme of looking at the best films and books brought constant interaction between those outside and inside the screen.

This is all backed up by the ever-excellent James Richardson in the studio for post-race discussions. How this man hasn’t gained a more high-profile role in sports broadcasting is a mystery really, as he seems to excel in everything he does.

He is an extremely affable man, with a clear broadcasting voice and a vast number of interesting facts and figures. His questions are always designed to probe and provide some usual insight. Compare this to the world of football, where the same questions are laid out to encourage the same bland, clichéd responses.

All in all, Eurosport’s coverage of Le Tour is clever, witty and informative. All this backed up by a team of likeable and intelligent personalities, the Tour De France is one of the most competently covered events of the calendar year.

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