Outdoor Life Network is petitioning Tour de France organizers to allow it to film from cameras built into competitors' bikes. This would be a first in any international cycling competition.
OLN is in discussions with the U.S. Postal Service team, led by Lance Armstrong, along with several European teams to carry the cameras. It's also working with bike marketers such as Cannondale to build a lipstick-size camera into a bike, says Peter Englehart, senior VP-programming and production. "The cameras are incorporated into the design of the bike, so it won't negatively affect the aerodynamics or the weight," Mr. Englehart says.
Earlier this month, the cameras were tested out at a European cycling event, and the Tour de France is expected to decide soon about allowing the cameras.
The cameras are just one component of OLN's $2 million effort to cover the Tour, as well the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana, the leading competitions in Italy and Spain that take place in May and June. Even though Europeans have been covering the Tour de France for years, this is the first time any U.S. broadcaster has offered live, daily coverage from the Tour, which takes place July 7-29.
OLN will be sending 35 people to Europe to cover the event, which winds through the French countryside. Live programming and a highlight show are planned for every day, as well as three co-productions with CBS for three Sundays in July. OLN also is creating 15 half-hour highlight shows for Fox Sports Network, an OLN affiliate, as well as the official international highlight programming for the Tour de France. OLN will produce the Tour's highlights in the U.S. and then ship it back to France for distribution in 170 countries.
"This is a moving circus," Mr. Englehart says. The race "goes through 23 different locations for 23 days. Every day you cover the race, you break down the cameras and continue down the road in this great caravan."
A "Countdown to Tour de France" sweepstakes and promotion kick off the event this spring, says Wendy McCoy, VP-marketing at OLN. The sweepstakes, done in conjunction with Rodale's Bicycling, drives people to a Rodale site (bikezone.com) where they can register for monthly prizes as well as a grand prize trip for two to the race. RLM, Santa Monica, Calif., is producing point-of-purchase displays, banner ads and print ads appearing in issues of Bicycling.
So far, advertisers backing the event include Ford Motor Co.'s Mercury, which has a team competing for an invitation to the exclusive French race, and bike company Mongoose. OLN is in negotiations with a financial services company and energy bar marketer.
Ms. McCoy says the fact that Viacom's CBS is broadcasting the last three Sundays of the event was a conscious decision. OLN bought the TV time on CBS as a way to expand its reach. OLN, in only 36 million homes, can't begin to compete with the eyeballs on CBS, she says, explaining, "We just want to expand the audience for cycling and for our network."