Versus Showcases New Graphics Look for Tour de France

The Tour de France is the crown jewel of the cycling world, and Versus’ 14 hours of daily coverage throughout the competition will put that jewel atop the network’s pedestal. Versus will have a crew of about 70 working throughout the three-week event and, for the first time, NBC Sports will broadcast coverage of stages 1 and 2 on July 2 and 3, respectively. New for this year is a redesigned graphics and animations package that will elevate Versus’ coverage from a technical review of the cycling race into an Olympic-style look at the event.

“We have a fresh new animations package with a pretty drastic change in the look and feel,” explains Joel Felicio, cycling producer for Versus. “The old look was more technical. Now it’s on a more grandiose scale, it’s a lot cleaner, and it showcases this beautiful event with nice clean shots of the mountains with the cyclists struggling. The music is more appropriate; it’s orchestral and big with an Olympic kind of style. We’ve pretty much redone everything visually that we go out there with. I’m really excited about what we’re going to be putting on the air this year.”

Versus is once again partnering with Woods TV to provide all of the mobile production facilities that the network will utilize throughout the race. The network’s now-iconic studio set, which was custom designed a few years ago to rise above the production compound, will also be back for this year’s coverage.

“When we first started, the problem was having to do a studio show in the TV compound where there are hundreds of cars and trucks,” Felicio explains. “When you park, it’s not that nice of a backdrop behind you, with wires and trucks everywhere. We had a set designed so that we can raise up the studio, and get above the compound to see the scenery beyond the compound and the trucks.”

Respecting the World Feed
Versus will tape all of its own pre-race interviews and scenic shots to move in and out of commercial breaks, and the network always has a camera inside the team cars, to offer in-car views of the team directors. Versus reporters may also head out to a particular part of a hill climb or turn of a descent to do specific on-course reports, but for the most part, Versus will utilize the world feed of the race coverage. Because Versus commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen are calling the action for English-speaking shows around the world, Felicio is careful to not interrupt the world feed images with his own too often.

“I do have isos of the motorcycles and different shots that I can use, but Phil and Paul’s commentary is being taken by other English-speaking shows,” Felicio explains. “Hypothetically, I could put whatever I want on the air, but if Phil and Paul are commentating and I switch the image on our show, their commentary won’t make sense for the rest of the world.”

Key to Success: Pre-planning
For an event like the Tour de France, where the entire production compound travels every evening to a new location, pre-planning is essential. Felicio goes in with his ideal game plan for the race, mapping out the riders he wants to showcase and when, but he also creates plans B and C, just in case all does not go exactly according to plan – and to leave some room for the excitement that is practically guaranteed year after year.

Felicio meets with his team every morning to discuss that day’s production plan, simply because at night, there is no time.

“At the end of the day, there’s really no time to talk to everybody,” Felicio explains. “We’re all focused on finishing our jobs, packing up, and hitting the road to get to the next place. When we come in the next morning, there’s a little bit of time to talk to talent about storylines and tape production about what we want to do, but everybody is pretty much self sufficient. There’s not much discussion; it’s more, here’s the format, let’s get it done.”

NBC, Versus Form Multiplatform Paceline
The Tour de France is Versus’ biggest, most involved cycling show, with the most production elements devoted to it. The network will go live from 8 – 11:30 a.m. ET every day of the race, with a re-air from 12 – 2 p.m., and another re-air from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m. An enhanced primetime show will air nightly from 8 – 11 p.m., with a re-air of the primetime show from 12 – 3 a.m. As part of the Comcast-NBC partnership, for the first time, NBC Sports will broadcast coverage of stages 1 and 2 on July 2 and 3, respectively.

In addition, NBCSports.com and Versus.com have teamed up for Tour de France All Access (tourdefrance.nbcsports.com). The platform will offer users both a free and premium-subscription product.

The free offering will feature a Race Tracker that employs interactive race maps, video highlights, statistics, and social media widgets.

The premium service boasts live streaming HD video of every stage with full DVR functionality. While watching live coverage online, viewers will also have access to a live GPS tracking map and an enhanced interactive map for each stage. The online subscription costs $29.95 (on par with last year’s price) with daily passes for $4.95.

All the features of the NBCSports.com online experience will also be mirrored in the Tour de France All Access apps for the iPhone, and for the first time this year, on iPad and Android devices. Mobile versions of the subscription service for the iPhone, Android and iPad platforms are $14.99 each.

The 2011 Tour de France begins on Saturday, July 2.