NBC Brings the Tour de France to the States With ‘Insane’ Production

On a scenic mountaintop. Crammed in a bustling city. Trudging through a cow pasture. Spread across a sprawling soccer-stadium parking lot.

The Tour de France takes its media-rights holders through all types of wild terrains from the wild forests of Leeds in the UK to the shimmering lights surrounding the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

NBC Sports Group is back again to take part in the fun as the exclusive rightsholder of Tour de France coverage in the U.S. and is providing live television coverage on NBC and NBCSN now through the final stage on July 27.

NBC's coverage of the Tour de France includes a continuous live ticker at the bottom of the screen.

NBC’s coverage of the Tour de France includes a continuous live ticker at the bottom of the screen.

The international production compound is a virtual traveling circus, with approximately 350 production vehicles accompanying the world’s most famous cycling competition. Twenty-five broadcasters set up at the finish line of each stage, produce the day’s events, pack up, and race to the next stage’s finish line.

“I’ve been doing TV for 35 years, and this is, without a doubt, the most insane situation anywhere in the world,” says David Michaels, producer of NBC’s Tour de France coverage.

NBC makes its mark on the production entourage with seven vehicles, including the primary 53-ft. production truck supplied by Paris-based Woods TV.

To build the NBC show, France Télévisions and Euro Media France dial NBC into the world-feed production. NBC does not take the finished program feed but, instead, takes each camera feed provided by the host broadcaster and cuts its own show for a U.S. audience.

NBCSN will add a few production elements, including an advanced graphics pointer and tracking feature provided by SMT. The graphics will easily identify and focus on one rider in the peloton. Also planned are exclusive, in-depth profiles and features on teams and riders, as well as an onscreen predicted time for the peloton riders trying to catch the leading riders. Coverage will also include reporting from the road via “Inside-the-Race” correspondent Steve Porino, who will update race situations from aboard a motorcycle on the course via an iPhone connected to an RF network.

This year, the Tour de France and its broadcasters are hoping for a rebirth of sorts. For NBC, the question remains whether cycling can still make an impact in the States after an empty era of drug-ridden success.

“The main storyline is the restoration of cycling to a legitimate sport,” says Michaels, who returned to the Tour de France with NBC in 2011 after working CBS’s productions of the events back from 1983-1989. “After the Lance Armstrong nonsense and doping was so widespread, I think part of our job is to show off this new generation of riders and this new lease on life for the sport. We want people to see what an amazing event and sport this is.”