Versus Rides To New Tour De France Deal

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Versus has rolled out a contract extension with the Tour De France

The Comcast Corp.-owned service had reached a five-year deal with the Amaury Sport Organization, the organizer of the world’s most famous bicycle race, from 2009-2013. The pact is valued at some $27.5 million, a total that encompasses the exclusive U.S. TV rights to the event, English-rights in Canada, and production costs and commitments, according to sources familiar with the agreement.

Versus officials declined comment on the terms of the new deal, which follows the conclusion of the network’s current Tour de France contract that expires with this year’s competition, scheduled from July 5 through July 27.

For the eighth straight year—with coverage from the Alps to Paris—Versus will, on average, air 14 hours of race action per day. Daily coverage includes a pre-race show followed by live morning race coverage, race action replays four times daily and an expanded primetime window. During the key mountain stages, the service will provide extended coverage beginning, some days, at 6:30 a.m. (ET). Start times vary depending on stages and rest days; a complete schedule is available at Versus.com.

“Signing a multiyear extension deal with the ASO demonstrates that the network’s commitment to the Tour de France has never been stronger. We are proud to be home to one of the most intense competitions on earth and a sporting event that truly embodies the essence of the Versus brand,” said network president Gavin Harvey in a statement. “With the field wide open this year, I’m confident we’re going to see an unbelievable competition unfold on the race course right through to the very end. Add to that a strong presence of top American contenders and it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be wearing the yellow jersey on the Champs-Elysées.”

The renewal comes as the Tour de France has been shrouded in controversy in recent years, relative to doping scandals that claimed American Floyd Landis’ 2006 crown and the disqualification of two teams and many individual riders in 2007.

The network, though, is taking the controversy head-on with its new ad campaign, centering on the tag line, “Take Back The Tour.”

Versus’ new Tour deal follows the network’s strong performance with the third year of its National Hockey League regular-season and playoffs, as the puck sport scored its best TV ratings since 2002.

In fact, Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Detroit red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins was the most-watched telecast in the history of the network with 2.54 million viewers and its best with men 25 to 54. The contest’s 1.9 household rating was the second-best in the service’s history, trailing only the 2.1 household mark for Lance Armstrong’s final ride in the 2005 Tour de France on July 24 of that year.

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