Support BikePortland

Portlanders miffed at Tour de France commercial break

Posted by on July 9th, 2009 at 10:35 am

Who’s to blame for poorly timed
commercial breaks during the Tour?

Yesterday’s exciting Tour de France stage saw popular racer Thomas Voeckler (who won many fans for his courageous defense of the Yellow Jersey in 2004). Voeckler pounced on his breakaway companions and rolled into Perpignan alone for his first-ever stage win.

But for many Portlanders — who were watching the action unfold live on their televisions via the Versus sports channel — all they saw was a commercial (and ironically, one person reported it was an ad for Comcast).

The inopportune break really peeved 47 year-old Lewis & Clark law professor Dan Rohlf. “This morning the break occurred just seconds before the end of the race,” he wrote, “Viewers missed all the riders finishing.”

Story continues below

advertisement

And Rohlf wasn’t the only one miffed by not being able to see the finale unfold.

“Having a commercial wipe out the last two minutes of two and a half hours of race coverage had me and my teen-age daughter yelling and screaming at the TV.”
— Dan Rohlf, Tour fan

Scott Fitzwater wrote on the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association email list that he “freaking can’t believe that Comcast stuffed in another ad right at the finish… That is just incredibly unbelievable!” Fitzwater had already called Comcast to complain about the irritating ads “and they pleaded ignorance.” Now, Fitzwater wrote, “I’m ready to move to another carrier.”

Rohlf said that he and several of his friends purchased cable TV specifically to watch the Tour and that he watches the live morning broadcast to hear the legendary announcer duo of Paul Sherwen and Phil Liggett.

Rohlf suspects the abrupt, mid-sentence commercial break might be the result of corporate shenanigans; “There have been lots of weird commercial interruptions when the network announcers have been in mid-sentence, leading me to wonder whether some entity below the Versus network level is sneaking in extra commercials in an effort to squeeze more money out of the broadcasts.”

The Versus coverage is being carried locally by Comcast Cable and neither we nor Rohlf could get a hold of a representative to ask them about the poorly timed break.

Other readers of the OBRA list chimed in to say it’s not Comcast’s fault and that the commercial breaks are established by providers.

Regardless of who’s to blame, local Tour fan George Schreck thinks that the ads don’t work. “Comcast is not doing any of their advertisers any favors,” he wrote on the OBRA list, “because the ads only serve to enrage the viewer rather than make the viewer more likely to buy the product.”

Rohlf agrees. He said watching the Tour is a family affair at his house and that, “having a commercial wipe out the last two minutes of two and a half hours of race coverage had me and my teen-age daughter yelling and screaming at the TV.”

Wondering where to watch the Tour locally? Check out this entry on the Everyday Athlete blog and stay tuned for our local viewing roundup coming soon.

Please support BikePortland.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

35 Comments
  • Avatar
    Chris July 9, 2009 at 10:58 am

    This is an interesting issue, while Comcast customer service states that the provider (Versus) establishes the breaks, it should be noted that Versus is wholly owned by Comcast.

    If the broadcasters were being interrupted mid-sentence, I would suspect Versus was transmitting the commercial insertion triggers (formerly known as “tones”) inadvertently.

    I would agree that if you aren’t happy with the way the Versus coverage was presented, the best way to “give it to the man” would be to cancel your cable, FiOS, or satellite service as Comcast gets the money for the network no matter how you receive it…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    DL Byron July 9, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Oh that’s nothing compared to Rodeo pre-emption or worse men grinding on each other in an octagon shaped cage.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Zaphod July 9, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Direct streaming from Versus (fee based) does not have commercials… I saw the whole thing. This works for me because I don’t have cable except to get it turned on and then disconnected in July for the Tour. Plus I have to drag the dusty TV from the basement. Given I can now get the tour, the TV will be for sale (for cheap!) once I can get it up onto craigslist.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    wsbob July 9, 2009 at 11:10 am

    That’s too bad. Especially when the Universal Sports Channels broadcast of the Tour of the Basque Country and the Giro seemed great to me. I don’t have cable, so I was disappointed to learn the tour wasn’t being broadcast by this network. Sounds like someone seriously screwed up to cut off the end of the race like that with a commercial.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Mark July 9, 2009 at 11:12 am

    From the Twitter traffic, the complaints seemed to come mainly from here, the Bay Area and Utah. http://search.twitter.com/search?q=+tdf+commercial If it had been a nationwide network screwup, the outrage would’ve been deafening.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    tbird July 9, 2009 at 11:16 am

    seriously?
    this is news?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Marc July 9, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Reason #413 Why consumers need to complain and complain LOUDLY for more regulation in the Cable, Voice and Data marketplaces. We need some choice and at the moment we have almost zero. The problem is only to get worse and not better if we leave it up to the “free market”.

    I will also add that Directv has a FAR superior HD quality compared to Comcast. Can’t say if Directtv tried to squeeze in an extra commercial break since I haven’t finished watching that stages on my DVR.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 9, 2009 at 11:24 am

    “seriously?
    this is news?”

    hi tbird. i agree.. it’s not the biggest news i’ve covered, but I’ve been looking for an excuse to cover the Tour and this seemed like a good one. thanks.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Barton Janes July 9, 2009 at 11:43 am

    I have to say I was more than a little miffed when the commercial blotted out the finish of the race.

    I’m going to make it a point to not buy the products advertised during that commercial break and will be switching away from Comcast as quickly as I can.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    BURR July 9, 2009 at 11:45 am

    So what were they advertising that we should boycott?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    steve July 9, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Conspiracy! Conspiracy! Something happened I don’t like which means that the corporations are out to get me. Let’s organize a boycott. The is no way someone may have simply messed up at work since none of us would ever do that.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    AC July 9, 2009 at 11:47 am

    DIRECTV was money during yesterday’s stage.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    lothar July 9, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Dish Network got it right, in fact I am very happy with their broadcast of vs. Funny though, the cops had the Comcast guy accused of robbing the check cashing place in front of my house all morning.I think Comcast is circling the drain.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Matt Picio July 9, 2009 at 11:49 am

    What’s television?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 9, 2009 at 11:54 am

    “So what were they advertising that we should boycott?”

    i heard that it was a Comcast ad (of all things).

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    steve July 9, 2009 at 11:55 am

    I watch the tour online so did not experience the lapse in coverage. I would have been pretty pissed off if I had. Fortunately, I dropped Comcast a while back because of their low quality HD content. Sorry ya’ll missed the finish, what a great stage!

    Oh yeah. Looks like we now have 2 steves. I am the one you already loathe, FWIW.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    fredlf July 9, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    The tour is the biggest cycling sporting event in the world. Hell, it’s one of the biggest sporting events in the world period. I think it’s news to many in the “bike community.”

    It’s nice for me to know cycling isn’t all car accidents and infrastructure design!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    velo_racer July 9, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I watched Thomas V. school those kids and smile all the way to the finish line…On Comcast, from the live coverage morning broadcast, in Beaverton.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Joe Blow July 9, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I don’t have comcast and I have VS. At least it’s on TV in the USA, and not Broadcasted by NBC or CBS on the weekends only, and way past date like the old days.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    mike July 9, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Comcast is a total waste of money. If you own a television and watch it, don’t subscrbie to comcast. Direct TV is a better value.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    lothar July 9, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    #14

    Television is the time suck beta test for the computer. Same suck just more input options.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Leslie Carlson July 9, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    We bought the $34.95 package for live streaming/on-demand playback from Versus, and it has been nothing but trouble. The viewer can’t be fast-forwarded when you are watching on demand, and it freezes all the time. I’m about ready to cancel it.

    Ironically, Universal Sports’ coverage of the Giro online was free, and worked like a charm. Versus has done a poor, poor job.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    E July 9, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    omg comcast sucks. it so sucks. if it was just tv I would so throw it out the window but all the internet options sucks. 🙁

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Lazy Spinner July 9, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    I do miss Liggett and Sherwen by no longer having cable but it is easy to find European coverage online and live. Watched the team time trial the other morning on RAI (Italian state TV). Couldn’t understand much but the passion comes through clearly and they cover other teams and riders not named Astana or Lance Armstrong.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    K in Marin July 9, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    I got the odd commercials on Stages 1-5 and I got irate when the end of state 5 was overlaid! I called Comcast and they denied doing it. I said I was going to contact Versus. This morning, stage 6 was JUST FINE. interesting.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Andrew Holtz July 9, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Odd. Our feed was not interrupted. We watched the Versus HD coverage on Comcast.

    Some cable breaks are inserted locally by computer… with local ads aimed at just specific areas. So it could be that a programming error by Comcast interrupted the Versus feed in just certain neighborhoods.

    This year’s race has been amazing. So much excitement and surprise in the first week. It almost makes up for all the awful things that Comcast is doing to customers. Still eager for the day when Internet video and other technologies truly mature to the point that the local cable grip is broken.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Sean July 9, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    No issues watching it on Verizon.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Shake July 9, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    For me it was Garlique and Gold Bond. Who do they think is watching the tour?!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Anonymous July 10, 2009 at 7:09 am

    Comcast has been having problems with their timing on overlaying commercials for weeks, and not just on VS.

    Plenty of times national level commercials have started, then 5 seconds in the local commercial is overlaid.

    Or they have cut over early cutting off commentary.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Anonymous July 10, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Comcast is notorious for this. Their advertising is sold by a separate part of the company called Comcast Spotlight. I am sure they have something to do with this whole thing.

    Not the first time this has happened during live sports.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    stevefarns July 10, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    I’m watching the tour this afternoon and was paying close attention to commercials after reading this post. One thing I’ve now noticed that’s driving me crazy is that there is a “Nature Valley Commercial Free” add taking up a good portion of the top left of the screen. Really? Commercial free? Why do you keep cutting to commercial every 2 minutes Comcast?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    sfmike July 11, 2009 at 9:45 am

    I have had this same problem in San Francisco throughout the early stages of the tour and called comcast the day b/f Voekler’s win. comcast, of course said that vs. had to be doing this.

    I called again after the infamous garlique, gold bond, ufc ppv ads during the finish line blackout. Again, I talked to a supervisor and comcast denied doing it. I then contact vs. and sent off an email to the following addresses:
    feedback@versus.com
    support@theracetracker.com
    (the 2nd I was given by the operator)

    Of course, I never heard back….only a receipt email from the race tracker.

    However, there has not been 1 misplaced ad in the past 2 stages since. So, I’m assuming somebody over there got the message. I wish someone would own up to it though.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Eddie July 11, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Yeah, this totally sucks on comcast (out of VA). i honestly don’t know how commericals are triggered or coordinated, but there have never been any problems in the past 10 years of coverage like this. my guess is that comcast is trying to increase revenue by selling commerical time over the normal vs. feed. i’m also pretty confident that any rep that you talk to on the phone won’t know anything at all about it.

    what’s funny is that today’s live stage with the nature valley commercial free half hour was dotted with interruptive commercials.

    i don’t think it’s vs. i think it’s comcast. has anyone had any trouble with other carriers of vs (other than comcast)?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Rick glos July 12, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Strangely enough, channel 732, the HD version of Versus, does NOT have those strange commercial mid-sentence interruptions.

    Even though I do not have an HD TV myself, the video is fine, in letterbox, and the sound is better.

    Just thought I’d toss it out there as a quick work-around. I found it myself after being miffed about the strange mid-sentence interruptions for ads for ‘learn the internet’…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Mike Ombrello July 12, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    I was watching the morning broadcast on Versus on Comcast cable in Montgomery County, MD, and I noticed at least eight occasions where there were blocks of two commercials obviously “inserted” OVER the ongoing programming! I just moved here, and I only became a Comcast customer yesterday.

    Tonight, I started watching my hometown St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Cubs on ESPN, and at this point (2 outs, top of 6th inning) there have been THIRTEEN “inserted” commercial breaks–each break included a commercial for Comcast. The interruptions happened during two at bats of Albert Pujols, and during the interview with Lou Pinella!

    If this is what I can expect from Comcast, I’m going to cancel this junk first thing tomorrow morning and switch to Fios!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar