By Ben Delaney
In an eleventh-hour deal, Universal Sports secured rights to the Giro d’Italia and will be airing live, start-to-finish coverage of each stage of the 2009 race.
Fans in America will be able to watch complete daily coverage live online at universalsports.com and a taped, same-day show on cable, if Universal’s station is available in their region.
After months of negotiations seemed to fall apart between RCS Sport — the Giro’s parent company — and Universal Sports executive producer David Michaels, a deal was completed Thursday morning.
“This thing had been going on for months,” Michaels said, adding that the price RCS demanded was initially too steep. “Then I woke up this morning, and at 6:10 a.m. opened up my email. I just yelled out. My wife said, ‘you okay?’ I said, ‘the Giro’s back!’”
Michaels is an Emmy-award-winning producer with a long history in cycling dating back to the Red Zinger. He launched Universal Sports a year ago as an online network that soon expanded into cable television.
“I won something like nine Emmys on cycling events,” Michaels said. “Now that I’m the executive producer of this little TV network, I’m trying to get cycling back. The first thing I did was convince everybody here that we needed to do the Tour of the Basque Country, which nobody had heard of.”
Then Michaels went after the Giro. He secured a four-year deal, which he hopes will expand to include RCS’ other properties of Milan San-Remo and Tirenno-Adriatico.
“It comes down to this: we’re really an athletes’ network, as opposed to a coach potato viewers’ network,” he said.
Michaels said the deal with RCS resulted in part from the work of Aisner, the former boss of the Coors Classic.
“Aisner was a very big part of making it happen,” Michaels said. “He had been part of the initial push. And he was a very big part of finally convincing them to give up their ridiculous demands and work with us.”
Aisner goes way back with both Giro director Angelo Zomegnan and Michaels.
“I was trying to be the matchmaker,” Aisner said. “But we were so apart on money. RCS felt that since Lance (Armstrong) was attending the race, they could ask for astronomical figure. Universal finally gave up. I wrote a letter to Angelo over the weekend and said we cannot let this happen, that
he had to bring his race to North America.”
Universal will broadcast the Giro live everyday online without commentary. Then it will broadcast each stage on its cable channel at noon EST with commentary from Todd Gogulski and Steve Schlanger. Scott Ogle will be on the ground for Universal in Italy. The TV coverage will then repeat from 9-11 p.m. and 11 p.m.-1 a.m. EST.
146222″ target=”_blank”>Click here for the Universal schedule