Woe be unto you if you’re trying to watch the 24 Hours of Le Mans in America and accidentally decided to trust Fox Sports to cover it. Hahaha. Haha. No. We’ve had this discussion before. I’m not sure I’d trust them to broadcast anything without randomly preempting it for poker, or quilting, or professional farting.
I’m here in person (thank goodness), but everyone back home can’t quit talking about how thoroughly borked the coverage of Le Mans has been. Not only was the schedule a horrifying schedule of channel changes, but everything after that has been handled about as poorly as it can be.
First of all, no one gets Fox Sports 2 without having some kind of ludicrous cable or satellite package. It is not a common channel. You can get ESPN all the way up to ESPN 42.5 or whatever, but Fox Sports 2 will still elude you. Three big blocks of coverage, including quite a bit near the end of the race, are all on FS2.
Cable subscribers who didn’t have FS2 were promised that they’d still be able to watch the race in its entirety on Fox Sports Go, but the Go app was widely lambasted for being incredibly buggy, cutting out and not working properly.
Then, of course, Fox Sports did its usual thing by interrupting an endurance race for something else. In this case, it was a U20 Brazil vs. Portugal shootout, as the two teams were tied 0-0. According to frustrated viewer Jim Crider, the shootout lasted 30 minutes, during which Fox Sports Go was dark, and the Corvette in-car feed kept halting every minute or so.
Look, I get that sports are unpredictable, and that fitting them into defined time slots isn’t always feasible. We’re also talking about soccer (not very popular in the United States) and motor racing (in France, no less, all of which is also a hard sell in the United States even though we hate to admit it). However, this wasn’t some grand finale of the World Cup where the ball is made out of Sepp Blatter’s own highly corrupt spleen-flesh. It was a regular game in overtime.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans, on the other hand, is arguably the most important event in international motorsport. Sure, some people will argue otherwise, and they’re wrong. There’s a significant American contingent here, fighting it out in a full day’s worth of racing. It’s the ultimate test in professional racing, and it only happens over one day in a year. Give us our day. Why Le Mans isn’t front-and-center on a TV station that most of America can actually tune into, I’ll never understand.
Fox got a decent score when they announced that they would broadcast the full World Endurance Championship season, including Le Mans. It’s a growing series that actually encourages innovation. Results are often nail-bitingly close, and if there’s any one series I’d recommend to suck someone into left-and-right-turning racing, it’s this one. The problem is that, well, it’s growing. “I’m going to watch six hours of racing today” isn’t a common sentiment. When it’s impossible to watch the middle of the 6 Hours of Spa, for example, because it’s on FS2 and you don’t get that channel, you’re going to have an impossible time actually growing the audience for this race series, even though it should practically sell itself.
Why wasn’t the soccer game preempted? I’ll never know. Then again, I never know why any live events on the schedule aren’t allowed to run at their scheduled time. It’s not fair to fans who expect something to be on only to be unable to find it anywhere until another thing ends. Why not send the fans watching whatever’s in overtime to a station showing pre-recorded programming instead of another live event? They’re the ones already hooked on seeing it through to the end. And no, an app that doesn’t even feel ready for production is no replacement for good ol’ fashioned TV air time.
By the time the talking heads did a recap and introduced the chunk of Le Mans that was already late and ads had finished playing, viewers report that it was a good 45 minutes until Fox finally cut back to Le Mans.
To make matters worse, Le Mans then coverage spilled over five minutes into the next U20 game. Again, that’s not fair to either party. The soccer fans want to see their game, and the Le Mans fans want you to pick a simple schedule and stick with it.
From now on, I think we should refer to any plans made for Fox to broadcast a sportscar race as “Faux Schedule.” Clearly, it’s not determined ahead of time as we’d expect with any other professionally run cable channel. It’s apparently decided on the fly by monkeys flinging poo at the wall. “This turd landed on ice dancing. Cut to ice dancing!”
Please, I’m begging you. Sell off the old bones of Speed/Speedvision to someone who actually understands how to broadcast anything in a predictable, professional manner. NBC’s done okay, even if they’re heavy on the ads. Shoot, maybe even ABC could have a go. What about an ESPN The Catorce: Stuff With Wheels? I don’t care. A blind, deaf herd of wildebeest could have managed Le Mans’ broadcast better than it has been this year, so someone else, anyone else: please pick this up next year and actually do it right.
Update: It’s happening again, and apparently this is the third time they’ve pulled it.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me thrice...oh for crap’s sake, at this point it’s almost 100000% morally forgivable to hack into Eurosport’s feed directly.
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