Universal Sports unveiled a comprehensive coverage plan for this year’s FIS Alpine World Cup circuit for American fans, but without a deal in place to carry the network on the largest cable provider in the U.S. (Comcast), eager fans who wanted to watch last weekend’s opening races in Soelden scrambled instead for any information they could find on the events. With a new online option now available from DISH Network, fewer folks should suffer a similar fate by the time the World Cup hits Levi, Finland.
Doug Lewis, world championship bronze medalist and analyst for Universal Sports, believes the coverage he contributes to the race broadcasts brings something special to American fans that they simply will not find elsewhere.
“I need to educate viewers, and I think we did that last week in Soelden when we broke down Ligety’s first run and we talked about early pressure to the outside ski and what that really means. We are digging to get the inside stories and information to then bring out in our coverage,” said Lewis, who mentioned that he spoke directly with U.S. Ski Team coaches Forest Carey, Jeff Fergus, and Chip White during the Soelden races along with Swedish coach Rudi Soulard, Swiss coach Rudi Huber, and American athletes Ted Ligety, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Tommy Biesemeyer.
Frustrated loyalists who wanted to watch last weekend’s action and had no access through their cable providers were forced to rely on either illicit websites or social media feeds to pick up pieces of the races from Austria.
Although Universal Sports is available to anyone in the country who subscribes to either DISH Network or DIRECTV as a satellite provider, fans were reluctant to make the switch and instead took to the comment section of Skiracing.com to voice disappointment over the situation.
“If people would just compare where we were, when I grew up there was maybe Kitzbuehel and Wengen and one other race that ABC’s Wide World of Sports covered. And boy, were we glued, we got three races a year! Now, what you can watch as a ski racing fan is pretty incredible. You just have to do a little homework, and you do have to pay a little bit of money, but it’s money so well spent,” remarked Lewis.
DISH Network offers Universal Sports to subscribers, but fans who refuse to switch cable or satellite providers or who prefer to watch the races online can now subscribe to DishWorld’s “Just Sports TV” package at $10 per month. The service provides online access on computers as well as select tablets and mobile devices to the races aired over Universal Sports, and they can be watched anytime up to eight days following the event. Anyone who subscribes to Universal Sports through any television provider also receives a code to log in at Universalsports.com to view the races online as well.
“It gives you an opportunity as a fan to watch ski racing at anytime, and that’s awesome! Coaches can be up on the hill working with athletes during the races, but then come in for a break and show them Ligety’s run or Shiffrin’s run,” said Lewis. “One new segment that we saw in Soelden is called ‘The Race Room’. I went to the wind tunnel at Specialized last week with [Steven] Nyman, and we broke down aerodynamics. We’re going to take apart a boot, we’re going to take apart a ski, we’re going to talk setup, ramp angle, bootfit, plastics,” noted Lewis.
The use of illegal website feeds to view European coverage of World Cup races is highly problematic in that it compromises the future coverage of the sport here in the U.S.
“I don’t see why anyone would go to an unauthorized site, because we have the coverage here and it’s not that expensive. Ski racing coverage will go away if it’s not supported nationally. Universal Sports spends millions of dollars procuring the rights, acquiring the feeds, hiring the talent, broadcasting out, and it’s not cheap. It’s a significant investment, and it will go away if people don’t pay for it.”
Unfortunately, DishWorld’s new online option is only available in the U.S., and no online service option currently exists for Canadian fans who are instead at the mercy of the races CBCSports and CTV’s Sportsnet have selected to air this season. Neither of the Canadian broadcasting companies have opted into showing the first two weekends of World Cup action from Europe, so Canadian fans will have to wait until the circuit travels to North America for coverage.
Photo: Universal Sports alpine ski racing analysts Steve Porino (left) and Doug Lewis (credit: Universal Sports)