aNewDomain.net — I’m a pretty big fan of the Tour de France and enjoy an easy, relaxing way to watch the sport unfold. NBC covers Tour de France 2014 in the U.S., and it has finally managed to create an app-viewing experience that meets my needs. For several years I’ve commented on NBC’s coverage during the Tour de France, as well as NBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games. I found English stations BBC and IT4 to be far superior. Not anymore, though.
I’ve watched this year’s Tour on NBC’s iPad app, and thoroughly enjoy the experience. Web and Android versions are also available.
The NBC Tour de France iPad App
The user interface has five main viewing modes, all listed along the bottom of your screen: Live video, Standings, Stages, Riders and More.
Most of the time you will watch Live video mode, which has four frames:
You actually see the live footage in the upper left — it takes up most of the screen, and one click makes it full screen. That text along the right has different frames that show peloton and other rider groups. It also displays a news feed, curated in a Twitter-like style.
The last frame is a graphic along the bottom that has five unique modes, each of which displays stats differently. See below:
The other frames are fixed, but the bottom frame allow the user to pan or zoom, shown below:
I spend most of my time watching Live video, but frequently switch to one of the other modes to check the standings or to see how a particular rider, team or nation is doing.
The Stages mode is the most interesting. It has facts about each stage and, more importantly, archives of the completed stages. Shortly after a stage is completed, you can go back and watch highlight clips or the video of the entire stage and review the standings and other statistics.
Room for Improvement
The viewing experience is good, but I’d still like to see some improvements. One improvement would be adding a single-touch, 15-second video rewind, as in the UK ITV4 viewer. Another would be showing the text frames — group positions and news posts — along with the archived video of the completed stages. (Currently you can only replay the video stream.) There’s also some missing data — the Riders database includes a biography field, but it is not populated.
Finally, the tablet interface is terrific for “leaning forward” — switching modes and looking things up, but the small screen in your hands or lap is not so great for just “leaning back” and watching the race. I want to be able to mirror the video on my TV screen with a single touch.
If I had an Apple TV, I could do that now with my iPad. My YATS Podcast buddies tell me that Google is updating its Chromecast app to enable mirroring the screens of selected Android phones and tablets on TV sets equipped with a Chromecast device. Better yet, how about NBC Chromecast-enabling its app?
As I said at the start, I like this experience a lot. Some part of that is attributable to NBC’s app and some is due to the inherent nature of a tablet and touch interface. I also like NBC’s offer — I paid $14.99 and did not have to watch any commercials. By next year, I expect to have a five-star setup for watching the Tour — while leaning forward and back.
For aNewDomain.net, I’m Larry Press.
Based in Los Angeles, Larry Press is a founding senior editor covering tech here at aNewDomain.net. He’s also a professor of information systems at California State University at Dominguez Hills. Check his Google+ profile — he’s at +Larry Press — or email him at Larry@aNewDomain.net.