Great news for people who love watching Ironman races on television (I assume there are others?): There are discussions between the World Triathlon Corporation and NBC about airing part of the 2012 Ironman World Championship LIVE from Hawaii. Andrew Messick, WTC's CEO, even went so far as to say he'll be "much more aggressive" in getting the live coverage.
Normally, the Ironman race in Kona is condensed down to a two-hour show that airs in December, about two months after the actual race. So why the change for 2012? Two words: Lance Armstrong.
The seven-time Tour de France winner has returned to the professional triathlon circuit and has made it well-known that he's setting his sights on qualifying for Kona, which would mean a lot more interest on the race, as well as more eyeballs tuning in, which means $$$.
Armstrong is already well on his way: He finished second at Panama 70.3 on Feb. 12, his first race back. And with him came the interest that NBC and many others will be banking on: Text updates of the event drew 150,000 unique visitors to Ironman's website, up from about 7,500.
"We want to investigate opportunities to be able to potentially put parts of the race live, something that has never been done in the U.S.," Messick said in an interview yesterday in San Diego, California, where he is attending the Triathlon America Business of Triathlon conference. "Lance brings a spotlight to our sport that's brighter perhaps than anything that has ever happened."
Armstrong is planning to race three more half-Ironman events -- Texas, Florida and Hawaii -- and the Ironman organizers will be there, too.
For those races, Messick said Ironman plans to increase its online coverage to include video and audio to spotlight Armstrong's participation. Armstrong competed as a professional triathlete at age 18 before focusing on cycling.
In an attempt to qualify for Kona, Armstrong will race his first pro 140.6-mile Ironman in Nice, France, on June 24.