Every four years, I watch the Olympics, and every four years, I watch sports such as diving, swimming, and gymnastics, and question my life decisions.
The Giro d’Italia has been my favourite Grand Tour over the past few years, with some sensational racing and gripping moments keeping the interest in the event high.
From the drama and controversy of Nairo Quintana’s Stage 16 win on snow-capped roads in 2014, to last year’s final mountain-top finish on top of the Sant Anna di Vinadio, which saw Vincenzo Nibali overtake Colombian Esteban Chaves to the overall win, the Giro consistently delivers quality.
Unfortunately, for this year’s event, organisers RCS sold the race to primarily pay TV stations, with Eurosport picking up the coverage in Australia. Ultimately, this means the majority of fans are trying to find online streams, or just not watching at all.
So far, over the first 11 days of the race, I have only watched three stages – both the mountain-top finishes on Stage 4 and 9, and the medium mountain day of Stage 11. With other commitments, my interest level in the other stages, predominantly the time trial and the sprint stages, is not enough to keep me up into the early hours of the morning while trying for an hour to find a decent stream.
This is in stark contrast to the coverage of the Tour de France for this year, with SBS securing the rights to the show the race on free-to-air television, from start to finish of the stages for the entire race.
“The idea is to present the full spectacle, which begins well before the riders get onto their bikes,” said Yann Le Moenner, the CEO of ASO, the company responsible for the Tour de France.
“The build-up to the action will commence at the Tour’s start village, just as it does with the national anthems before a football match or on the start grid before an F1 Grand Prix.”
Included in the Tour’s coverage over the past few years has been the use of onboard cameras, while also allowing viewers the opportunity to pick certain cameras from the official broadcast motorbikes to watch, via the app or on the official website. The welcome addition of full race coverage is now another reason why the Tour is the best TV production in cycling.
Ultimately, RCS have sold out, and not for the good of the viewer.
While I look forward to watching the final week of racing, and seeing who ultimately prevails, I don’t envy a lot of potential viewers around the world having to put up with dodgy streams or, worse still, no access to one of the most exciting races on the calendar.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel for future Giro coverage though, with free-to-air broadcasters still looking to gain the rights.
“All I can say is: watch this space, because I’m not content with letting the Giro go,” said SBS’s head of sport, Ken Shipp. “I will work hard to see if there’s another way we can work with the Giro organisers and with Eurosport to bring it to free-to-air TV.”
Lets hope RCS follow the lead of ASO and open up the race for the world, not isolate it.