Things I wish I didn’t have to write – live streaming of the women’s Road World Cup

This is one of those posts I wasn’t going to write, but I keep having this conversation over and over again, and a ton of people keep getting confused by this.

The UCI put out a press release last week about the women’s Road World Cup.  They’ve changed it online, but they originally said

In an unprecedented development for women’s cycling, all nine races in the UCI Women Road World Cup will be broadcast to cycling fans worldwide in 2014.

and along with their World Cup trailer on Youtube, which is all “Have you seen?”, “Can you see history?”, “You’ll see much more” and so on, I can see how this got translated by all sorts of people, including some of the top cycling bloggers and commentators, and publications like Cyclingnews into “live-streaming” of the races.  So as a result I’ve had a lot of conversations, and seen comments in fora everywhere where people have said “Isn’t it great?  We get to see the World Cups live!”.

The thing is, we’re not going to get any live-streaming on the UCI website.  What we’ll get are a short highlights package, commentated by José Been, which they say will go up on “the evening of” the race, but it is likely to be the next day, as with the Ronde van Drenthe video, and then there’s going to be an hour-long 26 minutes highlights package commentated by Rochelle Gilmore and Ant McCrossan, which Ant says they’re hoping will be out within a week of the race.  This has been given to tv companies, and will be on the UCI website, and I suspect this is what is going to be “live-streamed”.

I need to stress – this IS a step up!  Last year, the lovely Ben Atkins was doing those highlights videos, and the later highlights were a 25-minute show covering 2 races at a time, which came out weeks after the 2nd race.  And the UCI have a brand-new twitter, @UCIWomenCycling, which appears to be run by José Been and appears to be only about the World Cup – but it’s more than we had before!  And given that the 9 World Cup races are all organised by different people, in different countries, with different tv deals, I’m not surprised we can’t get a live broadcast yet, when they’ve only just started work in this area.  If the UCI had promoted this as a step on the journey to live coverage, fans would have been really happy – but the bombastic video, tweets, presser, and the fact they didn’t correct people’s misconceptions mean that instead of happy fans, they now have a load of disappointed people feeling let down.

This isn’t the first time the UCI has had a problem with managing expectations – they’re known for putting out news that people have to parse carefully to work out exactly what they’re saying.  And last year they put up a press release that said “all women’s World Cups” would be streamed live on their YT, which we later worked out meant “all women’s cyclocross World Cups”, which again, was a brilliant new move, but not as exciting as what they first promised.  And it’s not only the women’s news – take a look at the anti-doping press releases, for example, and pretty much everything that came out under Pat McQuaid.

I hope this is one of those things that will change under Brian Cookson‘s watch.  I also wish that they’d promote the tv broadcasters that DO show the World Cup, and work with them for wider coverage, rather than just push the in-house coverage.  It was fantastic to be watching the Ronde van Drenthe live, on un-geo-restricted streams on both RTV Drenthe and RTV Oost (and you can see the videos that came out of the race here), but you have to know where to look to find that.  We should get some coverage of the Trofeo Alfredo Binda (probably a highlights package on RAI sport after the race that might be geo-restricted); the Open de Suède Vårgårda are renowned for providing some great “live-ish” online coverage, with a ticker and cameras on fixed points, like the hill and the finish-line; and the GP Plouay is often streamed live, which is awesome, but watching it depends on who has brought the Plouay weekend package each year.  And there are other ways to follow the races too, and all of this should be celebrated and promoted.  It will be fine if the UCI website & twitter etc don’t promote anything else, once we’re in a situation like the MTB and CX World Cups, where all the Road World Cups are streamed live on the UCI Youtube – that makes sense, promote your own options, rather than eg the Red Bull tv MTB coverage.  But we’re here now – just celebrate what we have, help fans find it, and work to give us more.

The Ronde van Drenthe was fantastic, by the way, full of great moments.  If you missed it, I’ve got a somewhat over-excited race report on Podium Café, with all the video I’ve found so far.  Massive thanks to the race organisers, they really put on a fantastic show, and I appreciate it very much.

(As always, anything I find about race live-streaming, or “live-ish” coverage, will go up on this blog – and of course, if you have any questions or want to share anything you find, leave me a comment here, email me at prowomenscycling [at] gmail [dot] com or talk to me on twitter, at @_pigeons_)

UPDATE!  I’m told by people from the USA that the World Cup videos are being geo-restricted in the USA, because the rights have been bought by a pay-to-view channel (possibly NBC?).  I can’t see the advantage here – no one’s going to buy a new subscription just to watch 9 26-min highlights packages, it makes no sense at all.  USA types, you might want to get yourself a service like Hola or Tunnelbear, and set yourself to the UK, then you can watch the videos on the UCI Youtube.


7 thoughts on “Things I wish I didn’t have to write – live streaming of the women’s Road World Cup

  1. Baby steps, baby steps… but one thing for sure: a definite sense of progression under Cookson so far, however small it seems, quite unlike the Verbruggen/McQuaid era where it all about ‘where the money is’. But yes, the UCI’s PR-department needs to ‘vet’ its own announcements a little more carefully…

  2. Some good news, re.: Kathryn Bertine’s documentary-film Half The Road: she secured a week-long showing in New York City next month (April) plus new showings in San Francisco and a few other locations. Plus (for those who contributed enough to get one) the DVDs will be out this summer.

  3. While this is great, there seems to be a problem in the US with viewing rights on the UCI Channel via YouTube. The Ronde van Drenthe video was only available to view for a couple of hours after release and then blocked.

    US residents can still view it using software like Tunnelbear but this means that the UCI will not be able to track how many American viewers are supporting women’s cycling by watching the coverage.

    Perhaps I am technically challenged and the only one experiencing this. Please let me know if I am wrong.

    • I have no idea why this happens, it’s completely mind-boggling. I’m in the UK, so obviously I don’t get this problem – it might be worth emailing USA Cycling to ask them to take it up with the UCI? And leaving a comment on the YT?

      I am facepalming so hard at this because it seems ridiculous to geo-block this. The only thing I can imagine is a pay-for service like or Universal has bought the rights? But we’re still in the “build an audience” phase for women’s cycling, surely it’s better not to make exclusive deals, and get more people watching – and then they can demonstrate the market for it? I can’t imagine anyone will sign up to an expensive service to see 9 26-minute videos, so there’s no advantage at all restricting it….

    • Good plan. I really believe that just talking about these things helps, getting the conversation going – because it doesn’t make sense – they shouldn’t prioritise a short-term approach (make a bit of cash off NBC!) over the long-term goals. It’s a real pity, when the USA Crits series & pro MTB series are streamed – and when the USA is so much better than most countries, in terms of having races like Philly Classic and the national champs streamed, that people over there can’t watch the biggest races of the year – it makes no sense!

      If there’s anything I can do to help more, do let me know – and at least we have the joys of Hola and Tunnelbear. Hopefully this can change in the future, but set yourself to the UK to watch, so it shows as a nice big audience! 🙂

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