No More Pirates

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Liege Bastogne Liege 1983 TV

March is a busy month for pro cycling. Even if you had the free time and inclination trying to watch as many races as possible it would not be easy, you’d need determination and several screens. Races are spread over several channels and for many fans there’s sometimes no legal way to watch a race because it’s not on TV.

The internet’s changed expectations leaving fans wanting to watch every race going and thanks to the web it’s often possible, at least if you resort to so-called pirate feeds. But there’s a better way: use a VPN.

A what? A VPN is a Virtual Private Network and it can allow you to get around geo-restriction technology. Normally if you try to watch Sporza’s coverage of a race from outside Belgium you are blocked. There are reasons for this, they don’t have the rights to broadcast the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad internationally for example. With a VPN you can select “Belgium” and it tunnels your internet connection right into Belgium, fooling Sporza into thinking you’re a local and so you can watch the race. Typically you can subscribe to a service or, if you use the Firefox or Chrome browsers, try the Hola plug-in.

Of course you might be used to pirate feeds but these are a horrible way to watch a race. Yes they’re free but you get low resolution images that are as pixelated as a Picasso painting while you play whack-a-mole with the pop-ups, all while risking malware and the prospect of the feed dropping with 5km to go. With a VPN you watch what the locals watch and it’s usually a lot better. Of course this means foreign language commentary but if you’re already watching a pirate feed chances are you’ve got foreign language commentary.

Some US fans use a VPN to pretend their internet connection is in the UK and then sign up for the Eurosport Player service, a subscription version of the sports channel on the web. This means paying twice, first for the VPN, second for Eurosport but you’ll get English audio and you can go “full screen” on your computer for a high quality image. Also for US fans keen to watch RCS’s Italian races, note that BeIn Sports offers an online option now too, you can watch via your browser if you or a friend has a subscription; if, say, your apartment block can’t get BeIn, you can pay for a friend to have it and ask for their log-in.

Don’t fear foreign commentary: There can be long moments when nothing is happening and you’ll have no idea what the TV commentators are saying: but that’s only because there’s nothing happening. Once the action picks up you’ll hear names being called and things get obvious. A vall on Sporza is a fall, an attaque on RTBF is an attack and of course English language commentary is infested with foreign words like peloton, bidon and pavé.

Motoman: watch enough races and you’ll start to learn more terms and the local broadcaster is often superior because they have a reporter on a motorbike, Sporza has Renaat Schotte and for the Tour de France France Télévisions has two roving reporters, one covering the break and the other monitoring the back of the bunch.

Right VPN: there are some free VPN clients but you need to select a provider that will tunnel to the destination of your choice and offers enough bandwidth. For example Tunnelbear is free but it has a fixed allowance per month. So before you install any software, yet alone pay for a VPN subscription, check that you’ve got the countries covered. The Hola plug-in for browsers is a good free service but is sometimes blocked by broadcasters. Some VPN providers offer several options including apps for your smartphone so you can watch a race via a 4G connection.

  • Tip: if you watch on a computer plug it in to your TV via an HDMI cable and the image quality can look sharper, despite the larger screen

Immoral?
It feels wrong to explain sneaky tricks to watch races and if a VPN isn’t a pirate feed, it’s a submarine-like tactic. There are three justifications or excuses:

  • sometimes there’s no other way to watch the race, even if you subscribed to every sports channel going at home the race is simply not being shown in your country
  • “everyone else is doing it” line. A flimsy excuse but even pro TV commentators who work for one channel do it to keep up with the sport
  • chances are you’re already using pirate feeds and if you are, a VPN is better than a pirate feed. There’s no malware and you’re not implicitly or explicitly contributing to illegal streams. Plus you’ll show up on the domestic broadcaster’s audience stats, a little boost their ad revenue

Summary
You’re almost always better off watching a race properly on TV, the image quality is superior and whether it’s by adverts or subscription you are paying towards the costly coverage. However this sometimes isn’t possible and many endure dodgy pirate feeds. If you’re in this rogue boat you’ll find a VPN connection offers smoother sailing. Some VPNs are free, some have a charge. It’s hard to recommend a single provider, shop around. But it’s a superior way to watch a race if you cannot find it on TV at home, a small price to pay to get rid of the pirates.

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Larry T. March 5, 2015 at 9:46 am

BRAVO! I was just trying to explain this scheme to a friend back in the US of A and here you’ve laid it all out fantastically….as the Brits say (too often) BRILLIANT! In the USA where we are stuck with Heckel and Jeckel or some other schlocky announcer who wouldn’t know a chainring from a chaingang, even if you don’t understand much of the language REAL cycling commentators can be much, much better. Whether they are Dutch, Italian, French, etc. at least they know what they’re talking about.
That reminds me – please put up some sort of tip jar for those of us who want to chip in to offset some of your costs but aren’t interested in buying more “stuff”.

Ablindeye March 5, 2015 at 9:56 am

Good points. Belatedly tried Hola for OHN last weekend so I could enjoy the Flemish commentary as much as a better quality stream than the pirate alternatives. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to have Belgium as an option by default so I need to go back and work that extra step out (any tips appreciated). As things were getting exciting typically early I shelved the idea and went back to my grainy feed and settled for muttering some Flemish phrases to myself…

Anonymous March 5, 2015 at 10:07 am

I watched what appeared to be a french commentary of the Omloop (or maybe its was Burne, I can’t remember) and the commentator kept saying what sounded like “tut-sweet” very animatedly. I’m too lazy to Google what it means but it keep making me giggle everytime he said it, so I turned of the sound to maintain decorum.

And that’s the end of a fascinating story.

AK March 5, 2015 at 10:31 am

Must have been ‘toute suite’, which means ‘immediately’, ‘soon’, ‘quickly’

Anonymous March 5, 2015 at 10:56 am

The correct word is “Toot-sweet” and it’s the key phrase in that candy song from the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”–the original one with Gene Wilder (and not that freaky version starring Johnny Depp). And, yes, it is a funny word. [I’m not going to use my name on this one–it’s going anonymous.]

Tom March 5, 2015 at 11:06 am

You mean Chitty Chitty Bang Bang…

Kev March 5, 2015 at 11:43 am

I think you will find he was probably saying “tout de suite”

Truly Scrumptious March 5, 2015 at 7:38 pm

CCBB. Dick Van Dyke– good name for a Classics hardman.

Dave March 5, 2015 at 10:34 am

Ablindeye, not sure what issue you had with Hola.
I find that if I go to a website and let it load, when that is done I click on the little fire symbol for Hola and the country of the website pops up as a choice to browes from, the website then reloads “in” the local country.
When I do this with Sporza, Belgium is the first option Hola gives me.

Ablindeye March 5, 2015 at 11:46 am

Many thanks for the info Dave. As memory serves (I’m not in front of the computer right now) I was following the instructions to set up a VPN before then trying to view the site and couldn’t see Belgium as one of the 19 selectable options.

Your way sounds a lot simpler (sounds like a rare case of me over thinking things…) so I’ll give it a go pre the next Sporza weekend, thanks again.

Ablindeye March 5, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Upon reflection I think my problems may also be as I switched to an IPad as the kids commandeered the desktop. Shouldn’t be a problem next time round – I normally can’t get a look in on the IPad!

Ben March 5, 2015 at 10:39 am

Just a little one, is there a missing ‘not’ in: “…malware and you’re implicitly or explicitly contributing to illegal streams.”? i.e. “…. malware and you’re not implicitly or explicitly contributing to illegal streams.”

The Inner Ring March 5, 2015 at 11:42 am

There is now, thanks.

Tovarishch March 5, 2015 at 10:43 am

I have to use VPN as a means of avoiding Russian Eurosport! I subscribe to Cycling TV and use a US/Canada VPN address when watching their Geo-restricted coverage.

AK March 5, 2015 at 10:45 am

It’s a pity the ip filters aren’t a little more sophisticated. I understand they want to sell TV rights in every country, and that Internet streaming rights are bundled with them. And I also understand that a company that has paid for rights and wants to get its money back through subscriptions doesn’t want to lose viewers to free streams paid by Belgian taxpayers. But once the race started nobody wins by disallowing people to view your stream if they are from an area where there is no coverage whatsoever. More people seeing the roadside ads, the jerseys etc is good for organizers and teams. Stats on how many people tune in to foreign online coverage could be used to convince a broadcaster to get the rights next year, etc.

Adam March 5, 2015 at 11:07 am

+1 to that.

Andrew March 5, 2015 at 1:09 pm

The answer to that though is that if it was economically viable to be doing it then someone would be. People don’t wilfully turn down opportunities to make money. To my mind the worse sin is buying up rights but then not using them as sometimes happens.

AK March 5, 2015 at 9:21 pm

Never underestimate the power of stupidity and laziness. Changing an IP filter list takes 30 s or so? But indeed I doubt that the extra viewing stats on the web feed would make a difference to Sporza’s budget, I think the TV broadcast is their main thing.

AK March 5, 2015 at 10:57 am

And another thing, when I’m at home I can watch Sporza as it is included in my TV package. But I ‘m still not allowed to watch the Internet feed at moments when I don’t have access to a TV.

Ian March 5, 2015 at 11:04 am

Blimey this article has made me feel old and a luddite 🙂 But I will go scurrying away to reseach and try and understand this so thanks as always for educating and enlightening me.

Travis March 7, 2015 at 11:03 am

I do this and it isn’t complicated. Subscribe to Astril VPN, download the program or app, go over to steephill.tv to check out the coverage options, choose desired country, watch.

Anonymous March 5, 2015 at 11:05 am

When it comes to cycle racing TV viewing, I’m like the cheap whore in a local dive bar at 3 a.m.: I don’t care whether it’s some grainy quality pirated feed with pop-up malware, if it’s free, I’ll do it. [Another one that’s going out anonymously.]

Andrew March 5, 2015 at 1:07 pm

If anyone was chasing people who watch pirate feeds there would be a lot more people in jail. In truth, they are more concerned about the people who re-broadcast the pictures or make money from doing so. No one cares about the middle-aged guy in his armchair looking at his laptop.

Tom March 5, 2015 at 11:05 am

People (myself including) go to amazing lengths to avoid a broadcast where Liggett and Sherwen are commentating.

Larry T. March 5, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Your post reminded me I spelled their names incorrectly. I should have written Heckle & Jeckle. I still laugh when I recall a old Giro d’Italia VHS tape where they whined that RCS used jerseys of different colors than their beloved TdF just to confuse them or trying to explain to someone that cycling’s “El Diablo”s real name was not pronounced as CHEE-a-POOCHIE, no matter what Heckle or Jeckle said on TV.

Andrew March 5, 2015 at 1:04 pm

I’m one of these people. Ever since they made fools of themselves over Lance I literally cannot listen to a word either of them say. Its quite hard to avoid them though as they have fingers in lots of colonial pies. It seems I must still endure them at the Tour Down Under and the Tour of California. Thanks to Eurosport the Tour de France is now Carlton Kirby’s world of the strange with Sean Kelly disagreeing with everything he says.

Shawn March 11, 2015 at 5:48 pm

I grew up listening to a more lyrically poetic Phil Liggett, but the Lance debacle has soured me to the point of avoiding them at all costs. Carlton Kirby is my current favorite and Sean Kelly is the perfect disagreeable straight man. I miss the drunken ramblings of David Duffield who had a different retired pro commentating partner at each race. Typically, the race would be one that the retired pro would have had some great mishap or misfortune in at some point in their otherwise illustrious career and Duffield would inevitably bring this up as a talking point during a slow point in the race. As for the guy doing Cycling TV commentating, don’t get me started. Half the time he doesn’t know who is who. He could never seem to recognize Saane Cant during one world cup despite the fact that she was in second AND wearing the belgian national champion jersey…

Vedrafjord March 5, 2015 at 1:23 pm

But then you can’t play the Liggett drinking game… take a drink every time you hear:

heads of state
the sport of professional bike racing
tapping out a rhythm
dancing on the pedals
strength of two men
can’t hit your brakes for even a second

Blackout drunk by the time the stage finishes or your money back.

Jan March 5, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Who has the “suitcase of courage”?

We could make up a bingo game!

diamondjim March 6, 2015 at 2:29 am

+1 for “suitcase of courage”, however I feel “red zone” will be even an even more inebriating phrase.

Anonymous March 5, 2015 at 4:14 pm

Always ‘Sammy Sanchez’ followed by ‘former Olympic champion’

Anonymous March 5, 2015 at 6:20 pm

Mentioning the Amgen Tour of California throughout the Tour de France!

Disgruntledgoat March 6, 2015 at 8:27 am

Claiming Floyd had 11x the regular level of testotsterone in his urine because “he’s a very manly man” like he’s Chuck Norris or something.

Arguing that Floyd wouldn’t cheat becuase his parents are religious

Claiming a man from the US government cornered you in a restaurant toilet nad offered you big money to make up bad things about Lance. Like they would need to.

Disgruntledgoat March 6, 2015 at 8:25 am

Like any Basque guy has ever been called “Sammy”

Ross March 6, 2015 at 8:51 am

“He’s doing a job of work”
“…the ex-mountain biker”

Disgruntledgoat March 6, 2015 at 8:58 am

“Those pistons that he calls legs”

noel March 6, 2015 at 12:08 pm

comedy gold!… I think Cosmo has a similar theme on Sean Kelly ‘doing the calculation’ etc etc

Paul March 6, 2015 at 1:47 pm

better that than Hop Skip and Jumper Jonathon Edwards (just) the TV is at risk when he come on

DisgruntledGoat March 6, 2015 at 3:13 pm

A former employer hired him to give us a motivational speech a couple of years ago. It was like being geed up by Alan Partridge.

Chris March 5, 2015 at 11:26 am

Cyclingtorrents.nl + Apple TV = HD bike racing that I can watch on my schedule on the big screen or on my iPad on the trainer.

kevin March 5, 2015 at 11:38 am

I don’t speak a word of Dutch but love the sound of the commentary on Sporza.

They memorably broke into English when Cancellara had broken away from Boonen during the Tour of Flanders a few years ago and said, in best Apollo 13-speak, ‘Boonen, we have a problem’. Brilliant!

The Inner Ring March 5, 2015 at 11:45 am

That was “Balen, we have a problem”, a reference to Boonen’s home.

http://youtu.be/TEFqL0mbazw?t=54s

Lone Bike Rider March 5, 2015 at 12:39 pm

It has not been renamed Boonenville yet?

irungo txuletak March 5, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Yep, that was “Balen, we have a problem”, but as far as I remember it was not in the Ronde, but in the Paris-Roubais the week after Boonen got dropped in the kapelmuur. Great cycling was that.
By the way, it is true that Sporza comments are just brilliant. You can hear how flemish people just love cycling races, provided you have some notions of dutch of course…

I didn’t know this VPN stuff. I understand that it is posible to connect to Hola and watch Sporza for free from outside Belgium???

Disgruntledgoat March 6, 2015 at 8:28 am

I used to use unblock us for that purpose. Then I just moved to Belgium to make it easier.

Anonymous March 5, 2015 at 11:48 am

A few quid a month subscription to Eurosport Player – sorted.

Ablindeye March 5, 2015 at 11:52 am

As an example, as far as I’m aware, they weren’t showing OHN last weekend only K-B-K.

Larrick March 5, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Eurosport showed it in Australia with Rob Hatch doing the commentary. You’d think it would therefore be available via their player.

Tovarishch March 5, 2015 at 2:08 pm

That was the coverage Cycling TV used. Wondered who was responsible.

Ablindeye March 5, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Ah, would be interesting to know, anyone? I know it wasn’t on British Eurosport so made the leap.

ArgyllFlyer March 5, 2015 at 7:55 pm

That was Flanders Classics’ international coverage. Rob will be doing the lot but unfortunately bar RVV/ToF, only Omloop, Scheldeprijs and Dwars Door Vlaanderern are gettting shown on the UK cycling.tv subs. No broadcaster here of Brabantse Pijl and Gent-Wevelgem. Sky had the rights last year but they appear to have declined to show anything this year.

ArgyllFlyer March 5, 2015 at 9:38 pm

meant to say that Tour of Flanders is of course on Eurosport but they don’t have the UK rights to the 5 other Flanders Classics events.

Anonymous March 6, 2015 at 7:20 am

Eurosport accepts squid payments?! Finally!

Anonymous March 6, 2015 at 11:46 am

Lovely!

ZigaK March 5, 2015 at 11:49 am

I usually wait for a few hours, download the race from ct and then watch it when it’s convenient. I do have to stay away from news sources that could spoil it, but where I live that is very easy.

matt t March 5, 2015 at 12:08 pm

What’s ct?

The Inner Ring March 5, 2015 at 12:09 pm
Jonathan March 5, 2015 at 8:03 pm

I was waiting for someone to mention this. I’ve used Cyclingtorrents.nl for over 5 years now and it is fantastic. Living in the US, I can download any European race immediately after work and watch it that evening in HD. I prefer British Eurosport and with this site I have been able to avoid the horrible US commentators and Phil/Paul for years. It takes some effort to maintain a decent ratio but its worth it.

Disgruntledgoat March 6, 2015 at 8:29 am

I’d love to use CT for Turbo trainer purposes, but I’m a dunce and can never make it work. Can somebody provide an idiots guide?

StephenB March 5, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Nice tips, thanks.

Some races I’ll only watch in their native Flemish like the Omloop last weekend. Can’t understand a word they’re saying, well, the occasional word maybe, but it adds to the character of the race. You can turn it into a drinking game and down one every time he says ‘ho ho ho’! 🙂

S

Andrew March 5, 2015 at 12:59 pm

This is a very confused article. It seems to look down its nose at “pirate” feeds with the whiff of the suggestion that they are illegal. But how is using VPN any less so? The only reason to use VPN (which cost money do they not?) is, as they article says, to trick broadcasters into thinking you are in their country so you can use their service like a native. How is this any more moral than a “pirate” feed? Its pure and simple deception. For example, if one wanted to watch the BBC from outside the UK you can’t. Its a broadcaster paid for by a tax that UK residents must pay. If you tunneled in from abroad with a licence you would effectively be stealing the output without paying for it. Instead of “getting rid of the pirates” (why do we want to do that?) you simply become the pirate yourself.

You also talk about people feeling entitled but then complain that pirate feeds are sometimes dodgy and unreliable! What is that if not you thinking you are entitled to HD quality images?!

I don’t have a TV and have watched pretty much everything online for years. So a pirate feed may be dodgy. I’m grateful it exists at all. I don’t feel entitled to a HD feed, (never had an HD TV anyway) and come from a time when NONE of this was viewable from my location in the first place. People DO feel entitled and they act like babies when they can’t get what they want. I’m just happy to be able to see anything at all.

PS I’ve used pirate feeds for years and never once got any “malware”. Any decent ad blocker solves most of the issues. Yes, these days some feeds won’t let you watch unless you disable it but in that case I just refuse to play the game and try to find another.

Andrew March 5, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Of course I meant “without” a BBC licence.

The Inner Ring March 5, 2015 at 1:29 pm

It’ll depend where you live but normally watching a pirate feed isn’t illegal, but the act of streaming the broadcast is, that’s the pirate part. However using a VPN isn’t illegal so you’re a step or two further away from bad stuff. Like I say above it’s still questionable but if you are using these low-fi pirate feeds then a VPN will probably offer superior viewing.

Andrew March 5, 2015 at 1:51 pm

Using a VPN isn’t illegal. Using it to access services you wouldn’t otherwise be able to (for example, because of residency requirements and a geo-locked feed) is. And even where it isn’t its directly morally dubious on your part. No matter which way you want to slice it.

Let’s face it, at the end of the the day no one is broadcasting this stuff for free and we are quibbling about ways to pay less or nothing for it.

Mike March 5, 2015 at 6:33 pm

They might not be broadcasting for free, but if it is advertising paid then we – as the audience – are the product they are selling.

another Tom March 5, 2015 at 6:45 pm

Andrew, as several others have mentioned, there are ways to minimize the dubious factor and make the use of VPN less piratical than direct pirate feeds. I have been using VPN for several years in combination with a legit subscription to Eurosport UK– legit as in I pay a monthly fee, and only very slightly dubious in that the US television titans have decided that US residents should not be able to access Eurosport. But my personal moral-o-meter is in the green zone on that subterfuge.

James March 6, 2015 at 10:14 am

Well it’s not the “US Television titans” that have decreed that you can’t watch Eurosport. Eurosport is a European network which has payed for the right to broadcast events in Europe. It has not payed for the rights to broadcast in other territories. Eurosport is obliged to block access from territories that it doesn’t own the rights for. The rights money goes back to the race organisers. That’s a large part of their income to pay to put on the race. So if we all keep watching for nothing eventually no race. The margins for most races are razor thin – for many they actually lose money in some years and hope to make it up in others. They also get income from sponsors of course, so it’s a fine balance between getting more TV revenue and getting more bums on seats to please the sponsors.
You’ll also find that the reason some races aren’t shown in some territories is that no local broadcaster thinks that it will attract a big enough audience (they’re usually right – they know their business).
No broadcaster “buys” rights and then doesn’t use them. What tends to happen is that races run by the same organiser (e.g. ASO) will get bundled. So if you buy the rights to TdF then in the package there may be rights to show the highlights of Paris- Roubaix usually a week after the event. (The live rights to Paris-Roubaix are a different matter). It’s all a matter of the rights holder (usually the Race Organiser) trying to maximise their revenue.

The Inner Ring March 6, 2015 at 10:32 am

Thanks James for the informed comments which help explain plenty.

Paul Jakma March 6, 2015 at 12:09 pm

What laws exactly do you have in mind that makes it illegal to use a VPN to access a service that uses geoIP filtering?

The problem is that IP addresses simply were never intended to have any correlation with geographic location. And they do not have. Further, nor were TCP or HTTP connections. GeoIP databases are fundamentally flawed at a technical level. They simply can never ever be anything other than a rough approximation. A rough approximation which will often be wrong, both in incorrectly allowing and incorrectly denying access.

How do you build certain laws on top of such inherently approximate/flawed assumptions?

Vedrafjord March 5, 2015 at 2:04 pm

This only applies to public broadcasters subsidised with a license fee. For commercial broadcasters such as ITV the coverage is paid for by ads, which you’re watching if you use a VPN, which seems fair to me. Also, countries like Spain, Holland, Russia don’t have a license fee for their public broadcasters, so you’re not cheating them out of a license fee by watching.

I agree 100% on use of Ad-block Plus etc.

James March 6, 2015 at 10:18 am

It might seem fair to you, but ITV will have paid for UK rights only. Another broadcaster may have payed for rights in the country that you’re trying to watch from. Or the race organiser may have failed to do a deal in your territory because the TV company wouldn’t pay enough or anything.
Yes if you’re getting the ads that support the broadcast you might feel a bit better about yourself but usually ads are targeted at the home audience. If you’re in the US then an ad for Lidl isn’t going to induce you to shop there. So the advertiser doesn’t get any benefit at all.

AK March 6, 2015 at 11:09 am

The licence fee may have been abolished in The Netherlands long ago but Dutch public television is still partly paid from public funds, just from the general tax funds instead of a dedicated license fee. Dutch public television is a bit weird in the sense that they are also partly funded by ads. They don’t have commercial breaks within programs but commercials are shown between the end of one program and the beginning of the next. If you watch the NOS live coverage of races online you will find you first get an advertisement before the stream starts. If you’re tuning in from the US it is highly likely that you won’t be of use to that advertiser, but nevertheless I’m pretty sure the broadcaster will only welcome extra views.

Tovarishch March 5, 2015 at 2:10 pm

I live in Russia but pay the UK licence fee (well the wife does!). I feel quite justified in using a VPN to watch it.

DNAtsol March 5, 2015 at 3:47 pm

I approach the issue in the following way:
channels that broadcast the feed for profit make money by selling ads, a TV channel like BBC may not sell ads but does have to determine if carrying the feed brings in enough viewership to warrant continued coverage.

By using VPN and using the eurosport player/BBC iPlayer you become measureable (x number of people clicked on and watched y amount of the race). This helps support continued broadcasting of races. So you may not pay your TV license but you can contribute.

Tobi March 9, 2015 at 8:44 am

Are you arguing that using pirate feed is somehow less illegal and morally superior to using VPN just because you are getting bad quality out of it? I beg to differ.

Personally I am a paying Eurosport customer which is the only channel I can get in Sweden showing cycling. Sometimes in addition I also purchase Eurosport Player during the intensive parts of the season to easier watch on the go. But if there are races I have no way of watching through Eurosport I wouldn’t feel guilty turning on the VPN and watch where it’s available. I would also not mind using a Swedish VPN to watch Eurosport if I am abroad where my subscription isn’t valid.

ted_ba March 5, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Still just as illegal – however you dress it up.

It does highlight a sad fact, that although there is an obvious audience for the races it isn’t enough to justify anyone in your country bidding for the rights.

Ultimately this boils down to “Shut up and take my money” to the organisers… wonder how many people reading this would pay a nominal monthly subscription to a cycling only sports channel? Make it available to all online and subsidised by the sponsors at each race in exchange for global exposure.

Andrew March 5, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Its a strange conundrum really. In the UK the major commercial broadcaster (ITV) made a major song and dance about the 3 Yorkshire stages of last year’s TdF (including whole day coverage) and yet potential viewing figures for most races of the season seem to be regarded as statistically insignificant so that no UK broadcaster even seems to bid for the rest. The world champs are on the BBC, Sky bag a few in-season races (sometimes as highlights) and the rest is Eurosport (who aren’t British but have a UK version of their product). In order to watch Eurosport though you need to have some satellite or cable package (or pay online for their player).

Considering all this it often baffles me that the UCI block most of their events from being viewed on You Tube from the UK. This seems to suggest someone bought the rights but chose not to show it.

ArgyllFlyer March 5, 2015 at 8:04 pm

To be fair, ITV4 shows a decent amount of cycling, live or otherwise. They show every Tour stage livem even if the TdY ended up on mainstream. Even the Beeb showed the Giro live for 3 stages in NI last year (they took the international broadcast, just as ITV do for the Tour). They stuck Jill Douglas & AN Other on the front and back and called it their own.

The BBC hold the rights to all World Championships stuff and the UCI will have to block anything that might be shown in the UK.

James March 6, 2015 at 10:27 am

Ok several points here. ITV’s audience to the Yorkshire stages was up over 2 million per day. In the past when they’ve shown same day highlights of Paris-Roubaix they were lucky to get an audience of 200,000. Thus they don’t think it’s worth making the considerable investment in live rights and production costs to shown Paris-Roubaix. They consider that they’ve tested that market and it didn’t work for them. They can get a bigger audience showing an old James Bond movie – so that’s what they do. The answer is when cycling is on it’s vital that people actually watch it.

The UCI will geo block its YouTube events when there is a UK broadcaster who has the rights. So they can’t show World Track champs because the BBC has the rights and is using its own website and red button service to show it. At last year’s Road World Champs the BBC didn’t want to show the Women’s TTT. Thus the UCI could stream it.

Simon March 6, 2015 at 3:54 pm

To add to James’s comment re. World Track Champs: I pay my licence fee and it’s a pleasure to watch the BBC coverage; the commentary is IMHO far preferable to Eurosport.

I like to watch a few minutes of live coverage of the big races during my lunch break. VPN and pirate feeds are the only way to see those, though recently I’ve taken to waiting and watch all-too-brief highlights and ‘last 5 km’ recordings on Sporza, Vier, Youtube etc that give me some idea of what happened at the sharp end.

ArgyllFlyer March 7, 2015 at 2:14 pm

Though other events the BBC didn’t show were still blocked

Dave March 5, 2015 at 1:07 pm

I subscribed to Eurosport just to get away from Statler and Waldorf’s toe curling stream of clichéd drivel, with getting riders and races wrong by an entire generation being a speciality.

Will try Hola for the stuff they don’t cover, thanks.

And another +1 for a tip jar for donations (suggested it ages ago).

Steve March 5, 2015 at 1:21 pm

When watching a foreign feed I’ll usually flip over to the CyclingNews live text updates if I need clarification on the state of play. It can also help get up to speed on any rqace where the on-screen info is a bit sparse and you want to know the names/time gaps etc of the break.

Ablindeye March 5, 2015 at 1:35 pm

That’s certainly one source. I particularly love Twitter to keep up to date. Thanks to a range of people but to pick one out @PelotonWatch provides mind boggling comprehensive coverage with numerous overlapping race updates on any given day, so a public thanks to him/her/them in particular.

anywhome March 5, 2015 at 11:33 pm

can always come join the live race thread party at podiumcafe.com

kelly niquette March 6, 2015 at 11:14 pm

Hola + podiumcafe = /

kelly niquette March 6, 2015 at 11:16 pm

“\o/”

Anonymous March 5, 2015 at 8:57 pm

If it’s broadcast live – there is the occasional exception – then for live updates in English, you’ll struggle to find better than CyclingQuotes. They know their racing and they can ID riders and read dossards. Which is more than you can usually say for CN.

Jack March 5, 2015 at 2:18 pm

For those poor souls who’ve grown accustomed to the pirate feeds, installing extensions like Adblock and Adblock Plus in Chrome or Firefox can totally remove the popups and block most if not all of the Malware. Quality of feed does not improve!

Anonymous March 5, 2015 at 2:31 pm

yes! and on safari too

Dave March 5, 2015 at 2:20 pm

Having kids I rarely watch any cycling live, either record via sky plus or download from CT afterwards does me fine. There’s usually a really good HD torrent of any race available early evening, couple of hours to download and you’re away

Anonymous March 5, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Marrkeh Kavindeesch!

LCD Abdoujaparov March 5, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I’ll try VPN, cheers for the tip. I’ve missed the end of a fair few races through feeds freezing right at the end. I can imagine whoever is employed to stop the pirate feeds sitting in a dark room saying ‘wait for the sprint.’
Seriously though I feel absolutely no guilt in watching cycling on unofficial feeds. I’m being advertised to constantly throughout the whole race, be it ad breaks or team sponsorship. Maybe even the bosses of Eurosport secretly welcome the illegal feeds for the extra advertising spread it brings.

DNAtsol March 5, 2015 at 3:53 pm

One further caveat to consider if you use VPN: make sure your internet connection is fast enough to handle not only the video stream but also the overhead associated with the VPN encrpytion. This can limit the resolution of the feed or cause play/pause/jump/play. Streaming uses a protocol that simply drops information if it doesn’t arrive on time.

channel_zero March 5, 2015 at 6:49 pm

If the connection itself has too much latency no matter how much bandwidth a website that tests bandwidth reports, the feed quality will decline.

Most U.S. consumer Internet services prioritize traffic, or have too many users on a cable loop, or just plain throttle your connection if you are a heavy bandwidth consumer. Lots of opportunities for latency beyond just your Internet provider too.

Tovarishch March 6, 2015 at 6:09 am

Thanks for the explanation – I wondered why the feed quality was not as good as it should be, in theory. The worst ‘feature’is that bits of Sky broadcasts repeat themselves (for the Rugby fans, fancy hearing Stuart Barnes say the same thing 3 times!)

Paul Jakma March 6, 2015 at 12:44 pm

If *only* streaming used protocols that didn’t do retransmits. However, due to far too many networks being run by idiots, sadly the Internet is crippled these days, and live streams end up being sent over TCP, which will try endlessly to get your browser that packet that got lost a few minutes ago, and it won’t give your browser any of the more fresh stream data that has arrived safely until it succeeds in delivering that lost packet.

This is partly why live streams suck so much on the Internet, particularly if there’s any congestion (i.e. overloaded server connection or overloaded at your side).

Paul Jakma March 6, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Oh, major video platforms like Youtube have implemented some amazing tricks to make live streaming over TCP suck less badly (e.g. using client-side code, typically javascript, to help measure throughput and adaptively switch between different rate bit-streams over the same HTTP connection). However, this is still putting lipstick on a pig (the broken state of the Internet, thanks to idiotic network managers).

Eb in AZ March 5, 2015 at 3:56 pm

I use HMA Pro which costs a few bucks but works well and has a plethora of server locations worldwide. Plenty of bandwidth, quality websites like Sporza and Eurosport Player can approach HD quality which is suitable for cabling to a TV, as Inrng suggested. It’s also useful when traveling outside of your home country as it allows access to websites that are georestricted to that country, Netflix being a good example.

Jason March 5, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Last year Lifehacker wrote a roundup of 5 good VPN services: http://lifehacker.com/5935863/five-best-vpn-service-providers

For the more technically-minded, TorrentFreak has an annual review each January (so much more recent): http://torrentfreak.com/which-vpn-services-take-your-anonymity-seriously-2014-edition-140315/

I use the VPN to access services I’ve paid for, but happen to be blocked in the country I’m in at the moment (I travel a lot). It’s also a great way to help keep your private information private when browsing in coffee shops and airports.

Daniel March 5, 2015 at 5:31 pm

It’s imposible to watch a race that is not call Giro, Tour or Vuelta on Colombia, so I have been using the Hola! plug in for a while and it works great. Comentators on other language are fun, and with time you start to understand them, now I love watching races on Sporza and every time something exiting happens, you hear the “oi oi oi” so it really fun. Also it’s better to don’t understand the comentaries becuase the colombian journalist don’t have a clue what they are talking about and make many, many mistakes so you get really frustrated.

Chris March 5, 2015 at 6:06 pm

I like the “everyone else is doing it” line of justification… i’ve heard that before somewhere 😉

channel_zero March 5, 2015 at 6:38 pm

There’s actually two different kinds of viewers using VPN service.

1. Viewer determined not to pay to watch live. (a small, determined, group)
2. Viewer who would pay for simple access. (a much larger group)
Does Bein brodcast this race? Or is it Eurosport? Or is it BBC? Does my television service have Bein? Live? Highlights show? Will the channel actually stick to the posted schedule? Uncertainty everywhere, so use a VPN and all my questions are moot.

Most broadcast rights owners tend to treat all viewers as if they are type #1 when type #2 are actually the norm. The forward thinking people in the entertainment industry are already working like this. (ex. comics, musicians) while the old fashioned distributors like cycling’s rights owners are desperate to keep the world stuck in 1980-something forcing viewers to jump through hoops. Today that just doesn’t work. Viewers won’t pay and won’t go to the trouble.

Small thinking, small sports.

James March 6, 2015 at 5:19 pm

In my experience the broadcasters assume no such thing. The rights holders are trying to maintain vitally needed revenue. The problem is that the way that rights have traditionally been sold is by territory. The along came pan territory broadcasters like Eurosport who put pressure on that revenue model. ITV or BBC will pay less for rights if they are non exclusive (e.g. if Eurosport are also showing the event in their territory).

Then alongs comes the internet. Everyone knows that eventually this will be the way all programming is distributed but at the moment no one has figured out how to make it pay. Desperate not to miss out on the new wave the broadcasters have all introduced streaming and catch up services but for the moment these are mostly free because viewers have shown a marked reluctance to pay. They’re quite prepared to go and find a grainy pixelated pirated feed with commentary in Mongolian if it’s free. Of course the more that the broadcasters offer for free whilst they try to figure out a new revenue model, the more viewers are educated to expect things for free and the more difficult it will be to get them to pay at a later date. Oh and we’d all rather not have our coverage interrupted by ads wouldn’t we? Except that the traditional broadcasting regulations actually mandate a separation between editorial content and advertising in order to protect the viewer. Of course regulation hasn’t quite kept pace with the internet either.
Cycling – especially live – is fearfully expensive to cover. At the moment that cost is being carried either by traditional broadcasting revenue models or by direct funding from race sponsors.
This is why the coverage of races is spread so widely, why some races are covered and others not. It’s not an easy problem to solve.

Ian March 7, 2015 at 3:43 am

Thanks for this in-depth explanation James. Very useful. In Australia, we get pretty good coverage via SBS, which is mainly funded (about 80%) by taxpayer dollars. How long that will last though is unclear.

channel_zero March 5, 2015 at 6:26 pm

Since I’m in the U.S. and the live broadcast times don’t work so well for me, youtube has most races, in full, within a couple of days.

Really, the fundamental issue is that the old geographic/technological limitations are gone. So many of the entrenched interests in cycling, like most IOC sports, are desperate to limit access under the broken idea they can monetize each geolocation and defend their intellectual property rights. Except the only thing that happens is determined viewers resort to VPN service and the rest don’t tune in. Small thinking, small sports.

Since IOC sanctioned sports operate as worldwide monopolies, and the IOC itself is very committed to very old ways of monetizing, there’s no change coming.

Paul March 5, 2015 at 7:40 pm

Cycling.tv has a reasonably priced subscription and provides live, as live, highlights and recap editions of their races. Omloop and K-B-K are there. Works well for me in the U.S.

Howard Beale March 5, 2015 at 8:02 pm

For $80 a year you can watch every race with English commentary and no commercials on cycling.tv

Absolutely no reason to go the VPN or pirate route. Quit being a cheapskate.

Shawn March 5, 2015 at 9:03 pm

Many races are not live on cycling.tv and some are only presented as mere highlights & recap.

Larry T. March 5, 2015 at 10:23 pm

I’ll admit this was awhile ago but I found cycling.tv to be generally awful even when it was live. While I was still subscribed I preferred to use the pirate feeds….they’d have a hell of a time getting me to pay ’em again vs using a VPN once I’m back in the US of A, especially after the pain-in-the-ass of getting the billing stopped when I wanted to cancel.

matt March 5, 2015 at 8:35 pm

I use the pirate feed to see the non Eurosport covered Belgian and French races when I can. I enjoy the Dutch commentary as very often the odd ‘English’ish’ phrase or words crop up and it makes you work out what’s being said, with varying accuracy. I know ‘Lek’ means puncture at least. The local dialect adds a bit more authenticity.

Anonymous March 5, 2015 at 10:08 pm

It took me much longer than it should to realise that what I was hearing as ‘lekker band’ was actually ‘lekke band’.

Paul Jakma March 6, 2015 at 12:51 pm

“Platte band” might also sometimes get used – “flat tyre”. Lek = leak, plat = flat.

RayG March 5, 2015 at 9:02 pm

Australians are lucky that we get a lot of the big races on free to air. I’d get Foxtel Play to get the rest, except that I’d first have to pay for a primary package I don’t want and there’s no record function (sometimes even the replay is at a stupid time of night). I reckon a VPN and a Eurosport player subscription might be an idea. I realise I wouldn’t be giving money to Foxtel, who have paid for the Australian rights, but I’d still be paying Eurosport, who would deserve most of my money anyway. I’m morally OK with that.

Cycling.tv has lots of geoblocks and the video quality was rubbish the last time I had a subscription.

And while listening to Sporza commentators is very amusing, does anyone do English language broadcasts of the Superprestige and BPost Bank Trofee CX races?

Shawn March 5, 2015 at 9:07 pm

On a related issue, how reliable is the Eurosport player these days (especially for a computer and not a mobile devise)? I remember hearing complaints in the past. With a VPN this would be an attractive option for me, if it works well.

Ablindeye March 5, 2015 at 9:30 pm

I’d be interested to hear people’s experiences. Other than that a good trial is available via their £6 one month sign up so there’s no long term commitment/expense if things don’t turn out to be reliable.

The Inner Ring March 5, 2015 at 9:55 pm

I use it and it’s very good, both desktop and mobile – your subscription covers 3 permitted devices I think. No problems to report, the only thing to note is that it comes with a slight delay so if you watch with Twitter open too then Twitter can be 10 seconds ahead of the race.

Shawn March 5, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Thanks for the feedback! I can deal with a 10 sec delay more so than the pirate feed going wonky at 10K.

Ablindeye March 6, 2015 at 4:55 am

Thanks for the info. I’ve just noticed they have an app for my minority Windows phone too (which seems to have recently overcome some glitches judging by the reviews on the app store) so will definitely give it a spin. Being able to watch from a coffee shop at short notice when I just have my phone with me is a real boon, if it works okay.

noel March 6, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Eurosport player works well at work, on an iPad and mobile in my experience…

noel March 6, 2015 at 12:37 pm

altho… what is it with all the cross-county skiing and archery… jeez…

Nick March 11, 2015 at 6:41 pm

Works fine on my laptop, and provides a decent picture when you connect that to the TV. Suffers from the general Eurosport problem of not showing the thing their scheduler claims they are, but otherwise ok.

StephenB March 5, 2015 at 11:26 pm

They made significant changes to the eurosportplayer last year and introduced the latest version around this time if memory serves.

It’s a lot better and pretty stable. The app works ok on android. Not tested on iOS.

Only issue I come across now is the schedule bar at the bottom occasionally going awol.

mike77 March 6, 2015 at 12:31 am

Currently i use a fast and affordable VPN service named ActiVPN (https://activpn.com/en/ ) for watching sports

EricS March 6, 2015 at 6:03 am

Not strictly all the Spring Classics, but if in future years you wonder who has the terrestrial rights to ASO races it’s here. For UK viewers it continues to be ITV for terrestrial (who at present have these rights but don’t use them all). http://www3.ebu.ch/contents/news/2013/09/ebu–aso-extend-cycling-partners.html
(Now you know who to complain to)

Ian March 6, 2015 at 6:15 am

I’ve used a VPN service (IDcloaker) for a few years. It’s useful for cycling feeds sometimes and I like the idea of being able to hide my IP address to protect my privacy (as Snowden has shown, we are all being spied upon to some extent, even if it is only metadata). However, the creation of a VPN tunnel does make for a slower connection than a direct connection. In some cases, it is possible to start the session with the VPN and then, once the IP address ‘handshake’ has taken place, to cut the VPN and go back to a normal session. This works well with some online TV ‘on demand’ services such as theBBC’s iPlayer (as I recall it didn’t use to work well with Channel 4; that may have changed). Of course, you then lose your IP anonymity, but that isn’t a big issue if all you are doing is watching a bike race. However, I have recently learned of another approach: smart DNSs. In this approach, the geo-specific info is faked via a server in the target country/region, but there is no tunnel set up so the bandwidth cost is not an issue. I haven’t tried this, so cannot say either way. The subscription seems to be cheaper than for a VPN service, though many providers seem to offer both in a package. If anyone has any experience, I would like to know what they think. Some info here: http://www.bestsmartdns.net/

Disgruntledgoat March 6, 2015 at 8:34 am

But what if I want to steal state secrets whilst watching Brabantse Pijl? What then?!

Ian March 6, 2015 at 9:16 am

Ha! Just press the Arrow key…

Jason March 6, 2015 at 11:59 am

ipad+eurosportplayer app+apple tv is the best solution!! HD images on your tv

noel March 6, 2015 at 12:34 pm

isn’t this the kind of issue that Velon are going to tidy up and make oodles of money for all?

DaveC March 6, 2015 at 5:52 pm

I have used Hide My Ass VPN for some time now. Works great and has an iPhone / iPad app.

L'autre Dave March 7, 2015 at 7:56 pm

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”

Anonymous March 8, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Back to pirate feeds for me.

Hola worked a treat the first day but hasn’t worked on anything since.

dhue March 10, 2015 at 4:48 am

me being in a barren tv wasteland for cycling…i start with youtube subscription channels that are kind enough to capture and post most races to a degree(language not important), as well as a vpn but, it is so terribly slow. cyclingtorrents.nl is the next stop. download and share, pop in the chromecast and watch the tv come to life.

DaveR. March 11, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Just has become too much of a hassle. Love to see the races but I’m tired of trying to figure out how to watch in the U.S. Maybe the professional cycling world will someday figure out how to show their product to the world, but I doubt it. I’ve been trying to follow it in the US since around 1985 and it has never been good except for coveage of the Tour. There was a 7 year period there when US television took notice but that bubble burst as we all know and coverage has since been waning.

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