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What’s the best way to watch live cycling following the closure of GCN+?

As the cycling streaming app prepares to shut its doors, might bike racing struggle for attention in the coming years? Here are your options for streaming in numerous territories, plus some crystal ball gazing about how cycling fans might be affected

The news, announced last month, that the Global Cycling Network (GCN) will close its GCN+ app and live streaming service by Christmas was greeted with dismay by many cycling fans, as well as people working within the sport and the wider cycling community, who had come to rely on its unprecedented depth of racing coverage.

Some are worried, perhaps with good reason, that GCN’s demise may herald a return to the dark old days – of, say, the mid-2000s – when it was difficult to find live racing on television or online, beyond the sport’s marquee events such as the Tour de France and some, not all, of the Classics. (And back then, even cycling’s biggest races could be subject to the whims of a television schedule focused on a wide variety of sports, which often prompted an anxious wait for a tennis doubles match to conclude in order to catch the last 10km of a crucial Giro mountain stage.)

With only three cyclocross races left on GCN+’s dwindling schedule, in this article we'll try to quell some of your bike race-watching concerns by telling you where you can find cycling on your TV, computer screen, or phone in 2024, and explain what the implications might be of GCN+’s demise.

Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard, stage 15, 2023 Tour de France (Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

 (Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

Last month, GCN said that the forthcoming closure of its app and live-streaming service reflected a “changing media industry landscape”, which they said was a result of parent company Warner Brothers Discovery’s desire to “consolidate” more of its content in “fewer places”.

In essence, GCN has fallen victim to the changing relationship between the cycling app, Discovery, Eurosport, and the sport channel formerly known as BT Sport, in recent times.

Founded in 2013, GCN’s coverage of races began in earnest after Discovery Network, owner of Eurosport, bought a 20 percent share in its owner, Play Sports Group, in 2017. That was subsequently increased to 71 percent in 2019, giving Discovery control of the business, and the GCN+ app itself was launched in 2021. The fact that Discovery owns Eurosport explains why both the commentators and the pundits you hear on both that channel and on GCN are the same.

> Global Cycling Network set to close GCN+ and GCN app in December due to “changing media industry landscape”

Away from cycling, last year Discovery announced that it was launching a 50:50 joint venture with BT Group under which Eurosport UK’s operations will eventually be merged with those of BT Sport, under a rebranded identity, which would stream content through the Discovery+ app.

Subsequently, BT Sport was renamed TNT Sports, and the Eurosport brand within the UK is set to be folded into that at some point between next year’s Paris Olympic Games, and the Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics in early 2026 – by which time the ramifications of last month’s news will be apparent.

How can I watch live cycling in the UK and Europe?

Mark Cavendish wins stage 21 of the 2023 Giro d’Italia (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

(Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

The announcement that GCN+ is due to close from 19 December was accompanied by assurances that in areas where the Discovery+ app is available, including the UK and Ireland, subscribers will “continue to enjoy all cycling races they currently watch on GCN+”.

According to Discovery+, viewers in territories where the streaming service is available – which includes the UK, Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Norway – can subscribe to the streaming service for £6.99 a month.

This package includes all of Eurosport’s cycling coverage, with Discovery in particular noting the presence of the Grand Tours (though we can assume the range of races stretches far beyond the three-weekers, with Discovery retaining access to Eurosport’s full rights portfolio), as well as the channel’s other sports, including next year’s Olympic Games. A more substantial £29.99 a month package also features the sports covered by the group’s TNT Sports channel, including Premier League and Champions League football, rugby, boxing, and wrestling (if that’s your thing).

> The rise & fall of GCN+ – is the livestream party over for cycling fans?

In European countries where Discovery+ is not available, cycling fans can subscribe to the Eurosport App (the successor of the Eurosport Player), which features the same plethora of races currently available on GCN+, while viewers in Poland can watch via the Eurosport Extra App.

Van der Poel ripping off his shoe's BOA dial, UCI World Championship Glasgow 2023 (Pauline Ballet/SWpix.com)

(Pauline Ballet/SWpix.com)

Within the UK, we can also currently watch the occasional free-to-air events, such as the Tour de France and Tour of Britain on ITV4 or the BBC’s annual coverage of the world championships, which are typically also free to stream on a catch-up service such as ITVX, while Eurosport’s coverage is available through a pay-TV subscription such as Sky.

Many events – the Tour, for example, via ITV and Eurosport – will be available both for free and on paid platforms, and those with access to both will often decide which to watch depending on who is commentating, or whether the paid version is ad-free.

How can I watch live cycling elsewhere?

Beyond the UK and Europe, the situation seems a bit more complicated. For subscribers in Australia or North America, GCN+’s demise likely means that they will see a big reduction in coverage of the sport.

At the moment, Eurosport says that in markets outside Europe, Warner Bros. Discovery is “working with local partners to ensure cycling fans can continue to access live race coverage”. Customers will be kept fully informed, they say, about the future availability of the live content currently on GCN+.

Lucinda Brand, Dublin cyclocross World Cup 2023 (Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

(Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

While Warner Bros. Discovery, incidentally, is an American company – with Discovery+ available in the US and Canada – the confusion arises from the fact that Discovery’s content is dependent on your geographic region, with the sports package available to the platform’s subscribers in the UK not necessarily available elsewhere.

However, some of the confusion has since been cleared up for fans in the United States at least, when it was announced in mid-December that Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming channel Max (the successor to HBO Max, home of the Sopranos), along with the US brand of TNT Sports, will have the rights to over 300 road, cyclocross, tracks, BMX, and mountain bike races from February, which will be available to US-based viewers through an add-on service.

In a similar manner to Discovery+ in the UK integrating all its sport content under the one streaming roof, Max – which like GCN is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery – will effectively provide a like-for-like replacement for GCN’s coverage, with subscribers retaining access to roughly the same number of races, as well as the ‘Breakaway’ pre- and post-race analysis show.

The 300 events on offer on the platform include the Giro d’Italia, cobbled spring classics such as the E3 Saxo Bank Classic and Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne, 53 Women’s WorldTour events, the UCI Track Champions League, the UCI Mountain Bike World Series, and more, offering what Max claims is “more live cycling event coverage throughout the year than any other streaming service” for US fans.

Primož Roglič and pink jersey Geraint Thomas go head to head on Tre Cime di Lavaredo at the 2023 Giro d’Italia (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

(Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

Along with Peacock’s mainstream cycling broadcasts, which crucially include the Tour de France, US viewers shouldn’t experience too much of a difference when it comes to their racing coverage next season. If they ignore their new bill, that is.

Max’s B/R Sports Add-On, which also includes live coverage of baseball, basketball, ice hockey, and motor racing, is available for $9.95 a month, in addition to the basic Max subscription, which begins at $9.95 a month with ads (an ad-free version will sting you to the tune of at least $15.99 a month).

So that means, in order to watch the same number of races in the US, you’ll now have to pay four times as much for the privilege.

Katie Archibald World Championships 2023 (Will Palmer/SWpix.com)

(Will Palmer/SWpix.com)

Meanwhile, the situation in Canada remains as unclear as ever.

In 2019, Warner Bros. Discovery provided funding to Flo Sports, the parent company of Flo Bikes – which has the US and Canadian rights to a number of races throughout the season, and is available for the princely annual sum of $150 in the USA and $209.99 in Canada – though that doesn’t necessarily mean that Canadian streaming coverage will pass over to Flo Bikes.

With confusion still reigning over the future of cycling coverage outside Europe, the use of a VPN – a virtual private network – may become increasingly popular as fans seek to circumvent the geo-restrictions blocking their access to some of the sport’s biggest traces. Others, meanwhile, may return to the pre-GCN days of searching the depths of the internet for links with unstable feeds and exotic commentary.

Either way, the worry persists among cycling fans that the demise of GCN+ may ultimately lead to fewer races being broadcast.

TV cycling coverage – a priority within a broader sports portfolio?

Mads Pedersen beats Jasper Philipsen, stage eight, 2023 Tour de France (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)
(Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

Given the impending changes, it’s legitimate to wonder where cycling sits on the list of priorities in a multi-sports network, rather than on a dedicated platform. As noted above, in the past, many of us cycling fans will have been frustrated switching on Eurosport to watch a Grand Tour stage or big one day race, only to spend the next half-hour willing the snooker (a bigger draw in terms of UK TV audience) to end.

Certainly, a big part of GCN+’s appeal was not just its ease of navigation, but also the fact that all content is related in some way to cycling – a different user experience for someone who is passionate about the sport compared to when they are on a more general app, where cycling competes a plethora of other events for attention.

Particularly once Eurosport UK’s operations are fully merged with those of the former BT Sport at some point in the very near future, which also brings football and rugby union into the fold, it’s not difficult to imagine coverage of individual sports being rationalised – management speak for events being cut, or broadcasts shortened – depending on return on investment. After all, we are talking about a business that ultimately needs to make money for its shareholders, with Warner Brothers Discovery being a publicly traded company.

Tadej Pogacar 2023 Tour of Flanders (SWpix/Zac Williams)

(SWpix.com/Zac Williams)

Also, cycling’s fragmented business model, in which TV rights are ultimately owned by private companies led by Tour de France owners ASO and Giro d’Italia organisers RCS Sport, plus Belgium-based Flanders Classics, with global governing body the UCI also holding rights to its own events, further complicates the issue. In numerous other sports, only one or two rights holders may be involved.

GCN+ meant that pretty much all the bike racing you might want to watch could be streamed through the platform, including races that might not be shown live on self-billed ‘Home of Cycling’ Eurosport’s TV channels, with at times several events running concurrently.

And of course, this all comes at a time when the wider global bike industry is in turmoil following the boom it enjoyed during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 – something likely to translate into lower sponsorship revenues for race organisers, as well as reduced advertising budgets for the media.

This content has been added by a member of the road.cc staff

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21 comments

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mikewood | 2 months ago
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Vodafone have a deal if you are a pay monthly contract holder. Discovery+ free for 6 months then £3.99 after that

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check12 | 2 months ago
0 likes

if you have virgin tv you can get Eurosport 1 and 2 and record they cycling on series link, and fast forward 80% of sprint stages etc it's not on the basic tv package but ring them up and see what they can do for you.

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jollygoodvelo replied to check12 | 2 months ago
0 likes

I used to do this. The Virgin box programme guide doesn't always update immediately when the channel changes its schedule; the number of times Eurosport simply not show the cycling, or show a highlights programme an hour later so my box missed it, was infuriating. 

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check12 replied to jollygoodvelo | 2 months ago
0 likes

When you do a series link you can say all episodes on Eurosport 1 or 2, start 10 minutes early and end 1 hour later and it seems to catch everything for me

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mark1a | 2 months ago
1 like

I'm hoping the back catalogue of GCN+ Originals finds its way onto the discovery+ platform. I never got anywhere near watching the ones I had queued up before they made this decision.

Also worth noting that Eurosport and discovery+ are included at no extra cost with most Sky subscriptions, so if that's something one has already, it's no extra, just a shame about the ads (Eurosport was never ad free, I suspect d+ won't be either).

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Boopop replied to mark1a | 2 months ago
0 likes

It's currently finding its way on to my home server, to keep. No regrets, WB steal from their own customers, after all.

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HKR replied to Boopop | 2 months ago
0 likes

How do you do that? Thanks

 

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Boopop replied to HKR | 2 months ago
0 likes

I don't want to get roadcc in to trouble! I'm happy to get in touch privately if you can think of a means.

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robgru76 | 2 months ago
3 likes

So, in the UK, what was £39.99 a year ad-free on GCN+ becomes £84 a year with adverts on Discovery+. Great. I wonder what drove them to make this change... 😏

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Rik Mayals unde... replied to robgru76 | 2 months ago
1 like

I have Discovery +, it costs £60 a year, and the programs are ad free. There are a few on Eurosport where you have the choice of either watching a race with ads or ad free, they are both on there. 

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robgru76 replied to Rik Mayals underpants | 2 months ago
1 like

Thanks. Good to know there are no ads at least ...

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Rendel Harris replied to robgru76 | 2 months ago
1 like
robgru76 wrote:

Thanks. Good to know there are no ads at least ...

I have the same subscription - currently without advertisements - and it's not entirely clear what's going to happen but the general consensus on here when the GCN closure was announced was that next season would see ads introduced in live racing. Hoping that's wrong but seems likely.

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Matthew Acton-Varian replied to Rendel Harris | 2 months ago
0 likes

The ads specifically are for the general TV series. Sometimes live sport coverage on any streaming platform are often subject to different Ts and Cs (depending on distribution rights contracts) when it comes to ad revenue generation.

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Matthew Acton-Varian replied to Rik Mayals underpants | 2 months ago
0 likes

Good to know.

As someone who refuses to pay for sattelite/cable TV services, and generally prefers streaming service content (I hop between services every few months deactivating and reactivating accounts to save money). This also led me to cancel my TV licence as I didn't need it so the full replays on GCN+ were useful as I can't watch them live. If they have extended highlight shows it's probably worth it for me.

I used to watch Discovery network shows as a kid (my parents had Virgin at the time) and they made a lot of decent programmes. It would be great to watch some of the more recent Wheeler Dealers shows I haven't been able to watch along with some of their other docuseries, so D+ makes sense.
 

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kil0ran | 2 months ago
4 likes

Screw them. Back to dodgy VPNs and stealing streams.
Since the '90s my sports viewing has been slowly hollowed out by these wankers and I refuse to give them money for content I don't need. I used to watch the following, mostly FTA or for a low annual fee:

Test cricket
Golf majors
Snooker majors
Darts world champs
MotoGP
F1
Football
Wimbledon
Olympics
Superbowl
Baseball playoffs/ World Series

Now most or all of that is stuck behind a paywall and as a result the extra effort/expense of watching means I don't bother. For years I hardly ever missed an F1 or MotoGP weekend - same now goes for Classics and Grand Tours.

My real concern in all of this though is coverage of women's cycling, you just know it's going to get squeezed out of the schedule.

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hawkinspeter replied to kil0ran | 2 months ago
3 likes
kil0ran wrote:

Screw them. Back to dodgy VPNs and stealing streams. Since the '90s my sports viewing has been slowly hollowed out by these wankers and I refuse to give them money for content I don't need. I used to watch the following, mostly FTA or for a low annual fee: Test cricket Golf majors Snooker majors Darts world champs MotoGP F1 Football Wimbledon Olympics Superbowl Baseball playoffs/ World Series Now most or all of that is stuck behind a paywall and as a result the extra effort/expense of watching means I don't bother. For years I hardly ever missed an F1 or MotoGP weekend - same now goes for Classics and Grand Tours. My real concern in all of this though is coverage of women's cycling, you just know it's going to get squeezed out of the schedule.

It's not stealing if they've still got their original - it's (possibly unauthorised) copying.

Also, remember that if buying isn't owning, piracy isn't stealing.

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Rendel Harris replied to kil0ran | 2 months ago
1 like

I agree with you in general about the way sport has been stolen from us and is being sold back by separate providers all demanding their extra subs, but in the case of cycling it never was available on terrestrial apart from ITV's Tour coverage and other bits and pieces, I'm happy to pay £1.20 a week for Discovery+ cycling, the amount of cycling I watch over the year it probably works out about 20p an hour or less (I'm scared to make a detailed calculation!) - much better value than I get from my TV licence (I very rarely watch TV apart from sport). Can't vouch for how they will behave in future but at present they have masses of women's cycling available too.

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ktache replied to kil0ran | 2 months ago
0 likes

The suburb owl has been on ITV for a few years now, BBC before that, and CH5 has Monday night football, not that I can stay up for it. And ITVs had two out of the three London games.

I've kind of gotten on with the highlights of F1, no waking up early, cuts out a lot of the nonsense.

I've started listening to cricket again, and what a pleasure it is. And I've been enjoying bits of the 100.

BBC still have the big snooker don't they? But the darts has been lost, loved the Lakeside after Xmas.

ITV4 showed the final event of the MotoGP two weeks back, and very exciting it was. I miss it, and the highlights don't do it justice.

Was a shame to lose a lot of the Olympics, good the BBC has some of it.

It's only recently that Dave has been doing highlights of the Spanish and Italian grand tours, ITV would do a very short Spanish highlights show, but nothing in.the month of may. And ITVs criterium highlights show is newish, so I'm getting more televised cycling at the moment, even highlights of the Paris Roubaix and the weird track thing on Dave, from the discovery tie ins.

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Matthew Acton-Varian replied to ktache | 2 months ago
0 likes

I thought Dave were part of the UKTV group, which are part owned by the BBC but privately funded independent of the BBC - Channel 4 I am sure has a similar business model of being publically owned but privately funded through ads (hence the vast majority of non- original Dave programs are BBC repeats, especially in the early days; its more expensive to procure the rights to older ITV, 5 and Sky comedy)They don't have any links to WB Discovery Group.

 

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mark1a replied to Matthew Acton-Varian | 2 months ago
1 like
Matthew Acton-Varian wrote:

I thought Dave were part of the UKTV group, which are part owned by the BBC but privately funded independent of the BBC - Channel 4 I am sure has a similar business model of being publically owned but privately funded through ads (hence the vast majority of non- original Dave programs are BBC repeats, especially in the early days; its more expensive to procure the rights to older ITV, 5 and Sky comedy)They don't have any links to WB Discovery Group.

That's right, it's possible that ktache may have meant Quest.

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Matthew Acton-Varian replied to mark1a | 2 months ago
0 likes

That sounds about right, Quest are a Discovery Group channel and they had EFL highlights a few years ago.

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