Watching This Week #104
An abbreviated newsletter with updated listings for March 20-26, 2023.
We'll explain where Canadians can watch the prestigious cycling event in 2022.
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The 109th edition of the Tour de France, the oldest and most prestigious of cycling's Grand Tours, is taking place from Friday, July 1, to Sunday, July 24, 2022.
The Canadian streaming rights to the event are currently held by FloBikes, a specialist service owned by American-based sports-focused streaming company FloSports, which announced in 2019 that it had acquired the Canadian rights, in both English and French, for the four editions from 2020 to 2023.
FloBikes will also carry the inaugural edition of the new women's event, Tour de France Femmes, in Canada. That event will run from July 24 to 31.
FloSports' rights mean there will be no coverage of the Tour de France on regular Canadian TV channels this year, though it will be possible to watch coverage of select weekend stages on the NBC broadcast network. Read on for further explanation.
FloBikes seems to go to great lengths to wait until you actually start the process of setting up an account, including providing your email address and setting a password, before disclosing its subscription pricing. There are a bunch of possible reasons for this, including the possibility that they could use dynamic pricing to present different subscription options to different customers.
When we set up an account through the FloBikes website from Canada in June 2021 – and again when we logged in on the site in June 2022 – we were informed, in small print, that the current annual subscription price is US$150 per year – charged exclusively in U.S. dollars, equivalent to roughly $195 in Canadian dollars based on current exchange rates as of late June 2022. Your final price will very likely be more after exchange fees if you pay on a typical Canadian credit card.
The signup flow emphasizes the fact that this works out to US$12.50 (or around C$16.25) per month, but there is no way to pay this price for only a month at a time. Instead, the full year subscription fee of US$150 must be paid upfront with no guarantee of partial refunds being available if you cancel early.
In our testing, it was not clear whether FloSports is charging sales tax on top of this, given that all significant foreign streaming services have been required to remit sales tax for Canadian income received since July 1, 2021.
Although it appears that month-to-month subscriptions have been offered in the past for US$29.99 per month (or more than double the net monthly rate when subscribing annually), this is no longer listed as an option for FloBikes itself, and there is no single-event option available for any event covered by FloSports. However, most FloSports services seem to provide access across multiple sports, so it may be possible to subscribe monthly to one of FloSports' other services (which, as far as we know, all have the same prices) and use that account to access cycling coverage at no extra charge, but we have not tried this ourselves.
For at least thirty years, up to and including the 2019 event, at least some coverage of the Tour de France has usually been available on linear TV channels in Canada.
Canadian broadcast rights to the tournament have bounced between multiple carriers over the years – from highlights on TSN in the 1990s, to live coverage on OLN Canada for several years up until 2010 (back when that channel was more closely tied to its U.S. counterpart, later the now-defunct NBCSN), back to TSN from 2011 to 2013, and then over to Sportsnet from 2014 to 2019.
However, for this latest contract announced in June 2019, the event's organizer, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), went with a pure-play streaming company in FloSports.
In the announcement, a representative of the ASO painted the decision to award the Canadian rights to FloSports as being strategic, saying it strives to give its events "the best exposure possible," which in the organization's current estimation means working with "the most innovative and promising broadcasting platforms that are able to provide, in collaboration with us, storytelling that will resonate with all our audiences."
Whether that is the sole rationale is unclear, since financial details about the deal were not released, and there hasn't been much other reporting on the matter. It's possible that FloSports offered a big financial commitment that other Canadian broadcasters couldn't match. It's also possible that TSN or Sportsnet decided to either offer only a token (intentionally low) bid or not bid at all during the most recent round of negotiations, due to other programming and/or financial commitments.
To be sure, FloSports had already been a big player in the cycling space, with Canadian streaming rights to other events like La Vuelta a España (the Tour of Spain) and various championships sanctioned by the International Cycling Union (UCI). So for those who follow the sport, an annual subscription to FloBikes might make sense. And despite the bespoke branding, it appears that any FloSports subscription will provide access to the full FloSports catalog, which also includes coverage of ECHL hockey, U.S. college soccer, gymnastics, bowling, and more.
But it's not clear to us how many casual followers will decide to pay for a FloSports subscription just to access the Tour de France. Ultimately, though, it's the ASO's event, and it's up to them to decide how they want to distribute it.
Although there should be some highlight coverage on programs like SportsCentre or Sportsnet Central, and short clips on various websites, the options for Canadians to watch full coverage in an authorized manner outside of FloSports will be limited.
A small portion of the coverage from American rightsholder NBC Sports should be available on Canadian TV providers. However, this would be limited to whatever weekend coverage airs on the NBC broadcast network (carriage of said coverage potentially being subject to the whims of the NBC affiliate available in your area).
The NBC Sports schedule for the 2022 Tour de France includes three days of coverage on the NBC broadcast network:
Because NBC is a free-to-air broadcast network, Canadian TV service providers are not required to black out coverage on that network outside of simultaneous substitution requirements, which would only apply if there was a Canadian broadcast network carrying the exact same coverage.
However, NBC's streaming service Peacock has not been made available in Canada in an authorized way, nor has USA Network, the U.S. cable channel for NBC's Tour de France coverage beginning this year. Even if they were, as subscription and/or Internet-based services, they would not be permitted to transmit their Tour de France coverage in Canada, due to FloSports' exclusive rights here.
We are aware that there are other streaming or networking services that market themselves in Canada as ways to access sports programming. However, as of this writing, FloBikes is the only service listed on the Tour de France's official website – under the "Official Broadcasters" tab – as being authorized to distribute coverage of the Tour in Canada.
Other streaming sites may provide lower quality streams and, in some cases, can be subject to closure without notice or refund. Many international streaming services, even if they are authorized by the event organizers for their own countries, are required to try to block out-of-country access through virtual private networks. Therefore, we cannot recommend these sorts of services, and any usage is purely at your own risk.
If you want to provide feedback to the organizers of the Tour de France about how their event is distributed in Canada, contact information for the organizers, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), is available on this page.
If you have questions related to the FloBikes service itself, refer to FloSports' support hub here. If the articles on that site don't address your concern, there is a contact page you can use to send more details.
As a reminder, the website you're on right now, Where Can I Watch, is an independent website not affiliated with any broadcaster or event organizer. We unfortunately cannot assist with any specific issues you may have with the coverage available in Canada apart from directing you to the resources above.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on June 26, 2021 for the 2021 edition of the Tour de France.
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