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The 108th edition of the Tour de France, the oldest and most prestigious of cycling's Grand Tours, is taking place from Saturday, June 26 to Sunday, July 18, 2021.
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.
FloSports' rights mean there will be no coverage on regular Canadian TV channels this year, though it will be possible to watch coverage of two stages on NBC on Saturday, July 10 and Sunday, July 18. Read on for further explanation.
How much does FloBikes cost in Canada?
The subscription price for FloBikes is hard to find on the service's website until you actually start the process of setting up an account (including providing your email address and setting a password).
When we set up an account through the FloBikes website from Canada on June 26, we were informed that the current subscription price is US$150 per year (roughly C$185 based on current exchange rates as of this writing, and very likely more after exchange fees if you pay on a Canadian credit card).
That works out to US$12.50 (or around C$15.50-16.00) per month, but it must be paid upfront. This price also does not include sales taxes, as many foreign streaming services will be required to charge Canadians for any payments on or after July 1.
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. It appears 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.
Why can't I watch the Tour de France on regular TV in Canada anymore?
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, now the soon-to-be-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 bid or not bid at all this time, 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, Serie A 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.
If you want to provide feedback to the organizers of the Tour de France about this matter, contact information for the ASO is available on this page.
Is there any other place for Canadians to watch Tour de France coverage?
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 will be available on Canadian TV providers. However, this will be limited to two days of coverage aired on the NBC broadcast network (carriage of said coverage potentially being subject to the whims of the NBC affiliate available in your area):
- Stage 14: Carcassonne / Quillan – Saturday, July 10, joined in progress at 8:00 a.m. ET (live)
- Stage 21: Chatou / Paris Champs-Élysées (final stage) – Sunday, July 18, 2:00 p.m. ET (tape-delayed)
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, neither the aforementioned NBCSN nor NBC's streaming service Peacock have been made available in Canada in an authorized way, and 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.
I saw an ad or forum post suggesting another site that they said would give me access to the Tour de France. Can I trust it?
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.