Battle of the broadcasters – where are you going to spend the weekend watching the Tour de France?

When you’ve got all day to watch a Tour de France stage, optimal broadcaster choice is essential to your enjoyment.

With many a cycling fan having access to both ITV4 and Eurosport / Eurosport Player, the biggest debate on Twitter other than ‘Thomas or Bernal for Ineos?’ revolves around the broadcast of choice.

Here are some key factors to help you to decide who to entrust those five hours of sofa time during every stage to.

Live Commentary

Eurosport: Carlton Kirby / Rob Hatch / Sean Kelly / Bradley Wiggins

ITV4: Ned Boulting / David Millar

When you’re watching cyclists ride through fields for four hours, you need entertainment.

And if you can’t help but be both amused and bemused in equal measure by the bizarre interplay of Alan Partridge-esque nonsense and trivia spouted by Kirby and the deadpan slur of Kelly, then something is wrong with you.

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That’s not to say Kelly is dull – you never know when you’re never going to get a bonification, calculation, or general mispronunciation.

And let’s face it, if you want to hear about a medieval chateau or a bicycle-shape arrangement of haybales, Kirby is your man.

On ITV, you have Boulting playing the quizzical lead role and Millar the sage analyst. Millar’s knowledge and insights are phenomenal, providing a more modernised take on the type of contribution that Kelly provides. But it all feels a little worthy.

To be fair to Boulting and Millar, they have a very tough task. Whoever fronts up ITV’s coverage since the departure of the late Paul Sherwen and Phil Ligget, for me, is going to lose.

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The Ligget / Sherwen pair was a throwback to school holidays and a burgeoning interest in cycling that just cannot be matched. Old habits and memories die had and just cannot be ousted.

Trump CardBrad on a bike: I’d say that in terms of live coverage, Eurosport have this wrapped up already, but when you throw Bradley Wiggins on a scooter to give the closest insight to what’s going on in the peloton as physically possible, Eurosport have the full suit of aces, plus the joker.

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He gives on-the ground-insight, he chats to his mates in the peloton, he throws civility to the wind by referring to nature breaks as ‘a piss’ in the middle of the day. If those things alone aren’t deserving of his knighthood, I don’t know what are.

Studio Broadcast

Eurosport: Matt Stevens / Orla Chennaouie / Brian Smith / Bradley Wiggins

ITV4: Gary Imlach / Chris Boardman / Peter Kennaugh / Matt Rendell / Daniel Friebe

I’ll admit that, for a reason that escapes me, Orla isn’t my cup of tea on podcast appearances. However, she does a great job on Eurosport and adds a nice mixture of voice and opinion.

Add to her solid anchoring the insightful analysis offered by Wiggo and Stevens, and it’s a great balance.

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Plus, in a similar way to how you have the added bonus of strange phrases and pronunciations from Kelly on the live feed, keeping tuned in to hear Wiggins make blunt/inappropriate comments, or continually mispronounce names no matter how many times he’s corrected (remember that Jumbo-Visma guy called ‘Rollic’ that nearly won the Giro?) means that with Eurosport, you’ve got it all.

Over on terrestrial TV, the perennial hero that is Gary Imlach holds the fort. Like that theme tune and the voices of Ligget and Sherwen of yesteryear, Imlach adds a beautiful, evocative sense of a past era and childhood memory.

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However, sorry lads, Boardman and Kennaugh just can’t match up to the dream team on Eurosport. Like Millar, the insight is there but the charisma just isn’t. Daniel Friebe does a good job with some interesting features and adds some colour, but he doesn’t get enough air time to salvage the situation.

Trump card: Guest Appearances: Eurosport seem to interchange between Adam Blythe and Dan Lloyd to supplement the stalwarts, and both of them provide fantastic insight, humour, and are just ‘good’ at media, with the perfect tone and level of discussion.

Over on ITV they’ve got a nice idea going on, getting random guest appearances from UK riders like the Tanfield brothers, Ben Swift, etc.

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Those guys sure have the knowledge, but being newbies to the media game, they’re just not as engaging, and their youth detracts from their gravitas slightly.

Theme tune and ads

Firstly, let’s get this straight, the ITV4 theme tune is the most evocative, throwback-inducing tune you can imagine.

Just as that ‘Holidays are coming’ CocaCola ad hearalds the arrival of Christmas, the upbeat little jingle on ITV4 marks the arrival of something far better – three weeks of bikes.

ITV continue to hold the bonus points in the delightfully crap stuff that appears in the interludes.

If you want to check out trailers for ‘Monster Carp’ or learn all about the best new hoover brand on the market, then ITV4 is the place.

Contrastingly, Eurosport have that weird cartoon character Ion Göttlich in the Bora-Hansgrohe intermission and features. Sure, it’s not an ad, but similar.

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Germans aren’t renowned for their sense of humour, and it shows.

That loses both Eurosport and Hansgrohe any points they accumulated for the wonderfully awkward appearances of Bora-Hansgrohe riders in the Bora cooking equipment ads.

Trump Card: That ITV tune. It’s just unmatchable. Like contesting Marianne Vos in a sprint, you may as well resign yourself to second place when trying to compete with that.

Logistical factors

Those lucky enough to have a proper television and not an antique like mine may well have the ‘proper’ Eurosport channel. Luddites such as myself have to make do with the online-only Eurosport Player. And of course, even those living in the dark ages like me will have access to the ITV4 channel.

Personally, only having access to Eurosport player online has both advantages and disadvantages.

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Firstly, while I’m too old to be a millennial, I share their habits, and so being able to double-screen Eurosport (on the laptop) and ITV4 (on the telly) curbs my need for more than one source of entertainment at any one moment.

Plus, you can rewind Eurosport by five minutes at a time, so if you want to have another look at that horse running alongside the peloton or take another look at the bunch having a leak, Eurosport is the one.

However, Eurosport does rely on fast, stable wifi, something I do not always have. In the worst case, I have to keep refreshing my Player until it works, at the best case, I sometimes realise the buffering/lagging effect means I’m actually about 2km behind.

As such, when I try to send that ‘OMG Wout Van Aert won AGAIN?!’ instant result reaction tweet, it’s actually about ten minutes behind and I just look like an idiot.

Trump Card: The aces are evenly spread on this one. The ability to have both feeds on simultaneously means that I can satiate my need for as much information as possible at any one time, none of which I truly take in.

My final two francs worth

If I could only have one, I’d turn to Eurosport without hesitation. Sure, it’s a bit like comparing Ineos with Arkea-Samsic in terms of what can be done with budgets available, and when you consider that, ITV are doing a cracking job.

Although I definitely favour Eurosport, I do hedge my bets a little. That ability to dual-screen gives me the best of all worlds – this basically involves watching the race and punditry on Eurosport, with ITV muted.

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Then, at the joyous moment that the jingle starts and the advert for ‘the new rising brand of hoover’ comes onto ITV, the attention shifts in a moment of tactical genius that not even Matt White could pull off.

….I don’t spend too long watching bike racing, do I?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Allez! Allez! CC.

1 thought on “Battle of the broadcasters – where are you going to spend the weekend watching the Tour de France?

  1. Some really good comments here Jim. However, put Stevens over on ITV and I’m sold. Two things absolutely let Eurosport down – 1) Their technology. It isn’t just your wifi cutting out that causes disruption. Eurosport continue to under-invest in their streaming technology (and area I know REALLY well), making it at times useless. 2) Mentioned above, Carlton, Rob & Sean are simply awful to listen to. Yes, Millar might need some lessons in livening it up a bit, but his knowledge of what is actually happening in the race vs the random dribble that exists throughout the Eurosport broadcast, can’t be compared. My two Euro Pence, for what they are worth…

    Like

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