The Tour Down Under (TDU) would be close to my favourite cycling event, next to the Tour de France. It’s a punchy six day race that sees some of the world’s best cyclists come to the fair city of Adelaide. It’s also the first race of the UCI World Tour season, so there’s always an air of anticipation about to see who’s looking to be in good nick for the season ahead. Having recently rekindled my love of cycling, I was so excited to be a couch potato for the six days of the TDU and watch this fine event on the home of cycling in Australia, channel SBS.
You can imagine my surprise when I found out SBS would not be televising this year’s race. No, it would be broadcast by commercial network Channel 9. This did not fill me with great hope, as commercial TV in Australia is riddled with ads, and often live sports telecasts are interrupted or just not shown at all.
To their credit, Channel 9 actually showed some live stages, except for when the cricket was on, when the cycling was then relegated to sister network GEM. Which would be fine, except that you can’t watch GEM through Foxtel, and our TV is cursed and doesn’t pick up FTA channels except through Foxtel.
Of the stages I was able to view, I found the amount of ad breaks almost unbearable. At the end of some of the days, they would cut straight to the news as soon as the race was over, robbing viewers of the opportunity to see the jersey presentations (one of my favourite parts). One saving grace of Channel 9’s train wreck of a telecast was the brilliant commentary duo of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin.
So I’m afraid that on the whole it’s a big thumbs down from me for this year’s broadcast. I gave it a chance, but yet again I’ve been left disappointed by free TV commercial coverage of sport.
I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the racing season, particularly the Tour de France. Let’s just hope like hell a commercial network never gets the opportunity to broadcast that event!