The GCN Race Pass is a new service provided by GCN to allow streaming of professional road and cyclocross events directly to your mobile device or tablet. Interestingly, the races offered by the GCN Race Pass vary by region. In this article we discuss the GCN Race Pass offerings for viewers in the USA.
In the same way that Eurosport restricts which regions can use their service, there are restrictions on race availability by region for the GCN Race Pass. This is mainly due to licensing agreements. ASO (the owners of the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España) as well as other major sports organizations for professional cycling divvying out broadcasting licenses for each region separately. The downside to this model is that regions where cycling is less popular are usually left without coverage. That is unless an entity is willing to pick up the steep cost of broadcasting rights.
GCN Race Pass Competitors
The GCN Race Pass finds itself in a unique position in the American market because of the well established NBCSports Gold Cycling Pass. For the past few years, NBCSports has offered a cycling access pass for $54.99 per year. The NBCSports service has rights to both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España as well as many one day classics races such as Paris-Roubaix and Liège Bastogne Liège.
FloBikes also offers an online streaming service for professional bike racing. The Tour de France and Vuelta are included in that subscription package as well. One day race offerings are mixed but similar in quality to the NBCSports package. These pre-established deals have left the GCN Race Pass with either slim pickings for the American market, due to exclusivity deals, or a steep price point to add these big races to their calendar.
Features for Viewers in USA
Looking at the lineup of races, the number of top tier races is scarce. Other than Ronde van Vlaaderen (Tour of Flanders), a cycling monument, the BinckBank Tour and the Grand Prix de Wallonie are the two that ring a bell the most. Even those are not at the top-top. They’ve secured the women’s race of Gent-Wevelgem, but not the men’s and a few good cyclocross races like Koppenbergcross.
All in all, the race selection is slim pickings for Americans. On top of that, the GCN Race Pass is only mobile and tablet based, with no web browser option. It does appear that Chromecast and other TV casting options are usable. One may intuitively ask about the opportunity to use a VPN to circumvent the geo-restrictions. Some users have mentioned their usual methods to access geo-restricted live streams failed when attempting to access the servers. VPNs become even more difficult considering the limited access to developer tools on mobile devices and tablets. This ensures American subscribers are stuck in their geo-restricted boxes.
GCN Race Pass Worth it?
To put the icing on the cake, the GCN Race Pass is available right now for $39.99 a year, a $10 discount from the usual $49.99. The FloBikes package price is a bit heftier at $12.50/month ($150/year) and requires a full year commitment. Even so, when a $54.99 annual subscription to NBCSports Gold Cycling Pass gives access to two grand tours, Paris-Nice, and many big one day races, one has to ask if the value is really there for the GCN Race Pass for American viewers. It’s worth noting that the GCN Race Pass includes a weekly racing show “GCN – World of Cycling”.
At this point, the GCN Race Pass looks a bit hastily launched. I assume it will only get better from here. Although it’s likely they will succeed in the long-term, as of right now the GCN Race Pass is probably not the most viable option for us viewers in the USA.
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Edit: It was noted that, at the time of writing, FloBikes requires a yearly commitment. The article has been updated to reflect that. – 8/15/20