May 24 2013
(not verbatim, contains typos, and sometimes I go off-book)
Yes, it’s another delayed Cyclocosm Rantcast—but I’m not sorry, because last weekend I was temporarily relocated to the redwoods and hoppy, delicious ales of Sonoma County to ride bikes with fun and interesting people, and watch a little event you might have heard of called the Tour of California.
It seems an odd juxtaposition, really, because the topic of this rant is Beinsport’s coverage of the Giro d’Italia. Or rather, it was supposed to be. But I can’t in good conscience complain about something more or less sight-unseen. While I did manage—at long last—to catch a bit of actual BeIn TV coverage, it was during stage 14’s fog obscured nightmare.
But I’ve heard, actually, and from several sources, that BeIn’s broadcast commentary is quite good. Certainly, if the effort Carlton Kirby made to pump excitement into 40 minutes of staring at an empty road lined by bored, cold Italians is any indication, it couldn’t be that bad. But as the old saying goes, if Dan Lloyd delivers understated quips in his butter-toned British accent and no one’s around to hear them, does it count as good coverage?
So today’s rant will be less about coverage in its proper sense, and more about the contracting decisions that get made delivering the content to the people. Let’s start with something everyone can see—at least, in the US. Maybe the mish-mash of rights and geo-restrictions will be prevent a worldwide audience from seeing these, but head on over to beinsport.tv and see what you can see.
I’ll be fair here—credit is definitely due for giving cycling and the Giro much more exposure around the site than it used to have. A few months ago, the only cycling story on up was about [Lance] Armstrong getting blocked from racing a tri—now they’ve got an article and a video highlight for every each stage—if you look under the “video” header, that is—and clips even make their way onto the front page occasionally.
That said, it’d sure be nice if cycling could have a link under “other sports” or if doing doing a search for cycling brought up more than just 11 articles in some random order. And let’s take a closer look at these race reports—here’s Stage 17, which is currently two sentences long. And the video seems to suffer from the Phil Liggett effect—not that Dan Lloyd does a bad job with it, more that he seems to just kinda be talking over some footage they threw at him.
So let’s check out Stage 16…hmm “Intxausti timed a late sprint and fought off the challenges…in a dramatic late finish” good so far…”Intxausti was part of a 22-man breakaway group in the early stages” (huh?) “later managed to gain a five-second advantage” None of that is right. “Nibali…setting a fierce pace at the front of the peloton as he attempted to bridge” No, that’s not really… “ it was not until they entered the final 25 kilometres that the 22 separated.” But you just said that breakaway happened in the early stages? Or did you mean separated from each other?
Well, maybe the video will make more sense…nope. Actually, it, uh looks like this one’s just a music video. With some bikes rolling along. And no one talking about the race. Oh, and some guy wins. Nice. Very explanatory. Thanks for that recap. Similar nonsense, weird wording— my favorite was “Uran edged Carlos Betancur by 20 seconds” in Stage 10— and straight-up factual errors pepper most of the BeIn recaps. It’s tempting to blame the network for this mess, but you know, in the grand scheme of things, BeIN is really only a mouldering rusty pipe through which feces flows.
You see, nearly all these reports and videos are actually produced by a company called “Omnisport”, which is itself a sub-entity of a company called the Perform Group. And as you can read on Omnisport’s riveting product offerings page, this is kind of what they do, producing “page ready content”—a Orwellian turn of diction if I’ve ever heard one—so that doofers like BeIn, and I’m guessing similarly clueless broadcasters from other geographic regions who need to farm out their work—have something to put on their websites so that underlings can report to middle managers who can report to executives that they’re doing really cool things with the web, probably backing it up with some large-sounding numbers that no one understands.
Welcome to the world of Rights Organizations—entities like Perform Group that you’ve never heard of but who seem to lurk everywhere. Last week, I was introduced to a particularly malevolent little troll called Base79. Name mean anything to you? Oh, they’re only YouTube’s largest content partner in Europe, with 550 million views per month on content they “produce”—though I use that term in the loosest possible sense; afterall, they don’t make any content of their own as far as I can tell. All they really do is offering things like distribution—that’d be uploading to YouTube—revenue generation—setting up ads to run on YouTube—and rights protection—the operation of YouTube’s automatic content detection software by which I—and the hapless innocents at Orica GreenEdge—discovered them.
Far be it for me to assail sock-puppeting well-worn YouTube features as some sort of business model—if you can find someone with money and trick them into throwing some in your direction, more power to you. My objection comes with the fact that as a “partner partner”—yes, that’s a literal quote—of the Giro, they’re responsible for the irredeemable mess that is the Giro’s YouTube page. One language, no English subtitles, irritating references to off-site links with no explanation of why these couldn’t be uploaded to YouTube as well, and oh yeah—video quality on par with dropping acid through a bad pair of cataracts.
A very long time ago, when, I dunno, the Earth was pure and fairy kingdoms dotted the land, the purpose of copyright was to protect the work of creative people, giving them a chance to recoup investment, make a living, and generally just incentivizing the creation of newer, cooler, more creative things in the future. But currently, as these rights organizations show, copyright kinda does the exact opposite—pushing firms to dry-hump products for all they’re worth while adding nothing of value to consumers, and arguably—depending on if you’re a shareholder or not—nothing to society as a whole.
But really, the problem of copyright is out-of-scope for this rant, so I’m gonna pull it back to cycling, and the Giro specifically—Michele Acquarone wants to grow the Giro, or at least says he does. As a watcher of the sport—and by watcher I mean person who reads things on the internet because there is nothing to watch—I’ve no shortage of 2nd- and 3rd-hand reports telling me he’s done just that. But here, with my own eyes, in the US? I can’t see anything that’d suggest a single marketing dollar had been thrown the Giro’s way.
And honesty, eh, it’s his, or his organization’s own damn fault. They sold out rights to a channel no one can see, who further outsources to obviously incompetent contractors for their almost-invisible online content. And with another ill-advised partnership, RCS has managed to kneecap the YouTube audience—I’m sorry, the two-billion-eyeball YouTube audience—not just in the sense that the Giro’s “official” YouTube offerings are crap, but in that the efforts of people like me who do a halfway-decent job or presenting the event FOR FREE are actively being undermined.
This, THIS is how you grow your event, Mr Acquarone? I can only hope that someday I get the chance to ask you how, exactly, you thought was going to happen.
The Cyclocosm Rantcast is written produced and everythinged by Cosmo Catalano—that’d be me—one of the most dominant pack fodder finishers in the history of Cat 3 racing. I currently reside in Hartford, Connecticut. My blog is Cyclocosm.com, I tweet using the handle @Cyclocosm, I make a video podcast series called How The Race Was Won, you can see them all at vimeo.com/cyclocosm because YouTube is for copyright trolls. If you’re relatively new to my work, check out Cyclocosm.com/charts for some cool stuff you may not have seen. And now, I’m going to bed.