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Cycling on TV: U.S. viewers may see more, eventually

Despite Universal Sports Network's renewed partnership with the UCI, many U.S. cycling fans are still searching for reliable viewing options

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With the UCI world cyclocross championships set to start on Saturday in the Czech Republic, a familiar refrain pops up on American cycling fans’ Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, and other sources: “How do I watch?”

Currently, the U.S. rights to many UCI cycling events are owned by Universal Sports Network (USN). In fact, the network and the UCI recently announced a renewed partnership through 2018. According to a press release, “The deal gives Universal Sports multi-platform rights, including exclusive TV and digital rights, to the UCI road world championships and UCI world championship and World Cup events in track cycling, BMX, mountain bike, and cyclocross.”

American fans will be able to watch ‘cross worlds live, but only if their cable or satellite package includes USN. “We are available nationally on DIRECTV, DISH, and Verizon FiOS; our cable providers include Time Warner Cable, BrightHouse Networks, Cox Communications, CenturyLink Prism, Google Fiber, WAVE, Bend Broadband, GCI, Atlantic Broadband, Buckeye, Consolidated Communications, and several other regional systems,” USN’s Catherine Philbin told VeloNews via email.

Although the list of providers seems long, it excludes Comcast, which Philbin cites as the largest cable distributor in the U.S. “We are currently available to more than 60 million homes in the U.S.,” she said. That amounts to around 52 percent of the total U.S. television market, which is estimated to be about 116 million homes, according to Nielsen.

Those who prefer to watch the race online can do so on the USN website, but they must log in using their cable/satellite provider account and have a TV package that includes USN.

One exception, for U.S. fans who either don’t want to upgrade cable packages, are tied to Comcast, or simply don’t have a TV, is DishWorld. For $10 per month, you can subscribe to DishWorld Sports, which includes USN, as well as other networks, and stream the channel on your computer or mobile device. DishWorld also offers an app on the iTunes store and Google Play.

If you’re not a ‘cross fan, or you aren’t keen to spend more money to watch cycling, Philbin said that 2015 world road championships will see expanded broadcasts in the U.S. across USN, NBC, NBCSN, and CNBC. “Looking ahead I can tell you that NBC channels will have more than 17 hours of coverage during the week — events almost every day and most of it live, including the last day,” Philbin wrote. She also hinted that Richmond 2015 is developing an app that may offer live race video.

Although options are slowly expanding, it’s likely that, this weekend, many American ‘cross fans will resort to sketchy online feeds laden with pop-up ads, perhaps out of frugality, or maybe just for old times’ sake.