Like many viewers and those involved in the bike industry and the cycling media, yesterday’s unforeseen (by me, anyway) announcement that the GCN app and GCN+ streaming service was to simply cease to be in a few weeks' time came as a shock.
Love or loath the GCN commentators and presenters, cringe or applaud at some of the content they produce, it’s all part of the game, and it always has been. Having been a part of the cycling media for over 30 years, I have to admit that I do have tainted and mixed feelings about the whole GCN situation, and the potential warning signs that show how it could threaten the whole industry.
The entire cycling media industry has gone through numerous transitions in the past 20 years or so, mostly driven by the rapid rise of the internet, platforms such YouTube, digitisation, and the fact that ‘credible content’ is now often expected for free (in my opinion).
Coming off my soapbox for a moment… the cycling media is mostly comprised of a relatively small and regularly-circulating band of passionate misfits, and at some point or another we often encounter and re-encounter each other in different roles.
This is also pretty much the case with GCN, which was launched by Simon Wear, a former high-flyer at Future Publishing, the international multimedia company that has produced many of the UK’s major cycling titles for many years, and indeed gave root to road.cc amongst other titles (the founders and some staff at road.cc are ex-Future Publishing).
When GCN initially launched back in 2013, primarily as a YouTube-based platform, many of us in the media were left wondering just how this concept would work in a profitable way. But somehow it did – or at least, we assume it did. We cannot really be sure of the inner workings, and that applies to many platforms.
Later on, with the launch of their livestream race coverage and then the GCN app, they arguably revolutionised digital cycling media, and monopolised things to an extent too. This all but made traditional online race coverage almost extinct, which surely hurt some platforms and those working for them, such is progress and evolution…
Needless to say, GCN’s fast-growing dominance didn’t sit too sweetly with some in the industry, especially as countless magazines and websites have fallen by the wayside in recent years. That said, I don’t think this media decline is anything to do with GCN, because they simply provided a service that we all wanted, including those of us involved in the media.
We’d never had it so good, at least not in terms of available cycling coverage, and so none of us are happy to see the unfolding situation. The situation doesn’t bode well for an already bruised – and about to be battered – bike and cycling media industry.
Perish the thought of going back to the dark old days of Dickie Davis and Frank Bough reluctantly presenting us with a couple of minutes of weekly Tour de France coverage each year. That doesn’t bear thinking about, and we’ve come a hell of a long way since then, thankfully.
The media landscape is changing, say GCN, much as it has done rapidly for years, and will continue to do so. What does this mean, and where does it go from here for our moving online cycling coverage?
At the moment none of us really know, and depending on where you happen to live in the world the scenario will play out very differently in terms of whether you will still be able to access the live coverage via other associated platforms or apps. Most road.cc readers will still be able to access all the same cycling content as before via Warner Bros. Discovery platforms, with the same roster of presenters and commentators - however, it could be far more complicated for those living outside of Europe and in the US, who have come to rely on GCN+ after many years of virtually no live coverage or even online highlights being available elsewhere in some regions.
As for all those documentaries on GCN+? It would be a crying shame if they were to suddenly be unavailable. I for one will be binge watching them over the next month, while hoping that there will be a favourable solution found, sooner rather than later.
The GCN YouTube channels and their website are, we’re told, set to continue. Beyond that it’s hard to see where things will lead, and there will be a lot of concerned race promotors, media and others following the situation.
Meanwhile, in true Warner Bros style: That’s all, folks...
road.cc expresses solidarity with all staff and contributors affected by the closure of GCN+ and the GCN app