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Universal Sports let me down…

A couple of weeks ago, on April 22, I posted about the coming world of TV that will unshackle us from the cable TV and Satellite companies. Well, one of my favorite companies in this brave new world, Universal Sports, almost let me down.

I wanted to watch the Giro d’Italia which Universal Sports has the U.S. rights to. Universal had other ideas. Despite Universal Sports best efforts to keep me from giving them revenue, in the end, I won.

The first battle was figuring out that for the first time Universal was indeed charging for what had always been free in years past. Clicking on their ‘Live Now!’ tab, where we’ve always previously clicked to watch video, produced… Nothing. They thought this would throw me off and I would think they were simply having technical problems or perhaps weren’t really broadcasting this year. Not me. I pressed on.

I am not at all against Universal Sports charging for this btw. I just wish they’d be a bit more clear about it.

Battle the second, now that I’d determined that they were charging for their programming this year, was figuring out how to pay them revenue. Nothing I could find on any of the cycling pages led me to anywhere that would take my credit card. I did though find a couple of pages that confirmed that they were charging. One offered me Stage 15 for 99 cents. Well, that’s fine, but stage 15 is over 2 weeks away. (Cycling stage races like this or the Tour de France are usually comprised of multiple individual races or ‘stages’, usually 1 per day.) But I persisted and to the persistent often goes the battle. Then it happened. I noticed a tab on their home page for ‘Premium’. And there I found the elusive prize I was looking for. I forced my credit card number on Universal and was rewarded with a receipt for my purchase.

But for Universal, the war wasn’t over. They may have my revenue, but someone there thought that if they could simply thwart my efforts to find what it was I’d thought I’d purchased then I would call and cancel my subscription leaving them the winner.

They tried the ‘buttons that lead nowhere’ trick again, but I’d seen that tactic before and wasn’t fooled. Like the voice menu systems with 132 levels of choices, Universal Sports led me through page after page of anything but the live broadcast I thought I’d purchased. I still persisted. Persistence had paid off once, it would again. Finally I clicked on a button labeled ‘Watch Live’ or something to that effect on a page with a bunch of Giro stuff on it and was pleasantly greeted with video of people racing bikes and pretty decent English commentary!

Universal Sports doesn’t give up easy though. I wasn’t fooled for long. I know the difference in what I was expecting for Sunday’s Stage 2, a mass start road race, and what I was seeing on my screen. They labeled it ‘Live’ but gave me a replay of the previous day’s Stage 1 Time Trial through the streets of Amsterdam. I quickly realized what it was since on Saturday I had watched Stage 1 live online in Dutch, thanks to a Belgian TV broadcaster. Universal Sports won this day’s battle since I had to leave for church before I could find what I thought I’d bought. You don’t fool around with being late to church on Mother’s Day.

The fourth and final battle commenced this morning. Stage 3 was a road race from Amsterdam to Middleburg. I clicked around a bit sure I’d find the secret passage to the actual live broadcast Universal had so reluctantly sold me. I found a screen that listed stages 15, 14, and 4. Was there a code hidden in these seemingly unrelated stages I was given an option of? Was this kind of like the TV show where the guy saw future newspapers every morning? Could I click on these and see future results? Not. Clicking on them led to a description of the race, nothing more. I did though notice that below the big buttons for this 3 stages was some small text that simply said ‘more…’. I clicked, and behold I now had numerous buttons for a number of stages. They were in random order but scanning brought be to one that said ‘Stage 3’. The moment had arrived. I’d be able to watch Stage 3 live with commentary in English instead of Dutch, Italian, or Russian. Not. Nothing. Nada. Universal made a final valiant try by giving me a video player with nothing in it.

I backed up and tried again. I held my breath. The video player came up. I heard what certainly sounded like English commentary suddenly pour forth from my speakers. Then I saw it. Video. Live video of the Giro! Success! I’d won! There it was, the Giro d’Italia bike race, live from The Netherlands. I’d given them revenue and managed to find what they sold me so I could avoid demanding my money back. I’ll savor this victory for the remainder of the 3 week race.

BTW, this broadcast in Dutch is available free and generally runs from about 6am – 11am EDT.
Thanks to for the images,

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