We're big fans of streaming media here at Lifehacker, and while it would be nice to have live streams online for every sporting event you can imagine, sometimes you have to be grateful for what you can get.
Google announced today that as part of SBS' coverage of the Tour de France (its biggest sporting commitment after the World Cup), it will feature a dedicated YouTube channel. While there'll be plenty of background information and footage from Tours past, the big attraction will undoubtedly be the daily highlights reel. For cycling enthusiasts who don't want to sit up all night watching the race footage, the ability to catch up with a highlights clip at the time of their choice (and without having to pay for the privilege).
In an ideal world, SBS would be offering iView-style catchup via a dedicated site, as well as live streaming for those who want it. On the other hand, that would be an expensive, bandwidth-sucking exercise. Offering YouTube is a pretty good in-between step.
That's not to say that the experience is going to be perfect. When I went to check out the official channel using my Next G mobile broadband connection, I was greeted with this error message:
This tells us two things: firstly, that the YouTube channel will indeed be geographically restricted, meaning Aussies overseas and other onlookers will have to hunt elsewhere for their Tour fix. Secondly, it tells us that YouTube still hasn't quite got the art of actually matching IP addresses to country locations down pat. (Next G is all but useless overseas, so by definition if I'm using that connection, I'm in Australia.) Of course, workers whose company policy bans YouTube will also be denied their cycling fix.
Broadcast sporting rights remain a thorny political issue in Australia, and one which often puts consumer convenience well down the list. Far in the future, when IP television is the norm, people will look back and laugh at the idea that content was restricted online. For now, I guess we'll be grateful when some of those restrictions are lifted.
Follow le Tour with SBS and YouTube [Official Google Blog]
Lifehacker's weekly Streaming column looks at how technology is keeping us entertained.