Watching the Tour de France on TV…in France…in French.

Over the past week a lot of things got installed/hooked up/working in our little Paris apartment.  Potentially one of the most important being our TV.  Well, sorta.  One of our TV’s works 100%, and the other one works about every other day.  Not sure what happened on the boat over, it’s a bit cranky now.

At any rate, the Tour has been on in the background all week.  Unlike watching it in the US, it’s not an early morning affair here, but rather, an afternoon event.  Most stages start around lunch time, depending on the length of the stage, and tend to finish around 5PM local time.

Unlike the US, the Tour here is broadcast on the non-cable channels.  Meaning it’s the equivalent of having it broadcast every day on your local NBC or CBS station, versus some cable-only station as in the US (like Versus/OLN, NBC Sports, or Universal NBC).  I typically find it on France 2 or France 3.  All I need to look for is ‘Cyclisme’, and I’m golden.


(Sorry for the glare, taking photos of a glossy TV is tough!)

But just because I’m golden, it doesn’t mean I stay golden.  See, it moves around.  While theyalways broadcast the whole stage from start to finish, it doesn’t actually stay on the same channel (note above how this particular segment only lasts two hours).  In order to avoid preempting all manner of shows, the TdF will actually change channels numerous times during the course of a given stage.  There may well be warning of this audibly in French, but since I lack the language skills to pick up on that (yet), I just find out when my TV turns to a show on the Auroras Borealis upon returning from commercial break:


Because of the language barrier, I’ve turned to streaming either the US broadcast online or the Eurosport broadcast audio in the background via computer.  What’s interesting about this is that you get to see how each channel chooses to utilize the TdF provided video feeds (it’s a common video source pool, and the various broadcasters get to decide how to format their shows).  For example, while in the US you’ll get lots of audio information about various local sights as the helicopters pan to them during the course of the race – here in France we get an entire diversion for some of these.  For example, at one point last week there was a 1-2 minute focus on a local men’s choir singing.  During this, there was no cycling audio, only the men’s choice, sometimes the video was split screen.

Or, the below, which was a soaring bird – which for the better part of 60 seconds included a solo piano piece, with no other audio:


Often times there were local music performances where the cycling was completely silenced, and only the local performance was heard.  Interesting approach.

Finally, the post-race coverage blows away anything in the US.  It can go on for literally an hour or more afterwards.  It also tends to cover historical aspects of the race, sorta like some of the human interest pieces you might see during the Kona Ironman broadcast, or the Olympics.


With that, I’m back in the US for work and will be (for better or worse) watching the US coverage for Saturday and Sunday.  I’m super-bummed that I’ll be missing the finale in Paris on Sunday just a short distance from our apartment.  But hopefully The Girl will get some good photos and can put together a post for y’all.

Thanks for reading all! Have a great weekend!


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  1. Sam

    Can you get Eurosport? It’s how I watch the tour in the UK, it stays on one channel, is in English and has rather witty commentary.

  2. MJ

    I would miss the dulcet tones (and quirky word use) of Phil & Paul, which pretty much make the TdF for me. Also enjoy Bobke and Liam.

  3. I have to comment on this as one of your French reader :) Congrats on the move to Paris by the way, I hope you will love it. It’s a great city to visit but living in it takes a bit more effort ;)

    Anyway, the Tour on French TV is definitely a bit of a cultural thing. I know they used to have in the morning 1 or 2 hours of show in the starting city with the local art scene, businesses, sports, etc… That used to be on France 3 (I’ve been away from France for 10 years now…). Anyway, as far as the french audio goes, you are not missing much if you stick to France Television. Thierry Adam, Godart, Holtz, these guys are complete has-been ! The best from what I know is Eurosport, whether you stick to Harmon and Kelly (torty kilometers to go !) or work on your French with Eurosport and Jacky DUrand. I think they have Virenque too now unfortunately… Anyway, bon courage avec le francais !

  4. does Phil Ligget speak french?

  5. Anyway Ray I know many TdF-lovers who watch TV but mute it as – like Matt said – speakers are really bad…

  6. Your post on watching the Tour on French TV was right on! My son and I loved the soaring bird, but I think you might be underestimating the time that bird flew around! We also got surprised by the channel switch: we were watching them climb the Tourmalet and all of a sudden commercials followed by a different show!

    But if you think watching the Tour on TV is different, attempt to follow it on radio! We tried to do so as we drove from the start in Samatan to the finish in Pau, and you can only get an idea of what is going on by how many times they say a rider’s name (e.g., blah blah blah Bradley WigGEENS! blah blah blah blah Bradley WigGEENS!)

    Probably the worst thing about seeing the Tour live, though, is not getting to hear Phil and Paul. We especially miss Paul’s bits of trivia about various French chateaux and geological features. My son and I have taken to filling in our own trivia bits when the helicopters focus on the castles and whatnot.


  7. By the way, I hope no one takes my description of listening to the Tour on the radio as being disrespectful. I absolutely love France, the French and the Tour. This is just what it sounds like to someone with my very limited French skills.

  8. Unfortunately Eurosport in France is different from brish Eurosport. Sometimes programme is different (in winter with longer “apres” competition programmes) and at least at my place i’m not able to swich commentaries from French to English. And yes, english cycling commentaries on Eurosport are really TOP.

  9. Oh, and just to add. Even if you apply for british Eurosport, when you arrive to France znd are on the french network, it automatically switches to french Eurosport. something to do with legal rights. A big dislike!!!!