Australia’s love affair with cycling is about to be fully tested. SBS trumpeted some impressively strong viewing results for its Tour de France coverage today. They came as Australian defending champion Cadel Evans seemingly fell out of contention for this year’s title, slipping to 3 min 19 secs behind race leader Bradley Wiggins with 10 days remaining.
SBS says Thursday night’s Stage 11 attracted an average national audience of 502,000 with a peak of 506.000 metro viewers, making it the station’s 10th highest rating stage in 22 years of broadcasting the race. More viewers have watched the opening 11 stages than any other year.
The station’s Tour website has also seen record traffic and the SBS Tour de France Tour Tracker mobile app has received almost 200,000 downloads. Impressive stuff and thoroughly deserved after years of investment and the hard work from their production crew.
The key question though is: will the massive numbers who have been there cheering Cadel – and enduring the constant commercials aimed at MAMIL’s (middle aged men in lycra) and their certain delicate performance issues – stay because they’re captivated by everything else they’ve seen or will they resume normal transmission and head off to bed, possibly to pitch a tent.
I reckon the answer is yes. Maybe not at the half a million level, but at a premium to what we’ve seen in previous years. Last year it was really only the last two stages, and to some degree only the last stage, when Cadel rolled into Paris and massive numbers, aware of the history being made, tuned in.
This will be an interesting few days for the sport and the broadcaster. How much do we love this if there’s not an Australian fighting for a win?
I’m optimistic and I believe there are enough people who are into it, to just see what happens. Viewing numbers have been superb, newspaper and TV coverage has been extended with more reporters on the ground and more live crosses from the likes of Fox Sports, as well as SBS.
It has also become a significant interactive event via apps and social media. The Tour is now a classic dual screen experience. I spend more time looking at my iPad than the TV screen. The tour tracker app is an absolute sensation, it’s been the number one sports app on iTunes for the past few weeks.
If you are interested in just watching some bikes, a crazy fan or two and the beautiful countryside, there is plenty of that but if you want to delve deeper you can.
Twitter is providing great value as well, and the cyclists – and their better halves – have embraced the conversation.
The WAG war that broke out on Twitter last night between the wife of Bradley Wiggins and the girlfriend of his teammate Chris Froome was spectacular. Let’s hope they start going for it during the race, it will just be superb!
All of that is resulting in half a million people watching, and I don’t think you are seeing that interaction at that level with an event like Wimbledon.
How much higher can cycling go? My view it’s far and away the leader of the second tier sport pack, top of the Olympic sports, including swimming.
From a participation perspective it’s rivalling all other sports. Cycling infrastructure is key to its continued growth and development and that is becoming more of an issue on a government level.
That area is going to continue to grow but it is still short of being a first tier spot alongside AFL, NRL and cricket etc. Channel Nine shows the Tour Down Under they don’t pay production costs – these are met by the South Australian government. Cycling is not too far away from the point where commercial and broadcast sponsorship is such that broadcasters are paying a rights fee to show it as well as covering the production costs; that’s my definition of a first tier sport. When that happens – it’s a game changer on many levels.
It’s been a decade of consistent growth in Australian cycling. From the feats of Stuart O’Grady, Baden Cooke, Robbie McEwen and Brad McGee doing great stuff in the TdF to Cadel winning the worlds in 2009, to Geelongh osting the world championships in 2010 and Cadel winning last year and now the introduction of Orica-GreenEDGE. There’s only one thing missing now in the Australian story at the Tour – someone from GreenEDGE winning it.
Domestically, my company was involved in the road worlds in Geelong and 160,000 were roadside on the final day. We were involved in the national championships in Ballarat last year and it had a 20 percent increase in attendance, a 262 percent increase in media coverage from the year before and over $4m of economic impact for Ballarat.
We can see the snowball continuing to grow as it rolls along.
SBS deserves the success they have had with the 2012 Tour – a ratings figure of more than 500K.
I hope Cadel can produce a miracle ride from here and win, and I hope people will stick with the race regardless. It remains so fascinating with the battle between Froome and Wiggins and what will happen with Cadel tonight. It’s also a stage that Simon Gerrans might win. That’s enough to keep me watching.
I hope you’ll be watching too.
David Culbert and his company Jump Media has been involved with the Herald Sun Tour since 2005, worked on the world road championships in 2010 and world track championships in 2011 and has the contract to manage media and communications for the two Chinese legs of the UCI world tour. They are also Australian management for Orica – GreenEDGE rider Simon Gerrans.