The coronavirus pandemic presented the peloton with unprecedented challenges throughout 2020.
Still, there was a silver lining in the series of postponed races and multi-month lockdowns – TV odds for the Tour de France and other major races saw sharp increases across Europe.
While many other sports across Europe have been shut down or forced to be played without supporters in stadiums, the allure of open road racing has seemed to appeal to avid sports fans.
Officials from various broadcasters have confirmed that 2020 is a record year for viewership for the Tour and other major cycling races, despite the date being postponed to dates unknown on the international calendar.
Tour de France fans were told to stay at home, the publicity caravan was scaled back and major climbs were off-limits to everyone except the racing circus. Often times, TV commentators called the race remote from studios or from makeshift broadcast booths in guest rooms.
Cycling has unrolled its “bubble”, but this has only increased interest in racing.
While there was some concern that seeing the Tour de France in September might have a negative impact, it never materialized. Rather the opposite.
Add to that the pent-up demand among avid live sports viewers, and broadcasters have seen near-record or record numbers throughout the rescheduled 2020 WorldTour schedule.
Eurosport recently confirmed very strong numbers for the so-called ‘COVID season’ in all of its major televised racing events.
“We are delighted to see such strong and consistent results across all areas of the business,” said Simon Downing, Head of Eurosport UK. “We have worked tirelessly to ensure that we can still provide the best possible viewing experience for fans despite unprecedented circumstances.”
EurosportThe numbers rose 68% on the three major circuits, the Tour up 48%, the Giro d’Italia up 82% and the Vuelta a España almost doubled, up 95% from the last year.
And the interest wasn’t just because cycling was the only game in town. A new generation of standout racers, coupled with some sharp action throughout the season, delivered enticing running dynamics almost every racing day that made the professional racing sport version of ‘Must See’. TV ”in 2020.
According to ASO, organizer of the Tour de France, the 2020 edition of the Tour recorded a record audience rate in France. The race, broadcast live on the national channels France 2 and France 4, saw 7 million more viewers than in 2019.
Even more encouraging has been a sharp increase in the share of young viewers, with 55% of the audience share between the ages of 15 and 24, officials said.
The average audience per stage was 3.5 million viewers, with the largest share tuned in for the decisive climb stage ending at the top of the Grand Colombier, with 6.3 million viewers.
French television has also seen a strong increase in its audience with its online users through its website and app, with 25 million video views during the Tour on its virtual platforms. Tour de France officials said there were 14.5 million unique visitors to its website, while the official Tour app had 1 million active users. The Tour’s official fantasy league also saw 60,000 more users than in 2019.
This success has resulted in numerous events in the rescheduled race calendar. On the men’s side, only a handful of one-day races have been canceled – like Paris-Roubaix and Amstel Gold Race – as part of the revamped schedule that resumed in August.
The other races have seen solid numbers. In Spain, more than 2 million spectators watched the last mountain stage at La Covatilla broadcast on the Spanish national public channel.
“The crowd has been very good at this edition of the Vuelta,” said Vuelta Race Director Javier Guillén. “The public wants to see the show. Every day for 18 stages something interesting was happening and the GC was wide open. The fans were hooked from day one, and I think this year everyone was talking about the Vuelta.
Organizers hope to capitalize on these encouraging audience figures across Europe for 2021.