Shrinking Audiences and Unintended Consequences

Looking forward to the Giro? You must be, once glance at the start list and you feel like the astronaut David Bowman in the Arthur C Clarke novel “2001 A Space Odyssey” as you exclaim “my god, it’s full of stars“.

If you’re Dutch it’s even better as Steven Kruijswijk is back for revenge with Tom Dumoulin, Wilco Kelderman and Bauke Mollema all in the mix too. So far so good but broadcast deals mean the race will no longer be shown on the main public channels because the rights have been bought by Eurosport. This may pose problems for some teams and their sponsors as it means a shrinking audience.

There’s been a shake-up of broadcasting rights this year with RCS selling coverage of its races (the Giro, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico et cetera) to Eurosport, instead of Sporza in Belgium and NOS in the Netherlands and this has advantages and disadvantages too and these are shared unequally.

A brief history of Eurosport
Eurosport was launched in the late 1980s after a pan-European consortium of broadcasters realised they held so many TV rights for sports events and they didn’t know what to do with them. Satellite television was taking off in Europe and the channel was launched with Britain’s Sky behind the project but legal issues saw things stall it was resuscitated by France’s TF1 channel in the early 1990s. Think of it as a cheap space for spare sports programmes but its ability to attract a niche audience was valuable and the costs were low because it was piggybacking on the filming and production done by others. In 2012 TF1 sold a stake in the channel to US firm Discovery Communications and in 2015 Discovery bought the channel in full.

Eurosport today
What’s it mean? Well for starters Eurosport now has a wealthy backer and sports rights have become more valuable, they’re not the surplus images dumped onto a back channel, they’re valuable content. This is good for the cycling fan as the rights for more races are being bought, although as ever the price is never high given modest audiences and high production costs. But the likes of Eurosport offer us fans plenty of good coverage and because they know that a lot of the audience are hardcore cycling fans they can spend time on air talking about tactics and tech rather than cheese and castles.

But Eurosport is a niche channel. In some countries, like Britain and France, it’s a premium or subscription service available via satellite or cable providers. In others like Germany or the Netherlands it’s free to air. Free but not watched so often, for example Eurosport is available to watch in 37 million households in German but when the average German citizen turns on their TV it’s not Eurosport that comes on. So it’s a niche, something you go to rather than sit on front and wait for whatever’s on to come to you.

Eurosport offers plenty of good coverage, it typically relays the video from races around the world but employs professional commentators and often co-commentators as well as others for pre-race and post-stage analysis. Chances are it’s so good that many fans outside of Europe even resort to pirate feeds or elaborate VPN systems in order to watch the content. This might be wrong but it shows how some will jump over any hurdles put in front of them just to get cycle sport coverage with commentary in a language they understand.

Which brings us to the problem. Dutch teams like Lotto-Jumbo and Team Sunweb (which is part Dutch, part German but that’s another debate) are going all in for the Giro with their best riders. Only having made their plans it turns out the race won’t be as visible in their home market of the Netherlands. Of course you can find it, just as you’ve found this blog and just as you might watch a pixelated feed with those whack-a-mole pop-ups. But that’s you, a fan of the sport, a convert. For others, it won’t be as easy to find and the typical Dutch household won’t see the Giro so easily. This matters because sponsors like Jumbo and Sunweb are not targeting you and I but want to reach the consumer mass market, they don’t want tens or hundreds of thousands of fans, they want the millions in the mass market.

Jumbo sponsor, chhota audience?

Shrinking audience
This was a hypothesis in January and now it’s becoming reality, we’re already seeing the problem show up in audience numbers. The Strade Bianche got an audience of about 50,000 this year on Eurosport’s Dutch channel compared to 400,000 when it was live on public television last year. Professor Daam Van Reeth – editor of the surprisingly compelling The Economics of Professional Road Cycling – who keeps a close eye on these things predicted that Milan-Sanremo would only get 100,000 viewers in Belgium when normally it’d get 800,000 to a million viewers on Eén (“One”, Flemish public TV, aka Sporza). With the results in it turns out that the viewing figures were not down by as much as Van Reeth forecast but still down by half. The point isn’t the professor’s ability to forecast ratings but the actual numbers that viewing figures have halved. That ability to reach a mass market has shrunk.

Domestic vs Foreign viewers
A note on the importance of foreign broadcast rights. In short it’s nice but the domestic audience is what counts. For a race like the Giro d’Italia there was an average global audience of around 2.9 million per day in 2012 according to Van Reeth and if precise data is hard to come by typically half or more of the daily audience is based in Italy. So once you divide up the rest of the world between all the different markets then the importance of the Belgium and Dutch markets isn’t too high for RCS. But it is crucial for the likes of sponsors like Jumbo or Sunweb.

Public TV in public places

The moral of the story is that race owners get to pick who they sell their TV rights to and there are consequences. When RCS sells the broadcast rights in some markets to Eurosport – now backed by the deep pockets of Discovery – it could earn more money for the race itself but there are consequences, it can also mean smaller audiences. We’re already seeing this in Belgium and the Netherlands where the TV ratings for RCS events like Milan-Sanremo have halved. With luck the Dutch audiences will sustain themselves as people make their way to Eurosport in order to follow the fortunes of Steven Kruijswijk but that’s just the point, it requires people to find a channel rather than just turn on the TV and this simple change can result in hundreds of thousands of viewers being lost.

The piece above looks at the topic from the example of RCS and Eurosport’s Dutch language coverage but this is only an illustration, the same issues apply to other races in other markets with other deals*. Perhaps all TV is going this way as the audience fragments into ever smaller niches so that everyone can find something they want to watch when they want to watch? Overall that’s no bad thing but there are unintended consequences. Pro cycling’s model has been based on mass market television from the days when everyone in a household or a café would congregate around a TV and accept the implicit pact where riders were pedalling billboards and teams named after their sponsors. If this is coming undone then it will impact teams and their sponsors. For now there’s nothing drastic, there’s no need for doomsday headlines but like the Monolith in the 2001 film it’ll take us a while to work out what it all means so until then watch the trend as over the long term the shake-up of broadcast rights and Eurosport’s deeper pockets could alter the sport’s model.

  • * For example the Giro d’Italia and other RCS races won’t be on SBS in Australia any longer. In Japan all RCS races have been sold to the DAZN streaming service rather than TV’s J-Sports, the habitual home of cycling in Japan, and as of pixel time there’s no news of Japanese language commentary and there will be no Flanders Classics races on J-Sports either. Normally you’d think Australia and Japan are just the kind of large consumer markets where these events would want to expand rather than shrink/vanish.

158 thoughts on “Shrinking Audiences and Unintended Consequences”

      • In addition to the GIRO also missing many of the smaller one day races, including Strade Bianche. After years of SBS increasing their coverage now a significant decrease.

        Thanks for the article, I had wondered what the reasons behind the changes were.

        • SBS were not offered the rights to any RCS races (Giro, strade bianche, lombardia etc) this year. Eurosport has the exclusive rights to Australian Broadcast. SBS never had the option to purchase. Its the same scenario in Australia as Holland and Belgium, the situation which inrng is referring to above.

          • And Italy (for the Flemish Classics). And Spain (both RCS races and Flemish Classics). And so on (France the only exception?).

            Can you confirm that SBS wasn’t offered the rights? If it was that way, it would be quite worrying and it’s probably the way it worked in other countries, too.

            I really hope that the whole lot of money Discovery-Eurosport *should* have paid for that (not only “the exclusive” but an “out-of-the-market exclusive”) didn’t end in the pockets of IMG alone, that is, the whole quantity over the fixed fee which Farrand refers to?

            Was it so, that would deserve a place somewhere between tragic, comical and criminal.

          • @gabriele I can confirm it, SBS doesn’t have an official written statement about it (which seems foolish because people keep tweeting complaints at SBS assuming SBS just didn’t feel like running the Giro this year) but they mentioned it in their official podcast which was written about here

            The executive producer for SBS Sport actually linked to this very article

          • @GB
            Thank you. Wow. Now I’d just like to know if this masterpiece brought most of the differential instant money – which we must suppose to be relevant – to RCS (and Flanders Classics) or to IMG. If the latter was true, it would be quite shocking.
            Eurosport might even decide to pay – perhaps indirectly – some amount of money to IMG in order to avoid a bidding competition, and that could be convenient both for ES and IMG… it wouldn’t for organisers and cycling, but, hey, who cares?

          • A mutually beneficial backroom deal need not be the only possible explanation for the absence of an open auction. It could be that IMG used Eurosport as a tool, so to speak, and the purpose of the whole exercise is to hitch up the price *in future deals* higher than it would in a natural war of bidding.
            Eurosport doesn’t have bottomless pockets and the coverage of the RCS races will not bring in a huge amount of new customers or advertisers and neither will it enable an instant increase of subscription fees or air time prices. If IMG had not excluded SBS, there would have been the risk that SBS had won the auction by offerring a reasonably moderate sum and the long-term strategy concocted up by the smart guys at IMG would have misfired.

            This is pure speculation and I might just as likely be wrong than right, but this is exactly what happened in other sports and in other markets. Of course, in those cases there was enough public outcry and demand for the return of things to the way they used to be that the excluded broadcaster was put to strong enough pressure to reacquire the rights “at any price”,

          • @Eskerrik Asko
            Yeah, but I think that the exclusive deal (which I think is for three years at least) is a bit too long if the reason was what you’re suggesting. Besides, the agreement between RCS and IMG allegedly would end precisely at the same time as the ES exclusive. IMG put on the table all they had in their hands…
            The case of France also makes me think that perhaps ES’ offer was open to exceptions: IMG/RCS maybe underestimated the importance of some markets, or considered that they were already reaching a top and thus decided to monetise that.

  1. Thanks for the article. I can understand why they want to do it but it is going to be so much harder for someone to chance upon cycling and then get into it.

    Do you know if RAI has a long term deal with RCS or is the coverage on a public channel in Italy protected in any way?

        • We should also be aware that this is a EU drective not a regulation. Member states can decide on their own how to implement it. If eurosport 1 is available in general cable tv packages in belgium than effectively MSR is available to the public.

          Even though…watching cycling on eurosport with commercials poping up every 10 minutes and listening to that cheesy commentator…damn…I’ll miss Sporza coverage so much!

    • The deal gets renewed every few years but as things stand right now, I can’t see anyone but RAI producing the broadcasting. The only media companies of comparable size are Mediaset (Berlusconi’s media empire) and Sky. The former used to broadcast cycling in the 90s but as things stand I don’t think they are interested in doing so again; for the latter it probably wouldn’t be a good investment to produce a grand tour and offer it via pay-per-view. The latest RAI-RCS agreement saw the migration of cycling broadcasting from Rai 3 (more culture-oriented) to Rai 2 (more entertainment-oriented), which suggests RCS might be pushing to cater to young people rather than the traditional Giro audience. My grandpa’s not gonna like this one bit.
      Last but not least it’s worth mentioning that E.U. laws require that some events have to be broadcasted to the largest audience possible in countries where they hold special significance/following (the Giro in Italy being one of those, along with Italian NT football games, the F1 Monza Grand Prix, etc.) so even if someone else bought the rights, (most of) Italy would still get (at least parts of) it for free.

      • Thanks for that explanation Freckles. The US has no similar broadcast protections for local or ‘significant’ events which supersede the normal rights, but historically it has been part of the agreements with teams that a local broadcaster be given rights to a certain number of games, and the biggest games (Superbowl notably) are almost always on a public channel since the advertising prices are so astronomical. But this varies by sport and by team.

        It’s quite surprising there isn’t something, as public money is routinely spent to subsidize the sports operations (huge amounts of tax money being spent on building private sports arenas, tax breaks for teams to move etc). I wonder if this is common practice in other countries.

        I also couldn’t imagine anyone other than RAI holding court for the Giro, as their Processo alla Tappa after stage shows are one of the best parts of the race! Uran and his cactus was a highlight of 2015 for everyone, I’m sure.

  2. How about outsourcing the TV distribution of all races to one entity whose job would be to find the right balance between visibility for the sponsors and revenue generation? Selling all TV rights as a package would surely generate more money and part of the surplus could even go to the teams, which badly need new income sources. That would be so cool, and I’m sure us fans would also get easier access to race coverage. Oh wait, someone in Issy-les-Moulineaux might not be too enthusiastic about that

    • This “common pool” is interesting and after all it’s a similar system to how Eurosport itself started with TV channels across Europe sharing their rights. But you can see why ASO would be reticent about joining, they have the most valuable rights and would see their control over this diluted. Perhaps because they own the most valuable assets they’d get majority control but then would RCS settle for losing the ability to sell their own rights? Not easy.

      The worry is the deals today undermine the existing main income source for teams, eg reduced audiences make cycling less valuable for the likes of Lotto NL and Jumbo etc before anyone tries new sources. Perhaps Discovery will get involved with the teams?

    • The “right balance”… easier said than done.

      What a pity we’ve been *already* living such an experience with an external *entity* (and perhaps we’re living it right now, too), because when we speak of RCS or Flanders Classics we tend to forget that they both have or had a deal with the same IMG as the world distributor of rights…
      I don’t know if the Flemish are still in (they allegedly were from 2013 to 2016, I think), but the RCS deal was supposedly running from 2012 to 2020, if they didn’t pay themselves out.
      Hence, yeah, when criticising we should perhaps focus less on organisers and more on the work of their distributors, because the experience we already had wasn’t exactly great.
      A good work was started in some circunstances, say, with the Giro in Spain, but it was aborted in a couple of years time, just when it was growing fine.

      As I said, I don’t know if the deal was broken in the while, I was following events mainly in 2012 and 2013, and not more recently, but the BeIN French deal, for example, was a real disaster for the Giro, just as sending the Ronde on pay TV in Spain, where it lost most of its appeal when compared to Roubaix.

      And should we speak about another similar company, say, Infront? Wow. What they did to the Worlds still gives me the creeps. And what surfaced about them in Italy is even beyond creeps.

      Note that I’m not against the idea of creating a package as such (as you say, ASO wouldn’t like it), though, what we’ve seen with *packages* so far is that viewers have been *losing* option to see important races, and the calendar has become even more fragmented, television-wise. No “easier access” at all to race coverage.

        • QED.
          However, it’s the same for Flanders Classics in Italy (or in Spain), I didn’t understand if Farrand got that since in the first of his tweets he says that “RAI is also showing fewer Classics”.

          I suspect that it’s IMG (plus Eurosport) all over again. In Spain all the Flanders Classics rights have been sold to Eurosport as an exclusive, just as the RCS rights.
          And that’s why RAI isn’t *obviously* showing as many Classics as in the past: they’ve been sold as exclusive and the price has been raised well beyond what a public broadcaster is ready to spend.

          At least Belgians can see their onw races and Italians the same with the RCS package, but Spain is a total disaster. The Ronde hadn’t been available for years, and now RCS race aren’t, either. You’ve got to pay to watch the Giro or the Tirreno, but also three out of five Mouments are now behind the paywall. Season-long narration, huh?
          And cycling reportedly had just become the more practiced sport in Spain… overcoming football, running and swimming. Watching figures were growing fast, indeed – it probably was the country with more season-long summed-up viewers (it was the only country where you could watch the three GTs on a public TV and the three made very fine results).

          That’s the problem with *external entities*. They really don’t care about the sport: if Farrand is right, they maximise their gain over the fixed fee, even if it means disrupting the sport.

          Season-long narrative… Easier access to race coverage… Visibility for the sponsors… Pffffffffff!!!

  3. In the UK Eurosport is “free to air”.
    If you have a sky dish an pull the viewing card out, Eurosport will still show, no subscrption needed.
    It is classed as a “news” channel on the Sky platform.

      • My understanding is that it is available via Sky, but only if you are paying for the expensive sports package.
        I pay for the Eurosport Player Apple app during the cycling season which has gone up this season to £7 a month. It’s cheaper if you subscribe via the non apple viewing platform.
        I might test that viewing card removal technique though.

        • Eurosport is available with the medium (one up from the basic) TV package so you can get it without having to pay for sports channels luckily.

          • Yep, Mr_Tapir is correct. Having recently moved and finally got legitimate Sky/Eurosport myself (F1 means I needed sports but I also wanted Eurosport anyway, plus bonus cricket action), where was the Giro and the like last year and years previous in the UK? I think it was Eurosport so nothing has changed for us, I certainly can’t remember being able to find it on free-to-air, it definitely wasn’t on ITV4 (home of ASO races).

          • My cable TV provider includes Eurosport (but not HD) in its basic package. I don’t think it’s on Freeview, which is the free digital TV service in the UK.

        • Just to be clear, Eurosport is certainly encrypted, and is not available free to air. Recently Sky and Eurosport’s owners Discovery were in dispute, and Eurosport was very nearly pulled for Sky subscribers. A last minute deal was done, and none of the channels actually went off air. While Eurosport could have chosen to go unencrypted and rely solely on advertising revenue, that’s a different business model.

          Eurosport isn’t part of the expensive Sky “Sports” bundle, but you do need to pay for the “Variety” bundle. This is one step up from the base level “Original” bundle. In essence, Eurosport collects a few pence per subscriber from month from your subscription fees, rather than solely relying on advertising.

          While Eurosport isn’t broadcast on satellite in the UK as a free to air channel, if you point your dish in a slightly different direction, I believe you can pull in German Eurosport which is still free to air.

          • Don’t forget to chancel your Direct Debit or Paypal recurring payments, otherwise you’ll notice a rather large amount taken when the contract tries to renew itself.

          • That was on all platforms, but the offer expired at the end of January. At the time Discovery were complaining to all that they were going to get kicked off the Sky platform. The deadline comes, lo and behold there’s a Sky/Discovery deal, meanwhile fans had taken the £20 offer rather than wait to see the outcome of negotiations and maybe have to pay £40+ for the player for the year instead.

            I didn’t have Sky, so I was happy for the discount, but this did look like fans were getting played.

    • Genuine free-to-air cycling TV in the UK would be ITV4 (ASO races, Tour of Britain, Women’s Tour), the BBC (World Championships and Prudential RideLondon) and BIKE (er – mountain bike?)

      EurosportUK isn’t free to air

      • Isn’t BIKE (which shows sod all worth watching, and presumably promotes cycling by inspiring potential watchers to go out for a spin instead) owned/backed by the Evil Murdoch empire? Frankly, the badly overdubbed Euroshows would be greatly improved if a dubbing drone replaced the platitudes with some more confrontational conversations along the lines of ‘your mother is a bad lover’ etc

  4. This is a problem facing all sport in the uk (except football). The big downside is that the money raised is never enough to compensate the damage done to grass roots by lack of exposure. The was a great piece on cricket a few years back and the fact that in today’s youth teams very few players will mimic styles of the professionals, because only those who subscribe to sky at home have ever seen them.

    Eurosport is thankfully often bundled in the uk with a lot of providers.. but say for example shy were to bid for the tdf, you’d be looking at ~£30 for the month to watch it which would put a lot of people off.

    • Interesting you mention cricket. There was a chap on the radio this morning talking about the new Twenty20 competition and how it will have free-to-air games because they need to attract new/young audiences to their sport.

      • Indeed. The cricket authorities are finally starting to see the problems with their pay TV approach. The cash up front is great but if you are not attracting new, young audiences and participants that money will eventually dry up.
        8.4million watched the Ashes in 2005 compared to less than 500,000 in 2015 (plus nearly 1m on free to air highlights).
        This is a lesson for cycling across Europe.
        The Eurosport coverage is good btw (as is Sky cricket) but as the article covers most people still watch the free to air channels and won’t go searching.

        • Cricket has sold its soul, as far as I’m concerned. And football has too, though they’re not paying the price as yet.
          I can recall watching ‘Botham’s Ashes’ on the BBC, and the great West Indies teams etc as a kid.
          It’s not as simple as to say less cricket on tv equates to less youngsters,as schools provide a very important input too.
          But watching the *major* home cricket events on free-to-air, like the Ashes, is surely a huge attraction to youngsters and their loss could therefore be huge.
          There is definitely a lesson there for Italy, Belgium, France, Spain and Holland as far as their home cycling coverage is concerned.

  5. I’m not in favour of pay-per-view for sporting events but the current analysis methods feel very dated.

    It feels like. that with each passing year, television (if you can truly say that, these days) audiences are becoming ever more sophisticated and able to follow sport by various means, either live or catch-up.

    Measuring television viewing figures seems like a very blunt tool?

    Having said that, it does seem bound to impact finances in some way, both for teams and possibly the viewer.
    Pricing the public out of sports is wrong on many levels.

    • Agreed, audience measuring will be left behind if it doesn’t become a bit more subtle.
      An example from this year Sanremo in Italy. The average audience was measured in 1.17 M, while the previous year it was 1.35 or so (I’m not checking). But this year it was measured along 4 hours, one hour more than in 2016. Now that becomes frankly impressive. Same could be said for the full live show of Roubaix or Tour stages… figures totally change their meaning.

      That said, traditional generalist TV figures are still *hugely* superior to whatever else, really, internet, pay or whatever, and, as such, must be taken into account as the first and most significant factor. For now and for some years to come, I’d say.

      We must take care with the internet myths we’re sometimes being often sold because of long-term predictions which are presented as “this is today’s world” or “tomorrow morning at best you’ll see it”. Whereas…
      The same is happening with “paper press”… it suffered a lot because investors believed all of a sudden that “it was over”, now most of them discovered that the paper still does impressive figures (worse than the past, but still better than “the online”) and in several countries they are keeping their money there.
      And that’s about measuring, too, as you suggested… but working a different way. Someone started to notice that all those clicks weren’t worth *attention*, *readers’ time* and *persuasion*, which is what you’re really selling. People have been selling clicks as a prop, but little by little the buyers have started to become aware that they were just that… clicks.
      The supposed storm generated by the “online revolution” was mainly about speculation, financial pressure and creating monopolies (well, it’s way more complicated, but I’ve gone OT enough).

  6. TBH I don’t know why Eurosport is not heavily promoting its “Eurosport Player” service. It’c cheap, accessible and has many advantages over pirate streamings. The only problem is, that it doesn’t cover ev every race, but still it’s better than the “TV”, as you have access to both Eurosport 1, 2, replays, stream without commentary etc.

    • I think because it has no catch up functionality… a lot of cycling is on in the week during traditional working hours. If it had this, I’d be the first to ditch sky and move straight onto that

      • The version i have does have a limited catch-up facility (you can rewind about 3 hours). Eurosport does also repeat races quite often in the evening, so we’ve usually been able to catch the things we want to see.

    • I agree, I went with Eurosport player as I don’t/won’t have Sky and don’t have a decent cable TV service where I live – copper cable broadband only.

      I paid £20 for a years subscription in January – it was an offer – and it’s been great. Can watch on mobile when at work :-).

    • my gripe is that after paying for an expensive BT contract so I could watch it, I then found I still had to pay extra for eurosport player online. AND a million adverts! [though I’m coming round to whatshisname with the crap jokes.]

  7. Nowadays Eurosport in Germany is free-to-air only via satellite. No ES at all via DVB-T, and for DVB-C you have to pay.
    And lately they showed a lot of races (MSR for instance) live only on Eurosport2 for which you always have to pay extra money. Or you could watch 4 stages Catalunya free on ES1 but the last two on ES2, cause some shitty winter sport or whatever needed to be broadcasted instead. 2 or 3 years ago they showed the whole Giro live only on ES2. Don’t know how their plans for this year look like. Though even if we have F-T-A ES1, it’s not that easy to see all the races I want.

    • Hm, don’t know where you live in Germany, but I get ES1 as normal program, without any additional setup, cards or anything. And honestly – I think this is the case everywhere in Germany. Normales Kabelfernsehen.

  8. “You must be, once glance at the start list and you feel like the astronaut David Bowman in the Kubrick film 2001 A Space Odyssey as you exclaim “my god, it’s full of stars”.”

    The line “my god, it’s full of stars” is only used in the 2001 novel, not the film. It is, however, used in the (very average) sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. This is such a minor correction that I almost didn’t bother typing it out, but INRNG and 2001 are two of my favourite things – and I didn’t think they’d ever been relevant to one another – so I couldn’t resist. Sorry! Err, back to the cycling…

  9. Lets hope this change in broadcasting rights does not hasten the death of cycling, like it did to astronaut Dave Bowman.

    Or perhaps this is the acceleration needed and is the embryonic form of nice TV, watching over us, waiting to become our overloads.

  10. I live in Hong Kong and up until last year Eurosport was available through a local cable station called NOW TV. Much of the rest of it’s programming is American and British junk TV – lots of cooking, bridal and celebrity rubbish. The service is dreadful, the interface is p!ss poor and the decoder needs rebooting regularly, but it showed the cycling, so I stumped up every month for the subscription. However, since it was sold to Discovery NOW TV has dropped Eurosport completely, so it’s hastened the death of televised cycling over here… 🙁

  11. Very good piece, inrng.
    I’d just point out that, as I discussed with prof. Van Reeth both personally and on this blog, the 2012 Giro figures were factually wrong (they forgot to sum up some important data, hence underestimating the total value), besides not being very much appropriate as a reference being more of a historical low point than some sort of representative sample.
    When the Giro was being broadcast in Spain, the global audience could be estimated at about 4.5-5 M (within a conservative perspective). However, saying that half of the audience is national is not that far from truth, but I’d say that a more exact assessment would have been 40% of national audience (1.8-2 M). I also agree about both RCS and RAI not being very much interested in the international sponsors’ market.
    The problem is that we’re going to face a self-fulfilling prophecy: having sold away the rights for the main foreign countries which watched the Giro, plus a big and fast-growing one (Spain), from now on a greater share of audience will be Italian *and* foreign sponsors will be even less interested in the Italian GT.
    Along with Van Reeth, we broadly estimated (informally) that the Sanremo, probably lost more than 500 K spectators of international audience out of broadcasting policies only. We went from a global audience clearly superior to 2.7 M (a partial sample of countries already reached 2.7 M), 1.3 M of which was in Italy – to 1.9 M (within the same sample), 1.2 M of which in Italy.

    As I had forecast, Eurosport indeed invested in an aggressive expansion strategy which achieved a very significant audience growth, partly making for the inevitable spectators’ loss when compared with free channels (in Spain, Eurosport has been doubling viewers each year for the last three years or so… even if, for sure, that’s easier when you start with laughable figures). Even so, the impact for global cycling audience was shocking, and Eurosport’s growth will reach a top, I’m afraid.

    Apparently, both RCS and RAI get the money they want from the sponsors and aren’t interested in finding global sponsors, or perhaps the Giro is a greater value for local companies, hence they’re just ready to offer more.

    What I find absurd is that Spain is currently a huge consumer market which is being invaded by foreign companies, including Italian ones. The Spanish market looked like pretty much closed until recent years, especially when commodities are concerned, with many not-so-competitive local companies holding huge market shares just because no international competitor was very much interested in coming in (exceptions in the automotive sector). Now German, French and Italian companies are rushing in… but Italian ones apparently don’t rely as much on marketing (while you can constantly see lots of German and French brands ads on), it looks like they prefer working on the distribution level.

    However, it’s the perfect marketing situation to use cycling: household commodities, middle to low spending level, new markets in which you want to break in (cycling is great to have your name known and build brand familiarity, which depend on constant and frequent repetition, more than to build up a “powerful” image, which depends on winning, typically a scarce resource in cycling – all of which, by the way, is the reason for the reduced sponsor longevity, Banesto made itself a name for years to come, just as Saeco, they wouldn’t gain much staying in the sport).
    The Vuelta has got a couple of very big French sponsor (notably, Carrefour) and a couple of German ones, too – but also needs a very significant help from “more or less public” companies, whereas the Giro can live much more on private capitals, but they’re mainly Italian.

    I think RCS are being short-sighted, but… hey… they know better, no doubt.
    A better POV would be considering that they’re choosing stability (even if it implies a slight contraction) over risky growth, which might be a fine strategy, if it’s linked to a middle-long term project – is it?
    And I’d stress that the *same* policies are being brought on by Flanders Classics, it’s not just an RCS thing, which makes me suspect that ASO’s dominant position has something to do with the present decisions of other race organisers… Maybe it’s not just them being short-sighted, it’s the lack of balance in the sport generating unhealthy and self-destructive processes.

  12. Eurosport’s online service is infuriating on so many occasions (and no I don’t mean Carlton Kirby).
    Watch using the 3-hour rewind function and they have little dots on the scroll bar. Accidentally roll your mouse over one of them and the result of the race you’re watching flashes up. Ingeniously, they won’t say ‘Tirenno-Adriatico’ finish, which would tell you what they presumably are trying to help you find, they’ll say ‘Geraint Thomas’, thus instaneously ruining the race for you.
    They also have a ‘back to live’ box in the bottom-right corner of the screen – in another attempt to show you the result.
    On the videos section, if they’ve bothered to put up the video of the race and if it’s working (about a 50/50 chance of both of those happening), they will also flash up ‘related content’ – whether you want it or not. This will show a picture of Sergio Henao wearing the winner’s jersey from Paris-Nice – and thus, once again, they have found a way of ruining the race.
    If I had any other inexpensive option – I can’t usually watch races live, so I need the rewind function – I’d ditch them.
    I’ve complained to them so many times that I imagine I’m known as ‘That c***’.
    And Kirby.

    • Agree that Eurosport need a more rigorous non-spoiler approach to their video library rather like, I’ve quite often been looking forward to catching up on a race only to see the result flashed on the screen. This just needs a little care and organization, not money. In that sense, it seems rather amateur.

  13. Inrng does fail to mention the upside in that Eurosport will cover every stage of the Giro in its entirety. What a blessing for Carlton Kirby fans.

    • What do you mean? They aren’t producing it: the available footage depends on RAI and the decision to broadcast it is up to any different broadcaster, I don’t think that Sporza showed shorter versions – RTVE for sure didn’t.

        • RAI is allegedly producing the stages in their entirety, indeed, or so it seems (I’m afraid that we might have some interruption in order to use less helicopters time or whatever, but that’s mainly because I’m a pessimist).
          What I mean is that Eurosport decision is just about broadcasting it – or not – it’s not like they’ve got anything to do with the existence of that possibility.
          Deciding to broadcast the full product they bought is a merit, no doubt (some broadcaster don’t do that), but it’s not an Eurosport peculiarity or anything they created or prompted.

    • There’s always a section of the comments that see people invoke commentators they don’t like but remember many other readers won’t know who they are, in the same way Michel Wuyts, Thierry Adam or Beppe Conti aren’t known so well.

  14. The best thing Eurosport has done this year is offer a the Internet viewer a “commentary free” option, which I sincerely hope continues. Just the sound of the crowd, the motorbikes, the riders tyres and occasionally the riders talking. It is great (insert smiley FACE).

      • Just some examples from yesterday of Kirbys complete ineptitude for those fortunate enough to have not listened to him. During stage 1 of De Panne the peleton were approaching the foot of the Muur for the first time and Quick Step are on the front, Kirby says ‘nice to see Marcel Kittel has asked for some pace here’, implying that Kittel – one of the very worst climbers in the peleton – was thinking of attacking on the hardest hill in the race, and not Philippe Gilbert the renowned puncheur. Obviously Gilbert then attacked and got clear with a group for a lap round to the Muur for a second time. Now Kirby rattled on about how inevitable it was that Kristoffs chasing group would catch the leading group and that Gilbert would probably sit up and save his energy for a sprint. All this whilst Devenyns was drilling himself on the front of the lead group to set up Gilbert, who of course attacked and won! Clueless.

  15. Interesting piece, going into a discussion that has been extremely lively the past month or so in both NL and Be. And when I say “lively” I don’t mean that in a good way, sadly.

    Most Dutch and Belgian households have Eurosport 1 (and some have 1 and 2) in their package, so most households could watch the races on Eurosport at no additional costs. However, they don’t (or do so less)… because they don’t want to! There’s several reasons for that, the main ones being:
    1) Commentators: There’s many viewers that don’t like the Eurosport commentators, specifically José Been and Jeroen Vanbelleghem. José gets flack for being a woman, and Jeroen for… I don’t know why. Not having a nice voice or something? (Ps, I personally think they’re great! And also love Bobbie Traksel, Karsten Kroon, Michel Cornelissen, etc as their “wingmen”, aka expert analysts – I’d certainly put the commentary of Europsort on par with that on Sporza, maybe even higher)
    2) Commercials: Dutch and Belgian viewers have been so spoiled with Sporza (also available in most Dutch TV packages, so many watch cycling there) and NOS broadcasts without any commercials at all, that they’re infuriated (I’m not exaggerating here) by the commercial blocks.

    These two “issues” came together in a most sad and frankly quite sickening way a few weeks ago when José Been actually started receiving threats via social media. Some idiots threatening they’d “come to Hilversum with a group of people”. (Hilversum is the operational centre for most Dutch channels, and it’s where the commentary for Dutch and Belgian Eurosport is produced in the sound studios of another Discovery owned company). Imagine being so infuriated with a few commercials, that actually pay for the broadcast, that you’d start uttering threats towards people only doing their jobs best they can

    • Oh, and one thing I forgot to mention: There’s (for years now) a big debate going on in NL about the public broadcasters (including NOS) being “too expensive”, as they’re paid with tax payers’ money. But at the same time’ they whine and moan about commercials. I’m not sure if the same discussion exists in Belgium, but I can imagine could easily be the case.

      So basically, Dutch cycling viewers want to have their cake (for free) and eat it (without being interrupted) too

        • I know, but I was comparing public broadcasters (much less commercials, but tax funded) versus commercial broadcasters (more commercials, but no tax money goes there).

          I know Belgium also has commercial broadcasters (with commercials), and I know the public broadcaster is tax funded as well (although it’s a lot cheaper than the Dutch public broadcaster) but I’m not sure if Belgians complain about the costs of the public broadcaster as much as Dutch do. Dutch people tend to complain a lot anyway 😉

          • NOS hardly ever broadcasted the giro live. Only when the grande partenzas were in the Netherlands. So, there isn’t really an audience lost. Eurosport deserves credit for showing so much cycling. Today i was able to view Gilbert shine in de Panne from Germany (Eurosport!). NOS deserves critiscism for owning cycling rights, but not showing the race, for example Paris-Nice.

          • It depends on your political color of choice. Leftist people usually say the public broadcaster is fine or underfunded, right-wingers (and nationalists) usually claim the public broadcaster is too expensive (and partisan) but in general most people seem happy about it. I rarely watch any of it to be fair.

          • @Marsmann
            Yep. Agree with that!

            @ StephanTI
            True, but we’ve seen plenty of examples of know how the right wing agenda influences policy, even if they don’t have a majority of the people behind them. There was a big debate in parliament just last year on how to reform the public broadcaster. Whether you and I agree or not, one of the issues on the table was how to reduce costs and/or raise revenues. They even had some consultancy firm write a report on all the options how to achieve those aims.

    • I get your point, but ES ads, at least in my experience (it may vary from country to country, I guess), tend to be *very* annoying; like, taking advantage of the hottest moment of the race – which isn’t at all as *smart* on their part as it could seem at first: cycling fans tend to watch constantly the whole last hour or so, no need to ruin the decisive instants of the race, even more so if you think about the negative *anger feedback* you generate.
      And, following your metaphore, perhaps they don’t understand why should they pay for their cake twice, as in both paying a ticket when entering the shop (that is, when buying their subscription) *and* through the – huge lot of – ads (paying the single cake they bought).

      • In NL they tend to broadcast the final 45 to 30 minutes without commercials. But sometimes the commentators are surprised by a commercial block (they have no say over this, since commercials are started from Eurosport central in Paris), and have to apologise. Which they always do by the way.

        I get your point about “paying twice” (or at least, having the feeling that you’re paying twice), but I really see that as a matter of not wanting to understand what’s going on. The money that a cable provider pays Eurosport (or any other broadcaster for that matter) is not even remotely enough to cover all costs Eurosport makes. The reality is that your TV subscription is a shopping mall to which you go by bus. Yes you pay for acces to it, the bus fare. But that doesn’t mean you get to enter all the shops and clubs for free, for some you have to pay extra (eg, HBO, Playboy channel) and others you can enter for free once you’re there (Eurosport). And it also doesn’t mean all the toys in all the shops are free because you’ve paid your bus fare. Or, different analogy: If you go to a football match in a stadium, you pay for a club membership card, your bus fare and stadium entrance, but still have to pay for a beer and hotdog if you want one. And you pay an extra premium if you want to rent a sky box with catering etc. In the case of Eurosport, you get the beer and hotdog for free but you’ll have to watch a video from Heineken. What Dutch viewers want is to get that beer and hotdog for free, but skip the video.

        People are full well capable of understanding all of this when you explain it. But the problem is: They’re just not *used to it*, since they’re used to getting everything “for free” in one package deal. Well… in fact it only *feels free*, but they actually pay via taxes. And then they complain about taxes being too high because too much money is spent on public broadcasting. Unlike the NOS/Sporza, Eurosport doesn’t get a cent in tax money, and if the Dutch government would even suggest doing so, there’d be riots. Actual riots probably.

      • Eurosport Nordic is probably no better or worse: I have never actually sat down with a stop watch and a note book, but it does seem the ad breaks are sent in clusters rather than at regular intervals during the entire broadcast.
        The intervals are shorter during the first 30-60 minutes, then longer until what could be called the peak of new viewers about 90-60 minutes before the estimated finish of the race. The last 15-30 km are usually free of ad breaks (and the commentator has the good grace of promising the viewers that this will indeed be the last break during the race).
        It is just that despite all this apparent good sense and viewer-friendly policies it quite often happens that key moments are either missed during a break or the break very annoyingly – pardon the pun – breaks the spell, the build-up of suspense and the flow and development of the tactical side of things

        Besides, there are two more hugely irritating things about Eurosport Nordic ads:
        (1) the number of different ads is is quite low and therefore the same ads are rerun over and over and over again, like during every single break and several times during a race and in every race of the week and the month and the season, and
        (2) the amount of sold air time is probably quite a bit lower than Eurosport would like and the “missing ads” are replaced by Eurosport’s own ads which, too, seem to run in endless replay to make up the entire three-minute or so ad break instead of letting the viewers back in on the race action.

        Eurosport 1 comes at a very low cost, a few euros a month, as part of the fixed fee for cable and I cannot object against the commercials in principle. As already pointed out, some races are only shown on Eurosport 2 and to gain access I would have to subscribe to a whole package of sports channels that do not interest me in the least. If I had paid that 30€ per month, I would feel more entitled to a reasonable absence of commercial breaks than I do now.

        PS Since it is Eurosport Nordic, the ads shown are – apart from the “international” ones in English – mostly Norwegian or Swedish, It sometimes provides a little bit of a comic relief for the viewers in the other Nordic countries…

        • ES in Australia often has no advertising so the entire break space is taken up with promos. Usually about cycling. Nothing more frustrating than watching a move starting to occur as they go to a break and then watching 3 minutes of promos from ES imploring you ‘to watch cycling’.

          Hasn’t happened this year yet but every now and then we get a midweek race where we receive the broadcast feed (and commentary) and when there are ad breaks, we receive the pictures along side the race audio. Heaven.

        • The Eurosport 2 thing is extremely annoying. I hardly watch tv outside of cycling and only have a cable subscription because I need it for internet. And when I want to watch a cycling race 50% of the time it’s on Eurosport 2, which is not in the basic package. It would be understandable if Eurosport 2 would show some big sport like football on 1 and then relegate cycling to 2, but one time it was ski jumping, which about 5 people in the Netherlands are interested in.

    • “1) Commentators: There’s many viewers that don’t like the Eurosport commentators
      (Ps, I personally think they’re great! And also love Bobbie Traksel, Karsten Kroon, Michel Cornelissen, etc as their “wingmen”, aka expert analysts – I’d certainly put the commentary of Europsort on par with that on Sporza, maybe even higher)”

      Eurosport = Worst commentators ever (in dutch)

      They sound like they wanna explain cycling to someone who never watched a race.

      For example: If they see a rider eating : ” It’s important to keep eating because in race like this you use a lot of energy, if you don’t eat enough you won’t make it… (+10 more minutes general facts about eating and sport)”

      Every race.

      Talk about the race, not about general cycling stuff that everybody with a little intrest in the sport already knows.

      I would love to pay for a good cycling channel (sporza style) but I refuse to watch eurosport for free.

      • I think it differs a lot by country for Eurosport. In Sweden the commentators are mainly ex-pros who are excellent, and despite commenting a niche sport the main commentator has won prices for best sports commentator of the year

  16. Thanks inrng. Always nice to read an article that is so closely related to my research and great to see once again many interesting remarks and thoughts by Gabriele and others. Their comments offer really valuable information to me, and they offer me an insight into the situation in countries that I can not monitor myself very closely. Thanks to all!

    I will try not to repeat some of the comments already made, but I want to throw in a few more thoughts and data:

    1°) Last year, Gent-Wevelgem had 1.7 million TV viewers in 4 core European cycling markets (Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark & Spain). In Spain, Denmark & the Netherlands it is now on Eurosport, decreasing the global TV audience in these 4 markets to just 1 million.
    Flanders (stayed on public TV): 739K (950K in 2016)
    Wallonia (stayed public TV): 207K (200 K in 2016)
    the Netherlands (from public TV NPO to ES): 15K (398K in 2016)
    Spain (from public TV Teledeportes to ES): < 50K (122K in 2016)
    Denmark (from public TV TV2 Sport to ES): 15K (51K in 2016)
    Total: about 1 million (1,72 million in 2016)
    Do race organizers like Flanders Classics care at all about the fact that their audience in these markets is almost halved?

    2°) Eurosport may be free to watch in certain countries BUT that does not mean that Eurosport 1 and Eurosport 2 are both free to watch in those countries. Often, only Eurosport 1 is included in the bundle provided by the cable TV provider. Unfortunately, many cycling races, including some big races, are broadcast live on Eurosport 2. For instance, in the Netherlands this weekend Gent-Wevelgem was live on Eurosport 2 (MotoGP has the priority in the Netherlands), but not that many Dutch people have access to Eurosport 2 (it is part of an extra bundle you have to pay extra for).

    3°) In Flanders, Eurosport is included in the basic package of the cable TV providers BUT only one of the two providers also has Eurosport 2 in the bundle. This means that half of the Flemish cycling fans cannot see many of the cycling races on Eurosport (unless they watch a rerun late at night or a couple of days later).

    4°) I wholeheartedly admitted that my estimate for Flemish Eurosport viewers for Milan – Sanremo was wrong, and I did underestimate the impact a "'monument" cycling race. But from all the data that I collected throughout the years on TV audiences in many countries, I can safely say that for identical races, Eurosport audiences are always between 10 and 20% of TV audiences on public TV. Yes, Milan – Sanremo proved otherwise, but don't forget that the Flemish TV audience for Milan – Sanremo on Eurosport this year (about 360K) was HUGE for Eurosport standards and an extreme situation. As a comparison: the second best watched sports event on Eurosport Spain EVER had less than 300K viewers in Spain, while Spain has ten times as many inhabitants as Flanders.

    • I (in NL) watched Gent-Wevelgem on Sporza. Almost everybody in NL has Sporza (both één and Canvas). So for NL you can’t just take the viewing numbers for Gent-Wevelgem from last year and compare them to Gent-Wevelgem on Eurosport this year, and then say the viewing numbers declined by X. It’s very likely a share of those X made the switch to Sporza

      • Yes I know. When a race is broadcast simultaneously on Dutch public TV (NPO) & Flemish public TV (Sporza), about 15 to 20% of Dutch cycling fans watch Sporza. So if a race is only on Eurosport and not on NPO, these numbers are likely to be much higher, and I do know quite a few Dutch cycling fans myself who did watch Gent-Wevelgem on Sporza. But don’t forget that most of these viewers already watched Gent-Wevelgem (and other races) on Sporza in the previous years too. (What about you: are you a ‘switcher’ this year, or do you usally watch Sporza?). Unfortunately, these ‘international’ viewers are not reported in official data. I think it is reasonable to assume that maybe up to half of the 398K Dutch viewers of last year now watched (part) of the race on Sporza. In that case, global TV audience for Gent-Wevelgem in the 4 markets could be about 1,2 million (instead of 1 million).

        • It’s complicated 😉 Depends on where the race is held as well. For races in Belgium, Sporza has the best background analysis/interviews/expertise. The rest, I’d generally watch on Eurosport because I like their (expert-/co-)commentators (including Bobbie Traksel, Karsten Kroon, etc), who support both Belgian and Dutch riders (as I roughly tend to do as well), rather than only the Belgian riders. And then there’s cyclocross, which is a quest in it’s own every weekend.

          I hardly ever watch cycling on NOS by the way. So NOS will not have lost any views from me anyway!

          To me Eurosport ~ Sporza >>> NOS. Main discriminator is (c0-)commentary.

        • Oh, and while I can’t really comment on your numbers calculations – You’d know better than me – you’ve captured exactly what I meant with my comment 😉

    • not sure if I missed it, but what is the motivation for RCS to agree to these deals? Does Eurosport over-promise viewership, or as usual just pay an amount for the broadcast rights that the public TVs cannot match?

      To me, if Eurosports viewership is so low they should be sharing broadcasting with the public channels in any market they cannot demonstrate real penetration. Then Eurosport is offering this content to their subscribers but isn’t cannibalizing the market.

      • “To me, if Eurosports viewership is so low they should be sharing broadcasting with the public channels in any market they cannot demonstrate real penetration. Then Eurosport is offering this content to their subscribers but isn’t cannibalizing the market.”

        But that would depend on your definition of “real penetration” – also, if they did that, then what could Eurosport offer as a USP? It would do nothing to Eurosport other than further diminish any lack of “real penetration” to which you refer, as I expect there’s a fair chunk of viewers who’d subscribe for the cycling and wouldn’t bother if it was on free-to-air. I know that’s how it is for me here.

      • Why does RCS do this? IMHO RCS Sport has been rather rudderless since the ousting of Zomegnan, seemingly run by a committee who too often drift in the winds of public opinion/social media whim. The story goes that RAI, the TV network keeps the entire ship afloat, without them the whole thing falls apart. Beyond this RCS Sport seems to follow business rule #1 – Stay in business- do whatever it takes to stay in business.
        Nothing wrong with that, but this short-term thinking means they’ll take the most money in the short term and worry about the rest later.
        Of course one can say ASO, with seemingly plenty of secure funding can afford to take the long view while RCS Sport can’t, but the new owner of the entire RCS Media company has a chance to show he’s a man of vision vs a corporate raider simply looking for a quick profit.
        His first action should be to bring Zomegnan back in as Giro boss (if he’ll take the job back) and put Mauro Vegni back into the technical role where I think he did an OK job.

    • Hi, I appreciate your research and your comment, but just to nitpick; I don’t think TV2 Sport is public TV (however one defines that), in my dorm we have ~20 channels including Eurosport 2, but not TV2 Sport nor Eurosport 1. Several medium sized and all small tv packages are without.

      43% of all households had TV2 Sport in 2015 (39% and 31% for Eurosport 1 and 2) (

      It was the 17th most watched channel same year (for some reason Eurosport’s numbers are not there…) (

    • Ok Eurosport is bought by Discovery channel and they are very wealthy. That will proberbly mean that they will fight for the big sports rights in the future and thereby making the channel more intersting.

      At the moment they are expanding on cycling and that just tells me, that I you don’t have a providerr offering Eurosport than make a subscirbtion for Eurosport Player. That will cost you around 30€ or dollars a year. I have a smart TV with a Eurosport player app but otherwise you just nead Apple TV, a Chromecast or a cable from your laptop.

      My point being we all have different subscriptions. Netflix 10 €, Hulu 10 €, Amazon 10 €. Why not just get Eurosport player for 2,5 € a month and get all the cycling you like. If you use a VPN service like you can even watch the british version of Eurosport.

      I bet in the future Eurosport will be an even better sportschannel

  17. 3 issues:

    1. Race organisers having enough money
    2. Teams having enough money
    3. Enough ‘grassroots’ access (roadside fans, enough people watching to get inspired to take up cycling recreationally or as a sport)

    All are inter-connected and co-dependent, however the power currently lies with race organisers as the current trend is any sports events get good money to be broadcast. If they take the big bucks from pay TV, sponsors will drift away, or reduce their £££, from teams. That will impact the quality of the sport and of racing, which after a couple of years will reduce the value to the broadcaster or having the sport so they will ultimately reduce investment – and of course in this scenario grassroots is totally negatively impacted. It goes back to free to air to build sponsor revenues and grassroots, and the boom and bust cycle continues.

    A longer term solution would be a greater revenue share from TV rights between the race organisers and the teams – if the organiser gets a huge £££ bonanza to go on niche channels and sponsors walk or reduce money, then there is less pressure on teams as they have a revenue stream. Free to air channels mean no rev share, pay TV (or any channel that has less than 50% viewership for sport/cycling than the country’s free to air equivalent) means the rev share kicks in.

    So the default is free to air, to keep all happy as long as race organisers are getting enough from that broadcaster, if not then they can go to pay tv, but it has to be a good enough deal that they still make money, as well as the teams to compensate them and their sponsors for less visibility and to also compensate for the impact on the grassroots.

    Finding the agreeable space for the above scenario(s) – 99% impossible.

    • It’s what we are seeing here in the UK with cricket coverage. The ECB took Sky’s shilling, and with it a huge dive in viewership. I haven’t watched a single minute of test action live on telly since 2005. Meanwhile, I’ve taken in several days at The Oval or Lords’, which I would have done anyway.

      They’re taking broadcaster money but there’s a concurrent well-documented decline in participation. Of course, correlation isn’t necessariliy causation, but it wouldn’t be the longest of stretches to say kids aren’t playing because they can’t see it on telly any more. That’s how I got into watching cricket as a kid, accidentally stumbling on BBC test coverage and slowly getting hooked; and I know from talking to others that that was the case for them, if a parent didn’t care for the game anyway.

    • Capitalism rule no. 1: There is no such thing as ‘enough money’.

      Capitalism rule no. 2: You will do anything – regardless of all other considerations – to get more money, now (because the future is someone’s problem – see ‘regardless of all other considerations’).

  18. Sadly, this entire TV broadcast situation is all the consequences of short-term thinking. One only has to use the examples of F1 and MOTOGP to see that the old “rich get richer while…” comes into play. Why the hell pro cycling wants to follow in these wheel tracks shows nobody is thinking long term unless perhaps it’s ASO, who to me remain the only adults in the room when it comes to pro cycling. Anyone who reads my posts knows I’m anything but pro-French but they demonstrate (not just talk) the best (not that this is a high bar at present) grasp of the long-term situation with TV rights and promotion of the sport.

    • I’m usually less kind than you about ASO (especially when race design is concerned), but for once I wholeheartedly agree, at least if Alxndre below is right and L’Equipe’s TV channel fully belongs to ASO: it would mean a significant change when compared with their traditional boycotting attitude when the broadcasting in France of other organisers’ races was involved (perhaps because they weren’t going to be the broadcaster…?).

    • As with both of you, I’m not a huge fan of ASO’s control over the sport, but you do have to respect how they are the only decision makers with an ounce of brains.

      Their control over their races and how it is delivered to the public is the reason the Tour is the only race that’s internationally recognised.

  19. Much as I dislike some aspects of it (Kirby!) I have a Eurosport player subscription as it’s by far the cheapest and easiest way to see the races. As a result I’m in favour of every race transferring to it. But if the races had previously been broadcast on my free terrestrial TV service I’d be really against.

    It’s a crazy situation where the owner of the race keeps all the TV revenue and surely not sustainable. The production costs for a grand tour stage must be huge compared to a football match. To be honest I can’t think of a single sport where the production costs would be higher.

    • That’s correct Charles. Broadcasting the Tour de France is, in fact, a loss making business for France Télévisions if you add up the price of the TV-rights and the production costs. But the event is so important that they can not afford to have another channel broadcast it.

    • It’s a crazy situation where the owner of the race keeps all the TV revenue and surely not sustainable.

      This is an assumption. We don’t know who keeps what. We can assume ASO has very advantageous business terms considering they own the rights to the sports most viewed events.

      There was an interview with Hein Verbruggen from many years ago (pre-Armstrong scandal?) where he basically states the UCI’s #1 job was aggregating/owning broadcast rights. Since the UCI alone controls the race calendar, it seems like they would use that power to get at least a part of broadcast rights revenue.

  20. I live in a major metropolitan media market in the U.S.

    The pro sports here have all left “free to air” broadcast channels. You have to buy a particular pay TV provider in order to view a single local sports teams. If you want many of your local sports teams, you have to buy multiple pay TV providers. (ex. a satellite dish AND a cable box)

    Viewership has fallen steeply with fans switching to radio in some cases. The business side of the sports seems quite content. The logic appears to be to demand money from the fans who are willing to pay. The “free to air” broadcasters cannot fund the pro sports owners this way. This strategy has long-term consequences.

    • The radio is my favourite channel for cycling races anyway. I like being outdoors with the radio on and following the race. Especially the sporza radio coverage of the Tour De France is outstanding I wouldn’t want my summer months to be without it.

    • Sorry, pro sports viewership has not fallen steeply in the 4 major North American sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL).

      Plus, North America does not have free to air broadcasting. Even basic TV packages cost the consumer something. As well, much of major sports is available on the basic TV packages in every North American sport city.

      Of course, to get every game you might need a slightly upgraded package.

      However, note that the major sports have very strong viewerships. There was some noise about NFL losing viewers this year, but it wasn’t a massive fall, and it wasn’t due to losing free to air broadcasting. And as the season went on, ratings recovered and were high for the Super Bowl.

      Anyways, I digress, and my overall point is that North America and Europe are two completely different sports environments, and TV cannot be compared.

      And, on another note, I prefer listening to baseball on the radio, and if I’m doing chores, I’ll listen to hockey or basketball on radio too. Radio usually has very good broadcasters.

      • Plus, North America does not have free to air broadcasting.

        ???? Every television sold in the U.S. comes with a tuner that can play the content broadcast free to air. Put an antenna in the attic, plug it into the TV and let the TV find your local channels. et voila, “free” TV.

        Every one of the major media broadcasters has some version of HD free to air signal in my area with multiple public TV signals as well. My area is not unique in any way. No local sports teams on any of them.

        I won’t debunk the other spurious claims as the reply would be too long.

  21. Just to add that in France the opposite is happening. Last year, RCS rights belonged to paid tv “Bein sport, this year it is aired on free tv “l’equipe TV” This mean the giro will be aired for free for the first time. This may have influenced the choice of thibaut pinot and fdj to take part in the giro since they will get exposure on tv.
    “l’equipe TV” air other races as well, for exemple, last week-end Gand-wevelgem had 450k viewers.

    Fun fact: “l’equipe tv” belong to ASO but they don’t air ASO’s races, they don’t even promote the tour de france which is strange.

    • I know Alxndre, France is a curious case and for the moment the only country I know where rights have gone back to public TV. TV-audience data for sports broadcasts in France, however, are very hard to find. If you would be able to help me, that would be great! The only number I found so far was that Milan-Sanremo was watched by 500.000 persons in France this year on l’Equipe (and a peak audience of 1 million), which is great and the best TV rating for Milan-Sanremo in France for over a decade.

      • I can’t help you for the numbers but what’s sure is that L’Equipe TV is doing a real effort to show more races for free. They even showed the GP Artigianato di Larciano this year, and lots of races we never had for free (Milano-Sanremo is a great example). I think it might be a very clever move by ASO, even if they don’t air their own races : they can attract some news fans who will eventually watch ASO races. Even, on a long term, they can increase the number of fans, so the number of children wanting to race, so the number of french cyclists, etc. And Steve Chainel is pretty funny. Less good than the master Jacky Durand though…

    • Your post reminded me this TV silliness is far-from-new. I can still remember following the Giro d’Italia with a tour group in the 1990’s. One stage finished in Briancon so the boss thought it a great idea (opposed by me for reasons most here already have heard far-too-often) to put the group up in a French hotel. The clients were aghast to find ZERO TV coverage of La Corsa Rosa just across the border! Yep, the world’s #2 stage race could not be viewed on broadcast TV in France.
      Meanwhile, when we’re stuck in the USA a cheap dedicated laptop connected to our standard TV monitor, a VPN + Eurosport player sub works pretty well, not to mention we can get the various RAI TV channels streamed from Italy at zero cost.

    • I’m hugely interested, too.
      When I read the news, I thought that figures would be way lower, on the basis of Spain’s case, where you can see that whatever cycling race happens to be broadcast on the specialised Teledeporte sport channel loses at least half of its audience (even if we’re speaking of a public, well-known, well-promoted channel… besides being more or less the only free national sport channel!).
      We’ve long been told that when cycling is concerned, most French fans are mainly interested in the TdF and, if anything, a few other ASO races. I always had *very*strong doubts about such a commonplace analysis, but I must admit that apparently it ended up affecting my own estimates:
      I thought that the Sanremo could at most get 500 K on a national generalist channel and thus expected some 250 K on a specialised channel.
      However, it’s really shocking when you think that cycling hasn’t been taking advantage of those impressive numbers of potential viewers who just needed an option to watch the races. And now they’re trying to do even worse… enter France, adios España (and the rest of Europe plus Australia).

  22. I was into mountain biking, never a roadie, and I only got into road cycling beyond the Tour by stumbling across it on Eurosport. So I guess I am confirming INRNG’s theory that accidental viewers are important and also offering an exception to the idea that free to air races are key to that. But that was about NL and the UK has a limited cycling culture and hardly any on TV, and it’s miles better these days than 10-20 years ago.

    As a long time Sky subscriber, Eurosport is essentially free. And the adverts actually make a pleasant change from the endless hideous betting ads on Sky Sports… where else can I see Ivan Basso in a chef’s hat, eh? So I quite like it.

  23. Could this (eventually) result in a drastic shift in the funding structure of cycling:

    Currently we have:
    spectator > spends money in shop > money goes to big company (e.g. Sun web) > Company sponsors team

    Could this perhaps change to:
    spectator > pays for niche broadcasting (e.g. eurosport subscription) > money from TV rights goes to race owner (e.g. RCS) > team now gets paid by RCS

    This would be based on the fact that larger, “external” companies to cycling would not be able to directly access a large enough audience to make the advertising profitable. While a bike company (e.g. specialised) would still benefit from sponsoring to a global audience of cycling. Seeing as many large advertising budgets are being shifted from TV advertising to more targeted digital advertising it seem plausible that a large, non-cycling company would choose to spend their budget in a way that would not put their brand infront of so many people who are not will (or even able) to become their customers.

    Presumably this would increase the cost for the spectator, as the same financial burden is placed on a smaller number of dedicated viewers, rather than influencing the buying behaviour of the masses. However, this potential model seems to be working rather well for the UFC which I understand generates substantial income from Pay Per View.

    • Somebody might have something like that buzzing in their heads… Yet, it would be just suicidal to transform this way a sport which is *actually* making huge audience figures – and which could easily do even better with minimal effort (i.e., free broadcast for the Giro in both Spain and France would probably mean a total of, at least, 1 M viewers in two countries with very big commodity markets).

      In Italy, an average of nearly 2 M people watch the Giro and the Tour for whole 90′ everyday along six whole weeks. In Spain both the Vuelta and the Tour sail near the 1.5 M mark. I’m not speaking of peaks, that is, total reach – I’m speaking of average. The Vuelta and the Tour big stages generally are the main show on TV that day, in Spain.
      Germany’s case with the Tour was impressive, too. It wasn’t just about being free: it’s getting on a noteworthy generalist channel. You go from some K to the big M in no time.

      It makes sense to try the shift and go pay if you’ve got petty figures (I think that it tends to be a mistake, unless you’re really a niche sport – cycling isn’t, not at all in France-Spain-Italy-Belgium), but if things are going well and could easily go better… why the hell?!

    • spectator > spends money in shop > money goes to big company (e.g. Sun web) > Company sponsors team

      It depends on who you are in cycling.

      If you are an athlete, then the average athlete brings money with them. If you are a good worker and are favored by a podium contender, then you probably are paid to help that person. If you are the rare, regular podium visitor, then things are different. These days, it helps your longevity in the highest tier of the sport quite a bit if you bring a social media audience with you.

      If you are spending money as an advertiser, the UCI takes some and the team infrastructure takes most of the rest. Media dollars seem to flow into the UCI in some cases. Advertising isn’t really easy to quantify for a business and the spending usually comes down to a decider that likes cycling. (Marketing pros, I know you feel otherwise.)

      The UCI seems to play a intricate role in landing these big sponsors be they the rare company that pays as advertising, or dictators, or billionaire hobbyists.

  24. Thankfully, in Romania we get almost every race you would want to see on Eurosport. It’s been like that for a long time too. And it’s really cheap. SD on any package, HD from about 7 Euros package. Multiple audio too, though I kinda wish for Kirby to retire already.

  25. Has pro cycling given up on the United States viewers? Every year it seems to get more and more difficult to find key races. I still haven’t found if the 2017 Giro is even available on Verizon! I don’t mind paying, but the programs seem unavailable at any price.

    • On ‘The Cycling Podcast’ ‘2020 Vision’ special episode last year, an american fan made a very good point with regards to Cycling coverage and team funding – basically that if he was guaranteed to be able to view all major (say WT) races for an annual subscription of say €100 (say via a UCI WT website or such like), it would be well worth it. He proposed there could be 1 million fans willing to do that in the US and other markets (such as Australia) – that’s €100 million in revenue, for content that already exists.
      I don’t know how likely that subscriber number would be but it seems like common sense, assuming you can geo-restrict the website access somehow?

      • I like the idea but finding a million is a hard ask, US audiences for the Tour de France are typically in the hundreds of thousands and a substantial portion of these are casual viewers who are interested but not the hard core segment who are going to pay in advance.

        Once again the sport’s model is based on reaching the mass market, eg Segafredo wants to have its brand reaching as many people in the US. It can do down the way of reaching an already converted (and smaller) audience but that will have consequences to the way things work, the mix of sponsors interested and the value sponsorship etc.

        • I did wonder about the numbers, although given what has been said elsewhere about the various subscriptions US sports viewers have to take out, $100 / year would likely look a bargain – albeit the audience is tiny compared to the major US sports I agree.

          Must ridiculously frustrating that given English-language feeds are produced for (almost?) all WT races, that that content cannot be viewed legally in some way in other English-speaking countries, given technology etc.

          • Exactly! If you look at marginal costs of routing an English-language feed to a subscription website available to US viewers, it almost seems like a no-brainer. Eurosport would be a good place to start. (And, their announcers are a lot better the lame commentary we get for the US TdF broadcast.)

  26. I can only speak as a (Norwegian) fan here. Note that no Norwegian company is involved as a sponsor of Pro Conti or WT teams.
    After Eurosport’s massive buyup we actually get to see RCS events on tv, and also with good commentary. Kurt Asle Arvesen is an excellent side commentator.
    TV2 will of course continue with their castle, cheese and Dag Otto-themed commentary on ASO-events. Nice with an alternative there when Eurosport goes to commercial breaks.

  27. Outside of Cycling – with a note to the EU protected events list – will that mean a free-for-all on major events for UK broadcasters, once Britain leaves the EU?
    Sky would have a field day, potentially buying up Wimbledon, 6 Nations, Olympics etc. No wonder Murdoch was so keen on using his press assets to push for Leave.

    • Doubt it. The lists might be in an EU framework, but they’re all nationally determined lists. The UK list has been around in one form or another since 1956. The most recent changes were to remove Test cricket and home Commonwealth Games from the main list back in the late 1990s. I suspect there’s ferocious lobbying each time the list is reviewed.

      • Thanks – thought that might be the case. However, with EU protection out the way and Murdoch basically owning the government, there may be lobbying of a different kind come 2019. The BBC is already a target for a lot of the press – if they can chuck an ‘anti-competitive’ slant at it as well they will.

        • Naturally, if you were a multinational company what sort of Government would you prefer to deal with: one that picks fights with Apple and Google, or one in the pocket of the Daily Mail?

          cycling link: It’s interesting that Sky seem happy not to push for rights to cycling in the UK. Presumably it would be pointless for them to be advertising themselves on their own channels.

  28. Get Rai on Satellitte free to air approc £150
    All sections LIVE from 14:15 to 17:15 on Rai Sport 1 (Stages LIVE 6-13-14 13:00).
    All sections LIVE from 15:10 to 17:15 on Rai 3 and Rai HD.

    From the 4th stage onwards, “Morning Tour”, one hour of discussions aired by departure city, every morning on Rai Sport 1 (times vary depending on the departure of the stage), by Valerio Iafrate. Next, “Journey in Italy in the Giro,” a 25-minute cultural insights in the area of the stage by Edoardo Camurri.

    “Live Before”, the pre-race on Rai Sport 1 at 13:45 by Alessandra De Stefano with Beppe Conti
    “Processo alla Tappa” the post-race on Rai 3 from 17:15 to 18:00 by Alessandra De Stefano Stefano Garzelli.

    “Journey in the Italy Tour” at 20:10 on Rai 3.

    “TGiro” the summary of the day on Rai Sport 1 at 20:30 by Andrea De Luca.

    “GiroNotte” highlights on Rai Sport 2 at 22:45.

    Live streaming of

    • You just need to understand Italian. It is very fine coverage and even without speaking Italian it’s good because you don’t always need to know everything, for example when a rider attacks from the bunch and the commentators shout “Nibali, Nibali” you can tell who it is.

      • This is my problem with Eurosport Online’s advert-free, silent transmission. It’s great, but it can make the race hard to follow – even if it’s a language I don’t understand (being British, naturally, that’s ‘all the other ones’) I can tell who is in the break, etc. Also, the commentators have race radio so you can learn that ‘Bouhanni has pulled out of the race because it’s cold’, ‘Jack Bauer has launched himself into yet another piece of road furniture’, etc. But there’s no way I can tolerate 7 hours of the Ronde with he-who-shall-not-be-named chuntering away.

      • Agreed. “Bike Race Italian” is not too difficult to pick up. That’s all I knew for years (some would say that’s still all I know!) along with some “Bike Race French” which I can pull out now-and-then when needed. I remember riding with an Italian years ago, the only common language we had was “Bike Race French” so along we went, “A gauche…a droit….merde!’ for an enjoyable couple of hours.

  29. Oomph, too many comments to read them all. Here in NL, Deals like this are the future I guess, many other sports have exclusive deals. I found out about this when I tried to watch (record with my interactive TV settop box, actually) Milan-SanRemo on Sporza. I could only find it on Eurosport so I recorded that one. Turns out that Eurosport apparently does not transfer the correct end time to my provider, because the recording ended litterally with 300m to go. I had to look up the sprint on Youtube :-(. Commentary is not as good as Sporza but not much worse than NOS.

  30. Any thoughts on an article on the Indian Pacific Wheel Race? Really enjoyed last year’s article on the Transcontinental and this one has two of the greats of Ultra racing going head to head at the business end of the race.

  31. Golf and Tennis are good for individualists who dream to become managers, they are good for pay tv, for Movadoo and Rolexx like sponsors. Those sports should go on pay tv, pleasing the logic of exclusiveness of their environment. Cycling is blue collar: miners in Belgium and French or Italian farmers go watch the Giro and the Tour on the free roads of their country. Cycling is for the masses, every kid, poor or rich kids, dreams to own a bike. “If you finish school you’ll get a new bike, a road bike this time” hears a 13 years old boy or girl. Every father can bring their kid on the road by their doors and cheer for their hero. Cycling can be practiced for free; pro cycling comes for free at your own home. No expensive golf course. No expensive Tennis Clubs. Cycling is not made for pay-tv, the public is different, the dreamers watching it are different. Sponsors are different. In the day in which an edge fund (an edge fund famous for participating in the global project of luxury of LVHM) invests on Pinarello, depriving the brand which won more Tours de France in history (12) from its family ownership (is happening today, at the Milan Stock Exchange), I have the luck to stumble on such a nice piece by INRNG. Cycling is not for pay-tv and LVHM, in a few years sponsors and TVs will notice it too.

  32. Plus, North America does not have free to air broadcasting.

    ???? Every television sold in the U.S. comes with a tuner that can play the content broadcast free to air. Put an antenna in the attic, plug it into the TV and let the TV find your local channels. et voila, “free” TV.

    Every one of the major media broadcasters has some version of HD free to air signal in my area with multiple public TV signals as well. My area is not unique in any way. No local sports teams on any of them.

    I won’t debunk the other spurious claims as the reply would be too long.

  33. here in Japan, we’re missing Ronde today. we had watched the biggest one-day race via J-SPORTS a satellite pay TV for over decades before DAZN JAPAN a internet pay TV landed onto Japan in 2016.

    early in 2017, DAZN once announced that they would provide us Flanders classics and we all expected that there must be Ronde included. actually, they provided Gent last weekend.

    however, DAZN suddenly broke the promise turning off the program for Ronde.

    WHAT THE HELL is going on? are we involved in a trouble between satellite pay TV and internet TV? the details are still in mystery now.
    in addition, even when DAZN presents the race, the service they gives us is WAY TOO POOR. no Japanese commentary, delayed and often freezing picture … I don’t think such poor service can help cycling fans increase.

    I hope we can enjoy the races via satellite pay TV ( watching cycling race on free TV is an impossible dream in Japan ) but we start thinking there might be a future where satellite TVs in Japan could barely exist near future because of internet TV based on big money like google, Facebook, or more… then how can we watch the cycling road racing?

  34. I am quite late to the party but let me just add two positive things here:
    As from a German cyclingfan’s point of view, Eurosport helped me through the darkest times, as it always kept broadcasting when the public channels all bailed after Ullrich, Schumacher et al. I am massively grateful for this.
    As for your point that people won’t be able to gather around tv sets in households, cafés and pubs: I see a chance that this way of viewing races could be even embraced in the future, with more people searching for ways to watch without having to opt for a subscription. I find the institution of cycling cafés really appealing and while there might be many in countries like Belgium of the UK, there are only a handful in Germany. I hope this will change soon.
    Also, and probably most important of all, I don’t think Discovery is done yet with its strategy of ‘aggressive expansion’. There is more to come and they will work hard (hopefully) to reach bigger audiences with there coverage. In Germany, they now own the sole rights to broadcast the Olympics (after having snatched them from the public, state-owned channels) and is assume they will want to capitalize on the commercial potential.

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