BikeBiz speaks to the head of one of the UK’s key sports channels – Eurosport UK’s managing director Dave Kerr – for his take on the popularity of cycling…
How have you seen the popularity of cycling fare on British Eurosport over the past few years? An upward trend?
In terms of live coverage over the past four years the viewing figures in the UK have been very consistent, however this year has so far seen an approximate 15 per cent improvement on 2010 (figures are inclusive of all HD when available).
Cycling average audiences for live race coverage in 2010 were 57,000 and so far in 2011 we have generated 65,000 viewers.
Clearly cycling as a leisure pursuit and an elite sport is seeing a real growth in the UK market and therefore the media coverage and general awareness of the sport is increasing which means the audience for our coverage also continues to grow.
Your UK ratings for the Tour de France saw a very significant proportion tuning in via the HD channel – do you think this suggests cycle fans are prepared to pay a bit extra for their sport?
Cycling fans are not necessarily prepared to pay more compared to any other viewer as most sport fans want to enjoy their preferred sport in the best possible way. The difference is cycling perhaps lends itself more to the high definition experience more so than other sports. Cycling on TV has always included elements which focus on the travelogue aspect about where the races are actually being held. As an example the Tour de France showcases the French countryside and the panoramic views from aerial shots look particularly stunning in HD. Eurosport HD viewers currently account for 38 per cent of the 2011 UK cycling average audience.
Will Eurosport be covering cycling events for the London 2012 Olympics?
Nothing has been confirmed yet but Eurosport is keen to focus on sports which it knows its audiences has a strong affinity for and cycling is one of our pillar sports across all markets.
How popular are the cycle events with UK viewers compared with other events in terms of audience?
Of the seven top rated events we have broadcast in the UK so far in 2011 by average live audience, and which have had HD coverage available, the cycling events came in 2nd, 5th and 6th. Unsurprisingly this was for the three Grand Tours; The Tour de France (94,000), Giro d’Italia (63,000) and Vuelta a Espana (updated figure of 54,000). The French Open achieved the highest live average audience of 116,000. Other tennis events such as WTA Eastbourne and ATP Queens also performed well. The Snooker World Championships was the only event not cycling or tennis present in the list, which came in at number seven.
Are you predicting an upswing in audience figures compared with the Beijing Olympics?
We would expect a large upscale in viewing figures given the event is taking place in London with this likely to increase popularity of the event. We would also not have to deal with a time zone difference here in the UK, which was present in Beijing where there was an eight-hour time gap.
British Eurosport is in approximately ten million homes across Sky and Virgin Media in the UK