104th Tour de France: 50 days to go
The start of the 104th Tour de France is 50 days away. The world’s biggest bike race will begin in Düsseldorf, Germany on 1 July and snake it’s way down to the south of France over the following three weeks. Following the time trial in Marseille on the final Saturday of the race, riders will fly to Paris for the final stage on 23 July.
In 2017 every stage will be shown live from beginning to end on the SBS media platform (online and television).
“The idea is to present the full spectacle, which begins well before the riders get onto their bikes,” said Yann Le Moenner, the CEO of ASO, the company responsible for the Tour de France.
“The build-up to the action will commence at the Tour’s start village, just as it does with the national anthems before a football match or on the start grid before an F1 Grand Prix.”
SBS Television is the host broadcaster in Australia. In the early 1990s the network showed half-hour highlights packages but, for many years now, the coverage has been extended to include live coverage.
This will be the first year that each stage will be fully live. This innovation is the product of a multi-network approach and one that SBS is particularly excited about.
“First and foremost it’s always about audience satisfaction,” said SBS’s head of sport, Ken Shipp earlier today.
“In the past people have often questioned us about why we haven’t shown the Tour in full before.
“Up until now, the Tour has never actually provided coverage of every stage in full because of the cost…
“But this year, for the first time, the broadcasters have banded together to support ASO. We’ve contributed an additional sum of production money and by doing so that’s enabled them to bring every stage live to the world for the first time.”
Last year, SBS was able to broadcast every stage of the Giro d’Italia live on free-to-air TV in Australia but that isn’t possible in 2017.
“It’s a great disappointment to us that we weren’t able to secure the rights to the Giro this year,” explained Shipp. “We started showing it in the last few years and we’ve expanded from a few stages to the full event.
“Obviously the Giro provides a great lead-in to the Tour and it’s a very important event in the calendar.
“The reality for us was, quite simply, that Eurosport did a global deal to buy the Giro rights exclusively. We weren’t really given an opportunity – we couldn’t actually compete against that global offer financially.”
It’s frustrating for SBS as well as cycling fans who have been treated to great racing in recent years but Shipp is optimistic about the chance of viewers seeing the Giro on his network again in the future.
“All I can say is: watch this space, because I’m not content with letting the Giro go,” said Shipp. “I will work hard to see if there’s another way we can work with the Giro organisers and with Eurosport to bring it to free-to-air TV.”
Meanwhile, preparations are on to ensure the 2017 Tour de France receives more coverage than ever before. “We want to offer a complete narrative, with a beginning, a middle and an end,” said Laurent-Eric Le Lay, the director of sport for France Télévisions.
“The growing number of TV channels allows more comprehensive coverage.
“We would be failing in our mission if we didn’t offer full coverage.
“Last year, 20.2 million French people watched the Tour de France on our channels. Our role is to please as many people as possible… and some want to see the race in its entirety,” concluded Le Lay.
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Making money from cycling
SBS has built a strong reputation with it’s coverage of the Tour and this extends well beyond the traditional images shown on televisions. With new media initiatives including the hugely popular ‘Tour Tracker’ app, the broadcast of the race is, according the Shipp, “the jewel in the crown” of the network’s sporting properties.
“It’s an annual event and obviously we’re well known for football and the World Cup is once every four years but on an annual basis, the Tour is massive.
“The Tour draws big audiences to SBS and provides us with an opportunity to cross-promote our other content. And it’s actually our only sports event which is cash-flow positive – it makes money for the network. So, all up: we love it!”
Like all media in 2017, there needs to be innovation to retain audience attention and Shipp believes SBS provides excellent platforms for engagement with its viewers, on TV as well as online.
SBS has committed to showing the majority of the complete stages on TV (with the exact number yet to be confirmed, and the balance definitely streaming on the network’s online platforms).
“I think online is now an essential ingredient in any sports coverage,” said Shipp, “the audience has an expectation of secondary, complimentary screens.
“The app is very important for our broadcast of the Tour – you couldn’t do the event without our ‘Tour Tracker’. It allows people to immerse themselves more deeply in the event, it provides an opportunity to engage with the event – even when the race is not on, so overnight or during the day people can access content. And it’s a great vehicle for engagement on a social level.”
– By Rob Arnold