Tour viewership declines for tenth straight year

July 22, 2022 Comments Off on Tour viewership declines for tenth straight year

Interest in the Tour de France continues to decline as fewer television viewers tune into the world’s largest sporting spectacle. With 150 million viewers across Europe in 2021, the 2022 edition of the Tour will have less than 110 million people tuning in, according to Nielsen Global, a firm that tracks worldwide TV audiences.

“In 2012, when the Tour was won by Bradley Wiggins of the UK, viewership was at an all-time high, with more than 500 million viewers. Next year’s projections are for even fewer viewers than 2022,” said Lacey Throckmorton of Nielsen.

The UCI, as well as Amaury Sports Organization, parent company of the Tour, have been concerned about the spiraling value of cycling’s marquee event. A joint study funded by the UCI and Amaury revealed some surprising answers to the question, “Why are fewer people following the Tour?”

The first and by far most important reason is the continued string of non-doping offenses, and its corollary, the visible decrease in over-the-top-doping that took place from 1904 until 2012. Cyrano de Bergerac, head of the study, says this: “People are sick of all the non-doping offenses. It has made an impossibly boring sport even more boring, if that is possible, which I suppose it is.”

Statistics show that since the retirement of the last Big Juicer to win the Tour, Sir Bradley Wiggins, interest has waned. “Wiggins brought a lot of fans, people who loved seeing a 6’3″, 185-lb. track specialist get so sotted with PEDs that he lost 25 lbs., gained the physique of a Michael Rasmussen, and went from winning 5-km track events to 4,000-km endurance races. That was spectacle,” says de Bergerac.

“Once Wiggins retired, Chris Froome was unable to sustain the massive and obvious drug use, opting instead for small amounts of mostly-undetectable drugs, although he, too, went through the radical body transformation that Tour aficionados love,” adds de Bergerac. “But with each passing year the riders simply got more credible as non-offenses kept piling up. And who wants that?”

Wim van Wim, head of marketing at the UCI, agrees. “Look at 2022. We have one guy weighing in the 130’s and another in the 140’s duking it out for the yellow jersey. They are skinny and short, easily mistaken for a prepubescent girl if it weren’t for those tight pants. You’d expect people like that to climb well, sprint poorly, and have to race strategically to win, and they do. Fans can’t stand it.”

Van Wim pointed to what he called the “heyday of hay days,” when George Hincapie, at 175 lbs., dropped an entire breakaway of newt-sized climbers and beat uber-newt Oscar Pereiro to the HC mountain finish at Pla d’Adet in 2005. “This kind of absurd thing that boggles the mind, spoofs reality, and confesses to the pharmacopia coursing through the veins of the peloton, this is what cycling fans want to see,” said van Wim. “Not some clean, snot-nosed kids who believe in sportsmanship, whatever that is.”

Unfortunately, drug testing seems to be effectively deterring the most blatant violators, leaving the peloton with not much more than smallish, light endurance athletes who are evenly matched. The UCI has convened a new committee, the Working Group on the Restoration of Full-Gas Doping, to look at ways to remedy this threat to the existence of cycling’s most cherished event.

According to van Wim, though, all is not lost. “If you still want to watch freaks do freakish things with every doping product known to man stuffed up their butts, I’d recommend you start watching gravel races. There is some great shit happening there,” he said.

END

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