I was preparing a post on the start of the cycling season. The anticipation of seeing the new personality of the peloton as the new team kits create a new and wonderful tapestry. A tapestry that will be unique to the 2009 season. But, I am not writing about that. I will, however, stay in the same country just moving my attention to Melbourne Park and the Australian Open.
This morning on the trainer, I decided to watch some TV instead of a prerecorded video. I made the usual rounds and was having an unremarkable morning until I hit the ‘Guide’ function on my DirecTV remote. On the guide, DirecTV was advertising the Australian Open. On 7 Channels! SEVEN! Here is the breakdown. The Australian Open Channel, Court 1 Channel, Court 2 Channel, Court 3 Channel, Court 4 Channel Court 5 Channel, and a Mix Channel allowing you to watch the other six in the ultimate Picture in Picture deal. DirecTV did this for the Masters and it is also part of the NFL Sunday Ticket. I have no problem with the last two. The NFL is the biggest sport in the US and the Masters is far and away the biggest event in golf. The Australian Open is not the Masters. In fact, it is not the Masters of Tennis. Of the four Grand Slam events, it ranks 4th. Wimbledon is far and away the biggest event on the calendar. I have to say, the Australian Open is the Vuelta a España of tennis. In fact, each moved their dates to enhance viewership. The Vuelta went from the first Grand Tour to the last and the Australian Open went from the last Grand Slam to the first.
So, I’m here to make the case that if we can’t get our own cycling channel, we should at least get coverage of the Tour de France equal to the Australian Open. I don’t have the stats for the Australian Open, the Tour is the biggest spectator sporting event in the world. It is the third most televised sporting event in the world behind the World Cup and the Olympics. Over 1 Billion People read, watch, or hear about the Tour each day of the race. 20 Million people line the roads of France to see it live. During the three week period in July, 2.5 million unique visitors visit letour.fr.
I’m not bashing the Australian Open. Each sport has the bottom of the elite tier of events. I am just looking for a little niche where cycling can demonstrate that is can return a positive ROI for the company willing to take a chance and broadcast it.