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The popularity of the Tour de France Femmes was made clear by the sheer number of fans lining the roads and the media attention the race garnered. When the race organizers released TV figures after the event had concluded they confirmed that the week of women’s racing had achieved a record number of viewers.
The race drew in an average of 2.25 million viewers on French TV alone with a peak of 5.1 million for the final stage. Meanwhile, Eurosport reported 14 million viewers and 45% of the Netherlands’ tv audience tuned in.
But the appetite for women’s racing didn’t end there as recently released viewing figures from the Tour of Scandinavia – which took place just eight days later – have shown.
The organisers of the newly-expanded Scandinavian race revealed that ratings released by Discovery+ showed 4.6 million viewers followed the race on Eurosport.
“If we add all other platforms that have broadcast the race either via TV or online, including delay/repeat, the total number of viewers according to our distribution partners is estimated to be over 16 million viewers,” continued a press release on the race website.
These figures put the Tour of Scandinavia second only to the Tour de France Femmes in terms of viewership and part of an upward trend in the numbers of viewers tuning in to women’s races.
Director of the Tour of Scandinavia, Roy Moberg, attributes the high viewer numbers to the growth of the race and the quality of the coverage whilst also acknowledging the effect of the Tour de France Femmes on the general interest in the sport.
“These are fantastic figures, it is only the Tour de France Femmes of the women’s stage races that is bigger in the world in terms of the number of viewers,” he said.
“We have noticed significant progress in terms of global interest when we launched “six stages in three countries” this year. We have received a lot of positive feedback on the good quality of our TV broadcasts, and it is clear that people who have seen TdF Femmes now also follow our race and get excited.”
The UCI stipulates a minimum of 45 minutes of live coverage must be shown for a race to qualify for Women’s WorldTour status. The Tour de France Femmes and the Tour of Scandinavia both showed more than twice that amount each day.
Taking into account the effect of the status held by the Tour de France, the figures clearly show that the quality and length of the live coverage offered has a direct positive impact on the number of viewers tuning in.
If you show it they will watch it. Since the UCI introduced their 45-minute rule, and as some races have gone above and beyond that minimum viewing figures for some of the biggest women’s races have skyrocketed. As a result, 45 minutes feels well below what would be acceptable to fans in 2022.
The organiers of the Tour of Flanders, Flanders Classics, revealed that local Flemish viewership for the women’s race in 2019 was just 157,000. However, after moving the race time to finish after the men’s event, and with a growing interest in women’s racing, that figure increased to 764,000 Flemish viewers tuning in to see the then-Belgian national champion, Lotte Kopecky, take the win.
In its first edition in 2021, Paris Roubaix Femmes saw 1.93 million viewers tune in to see the women’s peloton take on the Hell of the North for the first time.
With the average quality and length of coverage increasing with each season, fans are now far less inclined to tolerate below-par offerings. The recent Simac Ladies Tour faced backlash for providing an unwatchable feed for viewers on GCN+ and Eurosport meaning that the network eventually pulled its coverage of the final two stages.
The next WWT race, the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, also received criticism for its coverage of the opening team time trial, which did not feature graphics for timing. The race did, however, go on to show around 90 minutes of coverage of the remaining four stages.
Although there is a disparity between the quality of coverage offered by some Women’s WorldTour races over others, what is clear is that interest in watching these races is growing year on year, especially for those which don’t require the constant refreshing of a neglected Twitter hashtag or a sporadic live text feed.