TV channels follow German sponsors out of the sport as doping causes cycling to lose its appeal

German state broadcasters ARD and ZDF have confirmed that from next year they will not show live coverage of the Tour de France, citing falling viewing figures for cycling’s biggest event, although it’s likely that the succession of drugs scandals that have hit the sport in recent years, leading to a number of sponsors from Germany to distance themselves from the sport, will have played a part.

Over the past few years, a succession of top German cyclists have either admitted to doping, or been implicated in drugs scandals, with Erik Zabel, winner of the green jersey in the Tour de France six times confessing in 2007 to having used EPO, and former T-Mobile team mate Jan Ullrich excluded from the 2006 Tour de France and subsequently sacked by his team due to alleged links to Operacion Puerto.

In the wake of Ullrich being excluded from the 2006 race, the first following Lance Armstrong's seven-year domination, The New York Times said that a British sports media buying group had reported a 43% drop in viewing figures for the race in Germany.

The following year, ARD and ZDF cut their coverage of the 2007 race midway through after T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz was revealed to have failed a doping control the previous month.

Deutsche Telekom itself ended its involvement with professional cycling in late 2007, shortly after Gerolsteiner announced that it would not be renewing sponsorship of the team it backed beyond the 2008 season, and at the end of last season the last remaining German team, Milram, folded after being unable to find a new sponsor.

There is now no German team operating at ProTeam – or first division – level, and only one, Team NetApp, in the Professional Continental ranks.

Eurosport – which presumably will continue to broadcast live footage of the three-week race to German viewers who subscribe to it – has reported that in a joint statement, the broadcasters had said “from 2012 ARD and ZDF will go without live coverage of the race," saying that a decline in people watching meant they could no longer find justification to show it live.

The Tour is a regular visitor to Germany, and has started there on three occasions - in Cologne in 1965, Frankfurt in 1980 and West Berlin in 1987 - but the broadcasters say that "the most important cycling race in the world has only a minor following among German viewers," but confirmed that for contractual reasons they will show this year’s 98th edition.


Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.


handlebarcam [1095 posts] 7 years ago

Doesn't German TV have an equivalent of ITV4 they could put the Tour on? Some channel that usually only shows endless repeats of "Derrick", "Alarm für Cobra 11 – Die Autobahnpolizei" or "Der Kommissar" and would welcome something, anything, live.

zoxed [67 posts] 7 years ago

> Doesn't German TV have an equivalent of ITV4 they could put the Tour on?

I assume that problem is not bandwidth: it is a cost-benefit analysis (repeats being super-cheap, but I guess the TdeF not so).

But I guess the general sports shows will pick up the highlights, especially if a German does well. (I was already living in German when Jan Ullrich started doing well, and the coverage suddenly exploded !!).

xcstu [113 posts] 7 years ago

How fickle are the German viewers! If there not winning something they don't want to watch it... please

G-bitch [328 posts] 7 years ago

...and in the context of UK coverage. They're probably downgrading to something infinitely superior to that available to us lot!

Shiny Flu [84 posts] 7 years ago

As someone that actually lives in Germany, I'd just like to point something out.

The media in Germany is awfully fickle and IMO do not represent the views of the German public.

ARD & ZDF (similar to BBC 1 and BBC 2) make viewing difficult.

Firstly, they never show more than 2 hours of the tour live- sometimes they only show the last 1 hour and call that 'live' coverage. Not to mention the fact that they alternate between the 2 TV channels.

Eurosport is free for everyone here (Standard Def., if you want HD you need to pay) and actually has proper 3-5 hour coverage each stage every day of the tour.

I'm also assuming that the majority of people (like me) stopped watching on ARD & ZDF because of the spotty coverage. So I switched to Eurosport.

Also there's the internet. When I work, I just check live tickers etc.

One thing I don't contend with is the decline of Pro German cycling... and the simple fact that because of the doping culture amongst some of Germany's elite cyclists it has impacted upon the sport's popularity. One thing that I should make clear however is the fact that so many people don't understand that doping happens far more in other sports than in cycling- we just choose to test for it.