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July 07, 2006

OLN's Tour ratings off by almost 50 percent post-Armstrong

NYTimes.com | OLN Sizing Up Impact of the Post-Lance Era

The New York Times looks at early ratings for OLN's Tour coverage, and we can now quantify the Lance Effect. So far, it's 50 percent.

OLN's ratings are down just about 50 percent in a Tour that's already had an American leader, but which hasn't yet hit the mountains, where it seems like more viewers might tune in for longer time periods, boosting ratings.

It's also worth noting that even at the current levels, that represents about a 20 percent gain on OLN's coverage in 2002, with 207,544 average viewers in 2006 against 171,975 in 2002.

OLN says not to worry, that the decline “is within the range of where we thought it would be.”

(Via PodiumCafe.com.)

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2006 in Lance Armstrong, Television, Top Stories | Permalink


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Tracked on Jul 24, 2006 8:40:05 PM


Anyone know how that compares to U.S. World Cup viewership, post the U.S. team's exit? I'm curious, since many of those games were shown on ABC and many on ESPN.

Posted by: noelle at Jul 7, 2006 5:28:45 PM

I'd love to watch the TDF, but unfortunately OLN isn't part of my standard cable package... Ba$tards!

Posted by: Hexbelt at Jul 7, 2006 7:34:13 PM

You are providing great coverage of the tour - not just the race as some people did, but other things of interest (like this message on OLN). Keep up the good work!

Posted by: PeterD at Jul 7, 2006 8:44:42 PM

Seems to me the Tour is much more exciting without the Armstrong juggernaut being probable winners. If you are American, the depth of the American field is better than ever. And it should not be a question of "who succeeds Lance." Such an attitude detracts from the event.

Posted by: Hired Gun at Jul 7, 2006 9:47:38 PM

I've been watching every day and also think its more exciting post Armstrong and without the other knuckleheads that were busted in Operacion Puerto .... there are no real favorites its any mans race at this point and looks like there could be another american winner (I can't help but pull for George but Id be equally happy if Levi or Floyd win it)

Posted by: Sean at Jul 8, 2006 1:03:40 AM

"It's also worth noting that even at the current levels, that represents about a 20 percent gain on OLN's first year of coverage in 2002"

OLN started covering it in 2001 at latest, not 2002. Remember "the look"? OLN, baby. The article gets this right ("When OLN acquired the rights to the Tour de France in 2001") but perhaps they didn't have numbers for 2001 so they used 2002, and the above summary mixes it up.

Posted by: corr at Jul 8, 2006 3:57:35 AM


To categorise the 50% viewership drop off as the "Lance effect" is a tad naive.

Lance, as great as he is, is not the only person missing.

The TDF was hit with a doping scandal the day before the race when 4 of the top 5 riders were suspended by their teams. Ulrich (Lance's biggest rival), Basso (2nd last year) and Mancebo were all suspended.

I, for one, wanted to see the Ulrich-Basso battle. I have coverage where I live and I am watching the TDF way less than I would if Ulrich was in the frame.

Lance's absence, I am sure, has a big impact on US viewership. However to cartegorise the drop off as a quantification of the Lance effect is just plain wrong.
Also I suppose the 1st week of the TDF is always quiet.

Posted by: Dave at Jul 8, 2006 4:37:56 AM

It would be more interesting to see the drop off of TdF viewership post Phil Liggett. The broadcast team that has brought US coverage since Greg LeMond has been excellent. And, while this tour offers some outstanding talent, we shouldn't presume an American will replace Lance.

Posted by: GChu at Jul 8, 2006 5:58:13 AM

Dave, you make a good point that the withdrawals might also be reducing viewership. Unfortunately, there's not way to divorce the two effects, so the (probably lesser) "no-Jan" effect will add to the apparent size of the "Lance effect."

As for the 1st week being quiet, that's what the New York Times ratings numbers are looking at: 1st week numbers from 2002 through 2006.

Corr, thanks -- I'll straighten out the 2001/2002 thing; it's hard to believe this is the 6th year of OLN coverage.

Posted by: TdFblog's Frank at Jul 8, 2006 8:54:51 AM

Interesting in that article is the mention of a sweepstakes to ride with the Discovery team and that's the first I've heard of it and can't find it online. Frank?

Posted by: DL Byron at Jul 8, 2006 11:12:52 AM

The drop in viewership is not dut to the retirement of Armstrong as much as it is due to the witch hunting doping committee.

I understand that doping is bad, but american fans are introduced to a new sport again and their star retires, the media latches on and does their job which is to sell new stars.

When Basso and Ullrich stepped down a day prior due to doping allegations, the fan base of cycling went back to the status quo only keeping the cycling afficiando. The anti-doping committee cost the sport of cycling millions of dollars, viewers, and revenue.

As far as I am concerned, wait until after your biggest event before you pull your biggest team. In America, we like to to watch the Yankees win over and over. Who cares about the Blue Jays?

You know what I am saying

Posted by: Dylan at Jul 9, 2006 8:52:28 AM

Hey, there are some who care about the Jays, and we're Canadian. And there are also those of us who care about cyclists other than Americans. I understand that OLN wants to increase its viewer base in the US, but the endless jabber about American cyclists is very tiring. I'd like to see alternative coverage in Canada, even if it's not in English.

Posted by: pb at Jul 10, 2006 6:19:10 AM

The Post-Lance era has arrived- yes but many viewer like myself started watching in 2001-02 with Lance. For me, I have learned to really appreciate the sport and have become a 'regular' viewer to the Tour since 2001. The times in cycling now are turbulent and very exciting to see less known (non-American) riders bubble up to our attention.

Posted by: Charlie Cacioppo at Jul 10, 2006 11:27:53 AM

Part of it has to be due to the high commercial density of the prime-time coverage. Coupled with the inane commentary of Al Trautwig it's practically unwatchable. Last night they were going to breaks every 3 - 4 minutes. What's the point in watching anything other than the last 45 minutes?

Posted by: adrian at Jul 10, 2006 10:32:47 PM

Are you people doping ? of course the raitings drop off is because Lance Armstrong is missing. Doping has been an on-going issue with Cycling and sports in general. The fact that so few Americans were cought up in it says, to me, that interest might increase with increased US hopes. But alas, our Cancer surviving, Texas hero with the astronaut name who stuck it to the Frenchies is missing. Lance is/was an ICON who trancended the sport & brought us all into it.

Posted by: mark at Jul 11, 2006 11:47:42 AM

Yeah, it's really annoying (and embarrassing) when Americans say that they don't care or root for cyclists that aren't Americans. I used to live in Seattle, where I easily tapped into Canadian TV and appreciated the focus on the best athlete -- not just Canadian or American athletes. Lance had his day. Retire your mind from him as he retired from the sport and move on. Now I live in Texas where all they care about are Texans. It's sometimes embarrassing to be an American.

Posted by: Spinner at Jul 12, 2006 11:52:49 AM

1) The average american (not a huge cycling fan) watched the TdF b'c of lance, and for no other reason. It is naive to think otherwise

2) I hate the Yankees, GO SAWX!

Posted by: Jameson Bull at Jul 20, 2006 3:28:11 PM