2023 Tour de France Saw Mild Boost in Streaming as Final Paris Stage Records Peak Viewership

The 2023 Tour de France bicycle race saw marginal streaming viewership gains throughout the 23-day event, with the final stage into Paris posting outsized numbers, including 78% uptick in plays, 40% increase in total playtime and 46% increase in unique viewers watching Danish cyclist Jonas Vingegaard win his second Tour, according to new data from NPAW.

In February, NBC Sports, Peacock and the Amaury Sport Organization announced a six-year extension for exclusive U.S. media rights for the Tour de France, including streaming.

Overall, the bike race experienced only slight upticks in streaming viewership, suggesting trends among live streaming’s appeal among sports events does not necessarily apply to cycling.

The Tour caters to a very specific audience segment that fails to move the needle overall. Notably, though, there was a 20% surge in total viewing time during the Tour compared to the 90 previous days, NPAW attributed the uptick more to the long duration of the event and its 21 stages.

Pay-TV set-top boxes and big screen televisions remain the main devices for streaming the Tour, jointly seizing 75% of the total playtime, according to NPAW. PCs and Smartphones combined for 20% of the playtime.

“As we move forward, it will be interesting to see if these percentages remain stable, or if mobile devices for live sports streaming grow in importance as they have done in other aspects of our lives,” read the blog post.

Ted Sarandos: Netflix Upbeat on Sports Genre, Not Live Sports

Netflix is embracing sports as a content genre, but still has no plans to enter live sports distribution, according to co-CEO Ted Sarandos.

Speaking on the July 19 fiscal webcast, Sarandos said the streamer is best served spending its $17 billion annual content budget on storytelling rather than on live sports action.

Netflix’s recent bow of separate eight-part documentary series on NFL quarterbacks (“Quarterbacks”) and the Tour de France bicycle race (“Tour de France: Unchained”) has proven popular to subscribers. Former NFL QB Payton Manning, who is executive producer of “Quarterbacks,” says there will be a second season of the series.

“[‘Unchained’] did exactly what we saw with [auto racing series] ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive,’ which is introduce to a brand new audience a sport that’s been around for a really long time and not very well understood,” Sarandos said. “And you do that through exceptional storytelling, not through the liveness of the game.”

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Sarandos contends that by delving into docuseries on golf, tennis, cycling and football, streamers have access to a wide variety of sports programming that isn’t seasonal. In November, Netflix will live-stream a golf tournament in Las Vegas, which will serve as a test for live sports distribution, as well a promotional vehicle for the streamer’s sports content, including “Full Swing.”

“We think that we can have a really strong offering for sports fans on Netflix without having to be part of the difficulty of the [expensive] economic model of live sports licensing,” Sarandos said.

Netflix Upping Sports Documentary Productions

Netflix may not be interested in pursuing live-sports streaming, but the SVOD behemoth isn’t turning its back on sports.

The streamer Jan. 12 announced two new projects featuring exclusive, behind-the-scenes stories with some of the most-popular athletes, teams, leagues and federations around the globe. As part of its sports slate, Netflix has greenlighted two new docuseries: an as yet untitled series at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, featuring exclusive, behind-the-scenes footage of all 32 teams from the tournament; and “Six Nations,” an inside look at the international rugby tournament. 

Netflix also announced a Feb. 24 premiere for season five of popular series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” along with a first look at the new season. As previously announced, tennis series “Break Point” debuts Jan. 13, followed by golf series “Full Swing” on Feb. 15.  And later in 2023, Netflix will premiere a behind-the-scenes docuseries from the 2022 Tour de France, as well as “Heart of Invictus,” following competitors in The Invictus  Games. 

“By going behind-the-scenes of the world’s biggest sporting events with unprecedented access, we have a unique opportunity to share the triumphs, tribulations and drama of these iconic moments with our hundreds of millions of global members,” Brandon Riegg, VP of unscripted and documentary series, said in a statement.

Since breaking its sports doc teeth with “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” Netflix has doubled down chronicling some of the world’s biggest sporting leagues. 

“Break Point” gets up close and personal with top tennis players through an entire year traveling across the globe for all four Grand Slams and the ATP and WTA tours. From physical injuries and emotional heartbreak, to triumphant victories, to personal moments off the court, viewers will get a behind the scenes look at the pressure-tested lives of these pro tennis players.

“Full Swing” is an eight-episode documentary series that follows a diverse group of professional golfers on and off the course, across a relentless season of competition. The golfers endure a high-stakes schedule week in and week out on the PGA Tour, including, for the first time ever, exclusive behind-the-scenes access to all four of golf’s major championships. Full Swing is executive produced by Chad Mumm and Mark Olsen (Vox Media Studios), Paul Martin, James Gay-Rees and Warren Smith (Box to Box Films).

“Formula 1: Drive to Survive Season 5″ will once again take fans behind the scenes, to witness first-hand how the drivers and teams prepare to battle it out for the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. The series will offer never-before-seen footage and interviews from the sport’s biggest names. Formula 1: Drive to Survive is executive-produced by Academy-Award winner James Gay-Rees (Amy, Senna) and Paul Martin (Diego Maradona) for Box to Box Films.

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“Heart of Invictus” follows a group of extraordinary competitors from around the globe — all service members who have suffered life-changing injuries or illnesses — on their road to the Invictus Games, revealing powerful stories of resilience and hope. From Archewell Productions in partnership with The Invictus Games Foundation, along with the Oscar-winning team of director Orlando von Einsiedel and producer Joanna Natasegara (The White Helmets, Virunga, Evelyn). 

The untitled Tour de France docuseries showcases the iconic French bike racing stage race, a source of national pride in France. It will chart the ups and downs of eight of the teams, featuring their cyclists over the grueling three-week tour. The series is produced by QuadBox, a Paris-based joint venture between Box to Box Films and Quad. Executive producers are James Gay Rees, Paul Martin, Yann Le Bourbouach and Amelia Hann. 

“Six Nations” aims to get fans closer to the Guinness Six Nations Championship. The series will take viewers inside the exhilarating world of the oldest and greatest annual international rugby tournament, giving fans an insight into pulsating behind the scenes moments, as the best teams in Europe battle it out in some of the biggest matches in the rugby calendar to take home the prestigious trophy. 

The untitled FIFA World Cup Series (Summer 2023) follows players throughout qualification for last year’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Produced by Fulwell 73, the series will be the definitive account of one of the greatest sporting spectacles of all time. With privileged, behind-the-scenes access and exclusive footage in and around all the 32 teams, the series will show viewers the FIFA World Cup as never seen before. The series will stream globally on Netflix in 2023.

Other Netflix sports programming includes “The Redeem Team”; “Last Chance U”; “The Last Dance”; “Neymar: The Perfect Chaos”; “Untold”; and “Cheer.” In addition to exclusive projects with sports leagues, Netflix in 2023 will also launch the film Bill Russell: Legend; an untitled David Beckham series; and a new season of docuseries “Untold.”

Warner Bros. Discovery: 2022 Tour de France Bike Race Set Streaming, Broadcast Records Across 50 European Markets

Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Aug. 1 reported record-breaking streaming and broadcast audience engagement across 50 markets in Europe for its comprehensive coverage of the Tour de France bicycle race, which ended July 24. The 24-day event was won by first-time winner Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark.

The Tour de France was available on the Discovery+ streaming platform in Denmark, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the U.K. and Ireland. The U.S. SVOD grew its Tour de France streaming audience by five times compared to 2021, and saw a near 32% increase across all of its digital platforms, including the Eurosport app.

WBD also reported that the Tour finished with the best overall pan-Europe television performance in five years with record audience tune-in in key markets including France, Spain and Norway. TV viewership across Europe on Eurosport 1 and Eurosport 2 rose 23% from 2021.

WBD’s Eurosport.com saw a 50% jump in audience starts compared with 2021. Total video minutes watched grew by 40%.

In broadcast, Warner Bros. Discovery said the race, which featured an epic duel for the Yellow Jersey between Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar, Slovenia’s winner of the last two editions of the Tour, racked up more than 400 million hours viewed in aggregate across Eurosport’s television footprint.

The Tour de France was broadcast and streamed in the U.S. by NBC Sports and Peacock.

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Netflix Greenlights Documentary Series on Tour de France Bicycle Race

Netflix March 31 announced it is partnering with organizers of the Tour de France bicycle race for an eight-episode, reality-based documentary series on the 2022 edition of the famous sports spectacle. The series is expected to launch in 2023.

Following months of speculation, Netflix said it would work with France Télévisions and Quadbox, a joint venture between Quad and Box to Box Films (Producer of Netflix’s successful “F1 Drive to Survive” auto racing series), to follow eight teams taking part in the 2,000-mile race taking place from July 1 to 24.

The 45-minute episodes will follow as closely as possible all the actors of the Tour de France, from cyclists to team managers, to understand the multiple stakes of a race that has become a true international symbol, broadcasted in 190 territories.

The backstory of eight professional teams will be unveiled, from the preparation phase to the finish line. The teams include AG2R Citroën Team, Alpecin-Fenix, Bora-Hansgrohe, EF Education-EasyPost, Groupama-FDJ Cycling Team, Ineos Grenadiers, Team Jumbo-Visma and Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl.

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This is a unique opportunity to dive into the stories of its inspiring characters,” Dolores Emile, manager of EMEA Unscripted & Doc Series (France) at Netflix, said in a statement.

France Télévisions will broadcast a 52-minute documentary on the series a few days before the start of the Tour de France in 2023.

“Through a narrative approach, which is additive to the competition itself, the public will be able to discover how the Tour de France represents the ultimate challenge for the competitors,” said Yann Le Moënner, directeur général d’A.S.O. “This project is part of our overall ambition to make our sport more accessible and meet an even wider audience.”

Sky’s Cycling Dilemma

NEWS ANALYSIS — Chris Froome, racing for the $40 million Team Sky professional cycling team sponsored by the British satellite pay-TV operator, May 27 won his third straight Grand Tour stage race, finishing first overall in the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) that began in Jerusalem and ended three weeks later in Rome.

For Froome, who has won four Tour de France races, in addition to last year’s Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain), victory came May 25 after a jaw-dropping win into Bardonecchia that saw the South African-born rider erase a seemingly insurmountable three-minute, 21-second deficit in the overall standings to take the lead for good.

The win brought back bad memories of American Floyd Landis’ similar performance in 2006 when he overcame a significant time gap to vanquish his Tour de France rivals on the next-to-last stage.

Landis was eventually stripped of the win after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs — leading to a chain of events that would ultimately bring down his former teammate Lance Armstrong on similar charges.

Froome and Team Sky are supposed to be different than Armstrong’s heavy-handed squads of the early 2000s that pushed systematic doping to the extreme.

Founded in 2010, Team Sky has dominated professional and Olympic track cycling with a mandate of clean racing. It is a bragging right of sorts for corporate parent Sky, which eyes the team’s “inspiration and participation” as grounds for its massive marketing spend.

But it remains to be seen how much longer Sky — which has first-run distribution deals with major Hollywood studios, direct-access to Netflix and includes DVDs with electronic sellthrough purchases on the Sky Store platform — will support the team financially at it sits in the merger crosshairs of The Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox (which owns 39% of Sky), and Comcast.

And money is hardly the issue.

Team Sky’s dominance has produced increasing naysayers, who contend its results are due to exploiting loopholes within doping rules.

Indeed, Froome, a well-documented asthmatic, often uses inhalers during competition. But apparent misuse of inhalers contributed to Froome testing positive for illegally high levels of an asthma drug during last year’s Vuelta.

The case is under review by cycling’s governing body. Should Froome be found guilty, he would be suspended and stripped of the Vuelta win, and likely the Giro as well.

Without its marque rider, Sky would probably drop its sponsorship.

But in the meantime, Froome keeps racing. As does Team Sky, whose Columbian rider Bernal Gomez recently won the Tour of California.

“My conscience is clear,” said Froome in Rome.