The Santos Tour Down Under has a new Australian free-to-air broadcast partner, the Nine Network. There were murmurs a couple of weeks ago when SBS staffed tweeted that they were likely to lose the broadcast rights to the Tour Down Under (TDU) to Channel Nine from next year.
Under the new broadcast agreement Nine will be home of TDU coverage for the next three years, starting in 2012. It has also been confirmed that Nine’s coverage will feature the voices of cycling Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, who have previously featured in SBS’ TDU coverage and Tour de France coverage. Nine’s coverage will be hosted by Wide World of Sports’ Andrew Voss.
The 2012 event will see Nine’s Wide World of Sports broadcast the final weekend of the TDU live on Nine as well as streaming the coverage on the Wide World of Sports website (NineMSN). SBS over recent years has led the way along with Network Ten by streaming their respective sports coverage online, such as the recent UCI World Road Cycling Championships on the Cycling Central website and Network Ten, which over the weekend streamed Australian Open Golf and Formula One coverage on its website and smartphone apps.
The remainder of the event will be shown in the form of a dedicated highlights package each evening. The press release from TDU organisers does not make clear what time the nightly highlights will air, for how long or whether they will be on the primary channel or a secondary channel such as GEM.
Hitaf Rasheed, General Manager Events South Australia, said:
“We’re excited about the new partnership with the Nine Network, who have a proven track record in the coverage of major sporting events and are the official broadcasters of the London 2012 Olympic Games,”
Steve Crawley, Head of Sport for the Nine Network, said:
“Australia has a great history of success in Olympic cycling and in an Olympic year this event will showcase some of the best Australian and international cycling talent leading into London 2012.”
The poaching of the rights by Channel Nine, from arguably the home of cycling in SBS, is no doubt a play by Nine to build momentum towards its London 2012 Olympic coverage, for which it is the exclusive FTA broadcaster. Of course road and track cycling are events at the Olympics.
It is often said that FTA networks use the broadcasting of sports to give their channels a halo effect, as viewers are exposed to other programs whilst watching a sporting broadcast and therefore this will result in viewers watching other programs on the network and thereby increase a network’s viewer share. Think of the boost that Seven receives in southern states when its Sunday news bulletin has an AFL match or V8 Supercars race as a lead-in.
It seems Nine will use its newly acquired TDU coverage rights to create a halo effect for its Olympic coverage. Nine may also use the broadcast to deliver advertising opportunities to its Olympic broadcast partners and sponsors in the lead up to its Olympic broadcast later in 2012. It is also a timely rights pickup given the increased interest in cycling following Cadel Evans’ maiden victory at this year’s Tour de France.
SBS will be disappointed at the loss of another one of its key offerings to Nine (Top Gear was poached by Nine) but it still retains rights to the holy grail of cycling, the Tour de France. SBS TV Senior Sports Producer Stuart Randall said on Twitter that SBS will provide as much TDU coverage as permitted as a non-rights holder.
It is also worth mentioning that apart from not covering the TDU next year that it will also be the first time since the 2000 Sydney Olympics, that SBS is not the secondary broadcaster of a Summer Olympics, after filling that role in 2004 & 2008, with Seven as the primary broadcaster and also producing the SBS coverage.
The 2012 Santos Tour Down Under will be held in South Australia from 15-22 January. At this stage there is only one international cricket fixture which will clash with the TDU and that is the 3rd Vodafone Test Match between Australia v India which is scheduled to be played from 13-17 January. This match will be played in Perth, meaning Nine’s broadcast will run into the evening on the east coast due to the time difference. This may provide Nine the perfect opportunity to run the TDU daily highlights package for the first two days of the TDU following the conclusion of its cricket commitments.
Lets hope this new deal grows awareness of the TDU in Australia, which is the first stop on the UCI’s Pro Cycling World Tour.
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