Tour de France Proves Nielsen Tour de Force

OLN's sagging Tour de France ratings meant cycling on TV equated with only one name--Lance. Then the network made a quick sprint with another "L" word. On Thursday, only three days before the three-week event ended, American Floyd Landis reversed his lowly fortunes and rode a stunning race in the Alps, which witnessed his powerful climbing and a rise in viewers.

Live viewership improved 77 percent from the day before. Overall gross total viewers--the addition of OLN's multiple airings on the day's events--gave the network 1.3 million viewers, some 50 percent higher than the first 19-day average of 809,000 for the event.

For the rest of the weekend, OLN made significant viewers gains versus earlier parts of the race. For example, its live telecasts on the final weekend rose 85 percent to 622,000 from the weekend before. All major male demo ratings also climbed significantly--men ages 18-34 were up 93 percent; men 18-49 rose 90 percent; and men 25-54 were 98 percent higher.



But it isn't a total victory. Up until Landis' big ride, ratings for the event were around 50 percent below Armstrong's numbers in 2005. Another factor affecting overall viewing: a major Spanish drug investigation knocked out two of the biggest pre-race favorites--Italian Ivan Basso and German Jan Ullrich--the day before the event started.

Although ratings for the remaining five days after Landis' big ride improved, the race's overall three-week numbers were substantially less than for Armstrong's victory last year.

Last year, the entire three-week event gave the last Lance Armstrong "Tour de France" 1.6 million total viewers. That compares with an average this year of 802,000 through stage 15.

For OLN, the good news is clear: There is another American to rally around--possibly one who will overcome medical troubles. The drama with Landis increased when he revealed that he had a degenerated hip disease that would require hip replacement surgery.

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