The EBU have reported increased viewing figures for the first nine stages of the Tour de France ©Getty Images

European Broadcasting Union (EBU) members have reportedly seen a more than 10 per cent rise in the number of hours of Tour de France coverage viewed during the first nine stages of the race.

The EBU and Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) say the free-to-air viewing figures have not been adversely affected by the postponement of the race from its traditional July dates, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of hours viewed in the opening nine stages across 13 markets was claimed to have risen to 174 million, compared to 157 million in 2019.

The markets include Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

Both the Flemish and French speaking areas of Belgium are included, along with the Italian, French and German speaking regions of Switzerland.

“In this unusual cycling season, to say the least, we are thrilled by some great ratings from EBU members for the first nine stages of the Tour de France 2020," said Frédéric Sanz, head of cycling at Eurovision Sport.

"We were concerned that the switch of the race from its traditional July dates to take place mainly in September might have some negative effects on the viewership.

"However, the Tour de France has continued its long-track record of popularity, with the distribution provided by EBU members together with Eurosport proving once again its ability to reach the widest possible audience across Europe."

Slovenia's live coverage on RTV has reportedly more than doubled compared to last year, with their stars Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar at the top of the general classification race.

Over 2.6 million hours were viewed over the first nine stages compared to 1.2 million last year.

NPO1 in the Netherlands has reportedly recorded its best audience measured by total hours viewed for the first nine stages since 2014, with 39.4 million hours viewed.

The performance of Primož Roglič has helped boost coverage in Slovenia ©Getty Images
The performance of Primož Roglič has helped boost coverage in Slovenia ©Getty Images

In Denmark, TV2 has secured an average 51.5 per cent viewing share for its coverage, while Een in Flemish-speaking Belgium earned a 68 per cent share for its live coverage of stage eight, the opening mountain stage of the race.

"We first want to say thank you to the EBU, its members and Eurosport International, whose support has been crucial to deliver a postponed Tour in September," said Julien Goupil, ASO media director.

"We are grateful for the encouraging viewership figures seen across Europe over the first nine stages of the Tour, both on free linear television and digital platforms, especially as this is the first time that the event is taking place so late in the season. 

"As one of the first sports events of international magnitude to be back on screens since March, and with free-to-air exposure as a key concern, these metrics reinforce the idea that the Tour is much more than just a date. 

"We feel excited about our recently-renewed agreement with the EBU until 2025, an agreement that shows our commitment to deliver the best of cycling to the greatest number of people in Europe.”

Eurovision Sport and ASO extended their media rights agreement for the Tour de France through to 2025 earlier this year.

An agreement was also signed by Eurovision Sport to extend its partnership with ASO subsidiary Unipublic for the Vuelta a España through to 2025.