In the good old days, Channel 4 used to get 1m+ viewers tuning in to Messrs Liggett and Sherwin. Since moving to ITV2 - available via digibox and satellite - ratings have been less than startling. However, take-up of Freeview in the UK has been high and viewers have been returning to the Tour coverage, packaged by the same production company that producing the Channel 4 programme

Tour de France is a ratings winner for ITV2

MediaGuardian reports that the ITV2 coverage of Le Tour trebled its usual teatime audience for the duration of the event.

ITV2’s 7pm weeknight highlights programme averaged 189 000 viewers, a 1.76 pecent share in multichannel homes. This is a significant improvement on the 102 000 viewers tuning in last year.

The audience peaked at 247,000 viewers for the fifteenth stage on July 20th.

Live coverage of Sunday’s final stage was watched by 213 000 people, said MediaGuardian.

Channel 4’s coverage stopped in 2001 after the channel secured the rights to England Test cricket. In 2000, Channel 4 had signed a five year contract with the European Broadcast Union, which is assigned the TV rights to the Tour by organiser Amaury Sport Organisations.

Channel 4 sold on the final three years of its broadcast contract to ITV in a £2.5m deal.

In 2002, the first year of ITV2’s coverage of the event, just 25 000 Brits tuned in on their digital tellies, or via their ITV set-top boxes, for the afternoon, live coverage of the Tour de France.

ITV2 was said not be worried about this because "the Tour brings in the valuable ABC1 male audience important to advertisers."

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