Thousands flock to SBS peloton
REGARDLESS of whether you think Cadel Evans is a hero or not ( I’ll weigh in on that in a minute), the Aussie cyclist has certainly been a hero for SBS.
SBS recorded its highest audience for 2011 on July 24 with a metro average of 704,000 and a regional average audience of 234,000 ( a total of 938,000) tuning in to see Cadel Evans ride to victory in the final stage of the Tour de France.
That was a metro share of 32.6 per cent and was the most-watched stage of the Tour de France ever.
Audience share for SBS is traditionally quite low, hovering around the 3-5 per cent mark, so it is quite a considerable feat when it gets these spikes from time to time.
The last time it had such a surge was during the special event Go Back to Where You Came From in June, with an average audience of 851,000 ( 600,000 metro and 226,000 regional).
The Tour has become an institution for Australian viewers, even among non-sports fans.
This was the 21st year SBS has televised the event and its audience continues to grow each year.
Its overnight timeslot, usually running from 10pm into the early hours of the following morning, has not deterred viewers from tuning in to enjoy not just the competition but also the scenery.
While cycling enthusiasts and mad-keen sports fans are obvious viewers, the more surprising thing is how many people with little interest in cycling watch it.
Such viewers treat it almost as a travel piece, enjoying the sweeping camera work that takes in some of the most beautiful countryside in Europe.
The side-effect of this, of course, is that even casual viewers then get sucked in by the spirit of competition eventually and start learning the names of the main contenders and cheering them on.
So by the time Cadel Evans was poised to take his final victory ride in to Paris, he had amassed legions of new fans who might have never even heard of him before this year, but they came to love him all the same.
Which brings me to Mia Freedman, the journalist who was not only outed on Nine’s Today show for not knowing who Evans was but who also dared to challenge the zeitgeist by saying she thought ‘‘ hero’’ was applied a bit too liberally to sportspeople in Australia. The ridiculous ad hominem attacks from sports fans in the aftermath have been, quite frankly, disgusting.
She never denied Evans’s abilities and she never said he was unworthy of congratulations and adoration, as many have insinuated she did.
All she did was say she’s not inspired by sportspeople and is more judicious with her use of the word ‘‘ hero’’ – and she’s entitled to that opinion.
The savage personal attack Today co-host Karl Stefanovic launched at a stunned Freedman proved nothing except that he is certainly not the better person he seems to think he is, just by virtue of calling a cyclist a hero.