Sat 1 saddles up for Tour de France

ARD, ZDF pulled out Wednesday

Just 24 hours after German pubcasters ARD and ZDF pulled the plug on their live Tour de France coverage after another doping scandal, rival commercial web Sat 1 jumped into the void to broadcast the rest of the world’s premier cycling race.

A spokesman for ARD confirmed on Thursday morning that ARD and ZDF had given back broadcasting rights to the Tour, about halfway through the three-week race, after German cyclist Patrik Sinkewitz tested positive for doping, freeing the way for Tour organizers to hand them over to Sat 1.

The Tour de France is broadcast to 185 nations. Revenues from Germany have, however, previously accounted for about a third of the race’s TV earnings.

The pubcasters, which have drawn excellent ratings for most of the last decade with the Tour, had vowed to pull out if race officials could not stamp out the doping that has plagued the sport.

Sat 1 cycling experts Timon Saatmann and Mike Kluge provided commentary for Thursday’s action from a studio in Berlin. Sat 1 hopes to have a team in France in time for Friday’s stage.

Sister web N24 will broadcast a half-hour summary of the day’s action at 7:30 p.m. Another sister net, ProSieben, will broadcast Saturday’s time trial since Sat 1 has a prior commitment to air soccer matches.

After ARD and ZDF pulled out on Wednesday, rival Eurosport drew a sensational 8.6 share, or 931,000 viewers, triple its usual audience.

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