The number of live TV hours viewed during coverage of last week’s European Athletics Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland jumped by an average of nearly 20% in nine key European TV markets, compared with the previous edition in Glasgow two years ago.
TV audiences showed renewed appetite for the championships following the recent dearth of top-quality sporting action on TV screens enforced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In all, 32 TV channels broadcast the championships, which took place from 4-7 March, with many national TV audiences having something to cheer as medals were won by athletes from 23 of the competing nations.
EBU Members in nine key European athletics markets – RTBF (Belgium), YLE (Finland), RAI (Italy), NOS (Netherlands), NRK (Norway), TVP (Poland), TVE (Spain), SVT (Sweden) and BBC (UK) – posted an average increase of 19.26% in the number of hours of live coverage viewed, compared with Glasgow 2019.
In Sweden, SVT scored a huge 141% average live market share increase from 10.58% in 2019 to 25.51% this year, its best figure since 2011. SVT’s live market share peaked at 56.4% on Sunday evening as Armand Duplantis, Sweden’s 21-year-old pole vault star, cleared a championship record of 6.05m to win the gold medal before three attempts at a world record height of 6.19m.
Meanwhile, in Italy, the number of live hours viewed soared to over three million from just 192,709 in 2019, as RAI ramped up its live coverage to over 20 hours in 2021, compared with only three hours in 2019.
In Poland, the host country, TVP registered the highest total of live hours viewed of the nine broadcasters: nearly 15.5 million hours, versus nearly 11.5 million hours in 2019.
The UK also posted strong figures, with over 20 hours of free-to-air coverage on BBC2 generating more than 14.3 million live viewer hours, representing an increase of 6.5% compared to 2017 in Belgrade, with a peak audience of over 1.6 million and live market share of 7.8% for Sunday evening’s finals.
European Athletics Interim President Dobromir Karamarinov said: “I am very proud that European Athletics has been able to deliver a safe and successful European Athletics Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland, thanks in large part to the great work done by the Local Organising Committee. These impressive TV figures show that European Athletics’ major events remain an attractive and engaging product for TV audiences and broadcasters.”
"We successfully delivered a safe event with more than 700 athletes from more than 47 countries. It was the first major sporting event for most European athletes this year ahead of Tokyo 2020, where we expect more brilliant performances," added Karimarinov, reviewing Torun 2021 at a roundtable for leading sports industry media on Friday (12).
EBU Members took advantage of several technology innovations aimed at making it easier for them to interact remotely with athletes, with governing body European Athletics and with Eurovision Sport during the continuing lockdown restrictions.
Innovations included a pioneering Virtual Media Centre where media could access the live video streams, live results, all related media information and even book remote mixed zone positions for interviews with athletes.
"We manged to st up within just two months the remote virtual media services. Any member of the media who was forced to stay at home in Rome, Stockholm or Oslo could say after the 1500m 'I want to speak to Jakob Ingebritsen,' and any journalist could discuss the race with him. In our view, this was a fantastic way of providing services (to the media). Athletics will probably not change but what has changed are the type of side activities around our sport," reflected European Athletics CEO Christian Milz during the media roundtable.
In 2018, the EBU and European Athletics renewed their worldwide media rights contract, taking the partnership, which began in 1981, through to the end of 2027.
The agreement covers the worldwide television and radio rights for European Athletics’ major events from 2020 to 2023 and from 2024 to 2027. This includes the flagship European Athletics Championships in 2022, 2024 and 2026.
Talking specifically about next year´s European Athletics Championships in Munich, part of the second multi-sport European Championships, Karamarinov commented: "We have a very strong partnership with the EBU and although this is a multi-sport event, athletics has dedicated primetime so we will get a lot of exposure."