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COLOGNE, Germany (AFP) — Germany’s main broadcasters said Wednesday they are set to end live broadcasts of the Tour de France in 2012, blaming a drop in viewing figures for the decision.
German broadcasters ARD and ZDF said they will not renew their contract with the European Broadcasting Union to screen the event live and will only air highlights in the future from cycling’s showcase stage race in 2012.
The German networks say live broadcasts over several hours can no longer be justified because fewer Germans are watching the race live.
Both ARD and ZDF pulled the plug on live broadcasts during the 2007 Tour after a series of doping affairs.
Live coverage was resumed in 2008, but with current champion Alberto Contador facing a one-year ban for an alleged doping offence, the latest problems in the sport are believed to be a factor in the broadcasters’ decisions.
Cycling’s popularity in Germany has dropped since the 1990s, when millions of Germans tuned in to watch Jan Ullrich win the race’s yellow jersey in 1997.
Ullrich ended his career in February 2007 after being sacked by T-Mobile when he was linked to the Operation Puerto blood-doping scandal.