TV audience figures for the Belgrade 2017 European Athletics Indoor Championships showed a big increase over the numbers posted for the previous edition held in Prague two years ago.
Across Europe, there was a 16% increase in the total number of hours viewed while the number of hours broadcast in all forms – live, delayed, repeat, highlights and simultaneous – increased by 4.9% on 2015 and a massive 46.1% on 2013 when the championships were held in the Swedish city of Göteborg.
Overall, 511 hours of this year’s championships were broadcast by 28 National European broadcasters and the Pan-European coverage during the six-day transmission period during and immediately after the championships.
In Great Britain and Northern Ireland, where the championships were shown by the national free-to-air broadcaster BBC, the addition of repeat showings during the period from 3-8 March meant that the audience viewing hours almost doubled from Prague 2015.
Belgrade 2017 was the most widely viewed sports event shown on British television during this period, beating all other sports including Premier League football matches.
Significant increases in the audience numbers from two years ago were also seen in the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, the Baltic territories of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well as Poland, Spain and the host nation Serbia.
Slovakia broadcast the European Indoors with live commentary on site for the first time since 2009. Belarus and Hungary did not show the championships on national television in 2013 and 2015 – although athletics fans in those countries would have been able to watch via Pan-European broadcasters such as Eurosport – but they returned to the fold this year and provided extensive live coverage.
European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen commented: “At the pre-event press conference in Belgrade, we announced that 25 European broadcasters had signalled their intentions to show the championships but, in the end, the final total was 29.
“In similar fashion, we said that we were expecting around 330 hours of live coverage but the final figure was more than 390 hours; and this figure doesn’t include highlights or repeats.
“Without being complacent, this is excellent news and the overall figures show that there is still a strong appetite for our sport across Europe, from both broadcasters and the general public.
“Firstly, I have to thank our international partner the European Broadcasting Union, for doing such a magnificent job marketing the championships to its members.
“Secondly, I think it shows the strength of our product. Athletics remains a vibrant and attractive sport in Europe, despite all the recent challenges.
“Now, the challenge is for European Athletics to continue to refine the presentation and composition of our events to cater for contemporary TV audiences without losing sight of our sport’s core values.
“The figures from Belgrade 2017 show that we are going in the right direction and give us all the motivation required to produce a memorable event at the next European Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow in March 2019, so that we will see another increase in the number of hours viewed on TV across Europe.
“Having looked at the detailed breakdown of the figures, I am especially pleased that in the majority of countries which provided demographic data, the biggest proportion of the viewers were in the 25-49 years age-group.
“This contradicts the perceived view that athletics is predominantly being watched by a mature audience.
“However, we still need to look at improving our championship presentation on TV to engage further the young adult audience of 15-24 year-olds, not least because this is an age group that consists of a high proportion of active athletes who might otherwise be expected to watch the elite of our sport in action,” added Hansen.