Versus is racing to big ratings with its coverage of the Tour de France.
Comcast's national sports network has recorded a 77% rise in viewership through the first 10 stages of the premiere cycling race. Over that period, average morning viewership reached 479,809, up from 270,359 over the same span with the 2008 competition, according to Nielsen Media Research data.
Versus officials said male demos are ahead 85%, 132% and 98% among guys 18 to 34, 18 to 49 and 25 to 54, respectively.
The network has also scored gains against its 2005 coverage, the last of Lance Armstrong's seven consecutive tour wins, before making his comeback this time around.
In 2009 compared to 2005, average viewership for live morning telecasts was up 15% percent (479,809 compared with 418,866). Among key male demos the advances were 6% among the 18-to-34 set, 15% with the 18 to 49s and 8% among guys with men 25 to 54.
To date, more than 30 million viewers have tuned in to a portion of Versus' wall-to-wall coverage of the 2009 Tour, 40% over last year (21.4 million) and 44% over 2005 (20.8 million) after the first 10 stages.
Online, Versus.com, the official Tour Web site in the U.S., recorded a 115% rise in traffic and almost 6.3 million videos had been screened, compared with 6.5 million for the entire race in 2008 and 3.4 million the year before.
"Versus entered this year's Tour de France with a ton of momentum and that buzz has continued through the first half of the race," said president Jamie Davis in a statement. "With the Tour in HD for the first time ever, as well as American icon Lance Armstrong and former champion and Astana teammate Alberto Contador only seconds behind the overall leader, viewers are tuning into Versus and going to Versus.com in record numbers. With more pivotal stages in the days ahead, there is no doubt that this epic race will continue to generate excitement across the country."