Singapore’s Youth Olympics and the impotence of being disearnest

The Youth Olympics have come and gone, with a month’s worth of dust collected in our collective wake. Yet the recriminations still fly. Just this past week, it turns out that the organisers couldn’t get either a print job or a mail delivery right.

Pah, some might say dismissively, arguing these are minor mishaps in the grander scheme of things.

Not quite. One of the YOG’s key selling points, business-wise, is the global media exposure it brings for Singapore, its people and, of course, the sponsors. Yet some of those partners have come out of the bargain more philanthropist than investor, with a bitter taste in their mouths.

The Straits Times reported Thursday (30 September):

There were some who were disappointed with what they felt was meagre international coverage of the Games.

Said Lim Keng Boon, assistant general manager of Crocodile International: “We are extremely disappointed with the organiser and the scale of advertising and promotion done by them.

“It is a joke to the world and a shame to the YOG and Singaporeans, and a shock to first-tier sponsors like us who had spent close to a retail value of $10 million worth of apparel.”

The organisers offered this in defence:

But Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (Syogoc) chairman Ng Ser Miang disagreed, insisting that the Games had plenty of coverage.

“Of course some countries didn’t get it but, overall worldwide, it was huge,” said Ng, who is also vice-president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Singapore National Olympic Committee.

He pointed out that there were 166 rights holders, 26 live telecasts and “fantastic coverage” of the YOG Flame’s journey. He added that the IOC is compiling statistics about the Games coverage.

So Ng rests his case on a couple of numbers and some weasel words. And they are so convincing too, if you don’t think about it.

Consider the numbers. What do “166 rights holders” and “26 live telecasts” mean? Not a lot.

Starting with the latter, which I understand Ng to mean all 26 sports enjoyed some form of live broadcast (he can’t be talking about each competitive session as a discrete entity – the number would be far higher). Big news then. I would imagine the full summer Olympiads to boast 26 live telecasts too. What can this tell us about how popular the YOG broadcasts were globally? Zilch. Nadah. Nothing.

Moving on. The “166 rights holders” refer to the number of official broadcasters, each holding rights for an individual country, or in some cases, region. It appears to be a reasonably big number and, lacking official viewership data, a good measure for judging the scale of coverage.

By a way of comparison, let’s look at the broadcast data for the main Olympic Games (on pages 22-32 of the Olympic Marketing Fact File). In terms of number of countries/territories that received broadcasts, in 2008 some 220 aired the Beijing Olympiad. The 2010 Winter Games, with reduced appeal to countries lacking temperate or continental climates, attracted less – 200 countries/territories.

I hear you, number of rights holders isn’t the same as number of territories. So what I’ll use for comparison is an official Olympic list of YOG broadcasting countries (updated 13 August, the day before the YOG started), which shows just 185 territories – well short of that of the full Olympics.

That was just the warm-up. The number of broadcasters/territories isn’t very meaningful as we have no idea how many viewers there were in each territory. Without this data, one way to gauge popular enthusiasm is to look at the Games’ broadcast revenues – networks shell out for rights in anticipation of enthusiastic advertisers and sponsors, who in turn expect high viewership ratings.

In a simplistic metric, the more the broadcasters paid, the more confident they were about pulling in viewers. Of course, you’d have to factor in other considerations like the level of competition and the type of bidding process in each country/region, inflation, etc. Nonetheless, fundamentally, Olympics is big business; the bottom line counts, and where networks are willing to draw that bottom line can tell us something.

The 2008 Beijing Games commanded a whopping US$1.7 billion in global broadcast revenues. Its sister event, the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, took in for the IOC US$831 million worldwide. For the 2010 and 2012 Olympiads, NBC alone is paying US$2 billion for exclusive US rights.

How much did the YOG take in? Consider these statements, taken from a SYOGOC press release (emphasis mine).

…the IOC has informed all existing official Olympic broadcast partners (in territories outside Singapore) that they have the opportunity to acquire the right to broadcast the Youth Olympic Games within their territory without charge, if they guarantee certain levels of exposure across all media platforms.

The official IOC and Singapore 2010 web sites will also broadcast the Games online (live and on demand) to viewers around the world free of charge.

Basically, the IOC was peddling YOG rights for free, in return for ensuring the Games received a minimum amount of media exposure. If the YOG was anything of a business bonanza, would such a caveat be necessary?

In the full Olympiads, internet broadcasts are part of the rights package purchased by networks, which then restrict viewership by territory to adhere by licensing agreements and, more importantly from the IOC’s perspective, prevent free-loading (think the strict policing on YouTube, where sports highlights are hunted down vigorously and removed). But in the case of the YOG, the IOC didn’t dare monetise internet broadcast rights.

Is this the kind of huge worldwide coverage you speak of, Mr Ng?


~ by spiegel2071 on September 30, 2010.

One Response to “Singapore’s Youth Olympics and the impotence of being disearnest”

  1. […] Olympics sponsors feel cheated, so organisers go to spin alley and throw smoke. #singapore #yog […]

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