One of the key objectives of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s broadcast strategy is “to ensure the long-term financial future of the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games.”
According to SportBusiness Intelligence, over the last 20 years the IOC has increased the value of its broadcast rights by 322 per cent, from $928 million in 1992, the last year the summer and winter Games were held in the same year, to over $3.9 billion for the 2010-2012 cycle.
Growth in the value of the winter Games, a less mature TV product than its summer counterpart, outstripped the longer-established event, rising by 338 per cent against 314 per cent for the summer Games over the last 20 years.
In the four-year period covering the Games in Turin (2006) and Beijing (2008), broadcasting income accounted for 47 per cent of all Olympic marketing revenue (sponsorship, ticketing and licensing make up the balance). For the previous cycle, encompassing Salt Lake 2002 and Athens 2004, that figure was as high as 53 per cent.
Last summer, IOC president Jacques Rogge said that the federation had already earned $3.2 billion from its rights sales for the 2014 and 2016 Games, and that he expected the total broadcasting revenue for Sochi and Rio to generate well over $4 billion, surpassing the $3.9 billion total for the 2010 and 2012 Games.
Asian broadcast sales could prove to be the defining factor in Rogge’s prediction as it proved to be an area of growth for the IOC in the 2010-12 period, accounting for 14 per cent of overall broadcast revenues, whereas in previous years that figure had been stable at 10-11 per cent.
Viewership for the Olympics, a unique broadcast proposition requiring wall-to-wall coverage in a condensed 17-day period, fluctuates considerably, depending on the timezone of the host city. In Europe’s five largest TV markets - France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK - cumulative audiences in the last 20 years have ranged from a low of 3.4 million for Nagano 1998 Games to highs of 11.3 million for Athens 2004 and 11.6 million for Turin 2006.
Whether or not the upcoming London Olympics provides a record audience in the top European markets is difficult to predict. Broadcasters will be able to show more live coverage during primetime due to the favourable timezone, and there is likely to be an uplift in viewing in the UK as the host nation. In Italy however, coverage will be split across pay-TV broadcaster Sky Italia and public-service broadcaster Rai. Sky Italia’s limited penetration will drag down the average audience in Italy, affecting the overall figure for Europe’s big five.