Live TV deal for Rio Games not finalised

A journalist walks in front of a screen with olympics logos during the medal launching ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 14, 2016.
PHOTO: Reuters

WITH less than two months to go before the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro begins, it is unclear if Singaporeans will be able to catch the sporting action live on television.

It is understood that neither national broadcaster Media- corp nor pay-TV operators Singtel and StarHub have been able to strike a deal with rights holder Dentsu to screen the Games live here.

Dentsu holds the 2016 Olympics broadcast rights in Singapore and 16 other Asian territories. It acquired the rights after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) launched a tender in 2013.

Of the 17 markets in Dentsu's blanket deal with the IOC, it is believed Singapore is the only one that has not agreed terms to broadcast the coverage live.

Mediacorp and Dentsu have so far agreed on a package that includes the two daily highlights programme and content produced by Mediacorp's crew in Brazil. The only live content in this deal are the opening and closing ceremonies.

A Mediacorp spokesman said: "Mediacorp is finalising details of our plans and will advise on our broadcast details shortly."

The broadcaster did not address ST's queries on whether Mediacorp is still keen on broadcasting the sporting action live, or if a deal can be reached in time.

Both Singtel and StarHub said they were interested in airing the Olympics but confirmed that no agreement has been reached with Dentsu, which declined to comment.

Free-to-air television rights in Asia were previously held by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), a non-profit association of broadcasting organisations, of which Media- corp is a member.

The ABU, backed by its members, paid about US$10 million (S$13.56 million) for the rights to the last Olympics.

But it is understood that broadcasters here are exercising prudence due in part to the 11-hour time difference between Singapore and Brazil.

This means the action takes place between 8pm and 7am (Singapore time), which is unattractive to advertisers as viewership is not high.

In 2013, Mediacorp tried to acquire the broadcast rights from the IOC but was pipped to it by Dentsu, a Japanese communications company.

A source familiar with the talks said Dentsu's latest offer is about a quarter of what Hong Kong had paid and 30 to 40 per cent lower than Malaysia's deal.

Various reports said Hong Kong's free-to-air broadcaster TVB bought the rights to the Rio Games in 2014 for just under US$25 million (S$34 million).

The source added that talks between Dentsu and Media- corp started back in 2013 but, after dozens of meetings, the latter made an offer only this January. The latest offer compares favourably to what Mediacorp paid in total for the 2012 Olympics.

Four years ago, viewers here watched the London Games on eight Mediacorp free-to-air channels, with at least 21 hours of daily coverage on Channel 5 and HD 5.

Get MyPaper for more stories.