Sydney TV coverage beats all records


Faster, stronger, higher and that's only the television ratings. The Olympic behemoth continues to grow with figures released last week propelling the games into the broadcasting stratosphere. Scandals? What scandals?

Once again global television broadcasts for the Olympics have broken all records with an estimated 3.7 billion `unduplicated' individuals in 220 countries and territories tuned in to watch an average of 10 hours of Sydney coverage, giving a cumulative total of 36 billion viewer hours of Marion Jones, Inge de Bruin and Steve Redgrave et al at Sydney 2000.

While the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have simply released the results of the survey undertaken by the sports research agency Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS) with little hullabaloo, Dick Pound, chairman of the IOC Marketing Commission and outgoing IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch did express satisfaction.

"The success of the Olympic Games in Sydney is clear. These record breaking results are a strong indicator of the worldwide exposure afforded to the Olympics and shows the importance of this sporting event to billions of fans in every part of the globe," said Pound.

"The excellent Sydney TV results are a testament to the IOC's policy of ensuring a global free-to-air coverage for the Olympic Games," added Samaranch.

The 2000 Olympics produced 36.1 billion viewer hours, 2.6 billion more viewer hours than Atlanta, which represents an increase of seven per cent. The Total Viewer Hours uses the duration of the programme multiplied by the programme audience to provide an overall figure.

In terms of broadcasting hours, well, that was up, too. Coverage by all Olympic broadcasters totalled 29,600 hours, compared to Atlanta (25,000) and Barcelona (20,000). In major markets an average of more than 19 hours of daily airtime was dedicated to covering the games.

Importantly, in the 220 countries where the games were televised 90 per cent of the coverage was broadcast on channels available to the entire population. In Ireland that was RTE and in Britain, the BBC. The Atlanta Games were televised in 214 countries, the Barcelona Games in 193 countries and the 1988 Seoul Games in 160 countries.

A strong feature of the coverage was, according to the survey, the diversity of choice available to the viewer with the expansion of broader sports coverage. For example a number of satellite and cable networks devoted entire channels to Olympic coverage 24 hours a day. In Ireland this was evident in Eurosport's coverage which was 24 hours daily and included a showcase for many of the smaller sports.

Eurosport reaches 230 million viewers throughout the continent. Most of the European markets surveyed broadcast more coverage than before with much of it live. This was despite the large time difference which led to a considerable amount of coverage being aired in the middle of the night and early morning. In Britain the BBC achieved a 10 per cent non-prime time market share increase during the games as did France where FR2 saw an increase of 14 per cent and FR3 and increase of six per cent of their normal September ratings. All Scandinavian countries noted increased shares in excess of 50 per cent throughout the games with Norway at 61 per cent, Sweden 71 per cent and Finland 56 per cent.

In the USA the broadcaster NBC gained a 70 per cent increase over their normal market share and this was despite packaging everything in a highlight format. They did not broadcast anything live from Sydney.