According to a report in today's (Monday April 21) The Australian, Kerry Stoke's Seven Network has emerged as the frontrunner for the TV rights to the next three Olympics - Rio 2016, the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The report by Darren Davidson says that the Ten Network is likely to withdraw interest after a poor ratings performance from the Soichi Winter Olympics, and Nine/Foxtel is looking elsewhere for revenue and audience growth after losing a reported $25 million on the 2012 London Olympics.
Davidson says the IOC is hoping to generate about $250 million from the Australian rights, but if there is a lack of competition, the price will surely fall.
The sailing community is likely to suffer if there is not a combined free-to-air and pay TV bid. Although the sport was largely ignored by the Nine/Foxtel networks during the first week of London 2012, when swimming and other sports that Australia had earmarked for medals fell in a heap there was a sudden rush to get cameras and commentators to Weymouth after Tom Slingsby won the country's first individual gold medal of the Games.
If the Rio coverage is primarily free-to-air on Seven's three channels, then sports like sailing that are hard to broadcast are likely to get limited coverage. If the Australian Sailing Team fails to reproduce its London medal-winning form in the light, lottery winds expected at Rio, there could be no coverage at all.
From a personal point of view, poor TV coverage helps this website. During London 2012 I was swamped with emails thanking me for our coverage, because it was almost impossible to get any sailing news from the mainstrea media. Our monthly unique viewer figures were up more than 50% as a result of the daily newsletters I was sending.
Of course that was helped enormously by the time zones. I sent my reports before 9pm UK time, meaning they were being read in the Eastern States of Australia by 6am. The only other sailing website operating from London was consistently three to four hours slower than us, which meant mysailing.com.au was the 'go-to' site for Olympic sailing reports.
We won't have that same time zone advantage in Rio, but if Seven does win the TV rights and doesn't provide good coverage of sailing, then I guess we're in for another bonanza. But from the sport's point of view, it would be better to see good daily TV exposure for our sailing Olympians.
- Roger McMillan, Editor