MCI minister Yaacob Ibrahim calls out escalating costs of sports broadcasts

Yaacob Ibrahim (pictured), Minister for Communications and Information, has called out the problem of escalating costs when it comes to securing sports broadcasting rights for major events such as the Olympics. This was in response to questions over current negotiations to secure the live broadcasting rights for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which the minister said was still ongoing.

He added that if the rights owners only seek to maximise their profits, they risk making broadcasts of major games less accessible by “driving fans to other media channels or away from the sports entirely”. He added that this is in no one’s interest in the long-term.

Over the past few years, broadcasting rights fees have been growing rapidly. For example, when it came to the 2016 Rio Olympics, Dentsu originally wanted to charge three times what it cost to broadcast the 2012 London Olympics live. This shows how lucrative the business of broadcasting rights has become, Yaacob explained.

“At the same time, it is becoming increasingly difficult for broadcasters to recoup the escalating costs of broadcasting rights, because there are so many cheaper options to watch such sporting events live,” he added.

Yaacob maintained that the negotiations are best left to the broadcasters and rights owners to undertake and conclude, as it would be “unwise” to take the position that the country should have live telecasts “regardless of the cost” and for the government to underwrite any amount demanded by rights owners. This is particularly when rights are still being negotiated.

In response to nominated member of public Kok Heng Leun’s question on whether or not the government would consider working with broadcasters to “pull together resources to secure broadcasting rights”, Yaacob said it is important to recognise commercial arrangements. He added that it was “best to leave it to the right owners and broadcasters to negotiate”. This is while the government continues to monitor the situation.

In 2016, Mediacorp struck an eleventh hour deal with Olympic Games rights holder Dentsu Inc to live broadcast the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. This follows a furor over news that Mediacorp would only provide a raft of dedicated programmes featuring daily highlights, delayed telecast of selected events and coverage of the Opening and Closing ceremonies.

The incident also sparked debate on whether or not the government should step in when it came to the negotiations. To this, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth told Marketing at the time that acquisition of rights for live sports content will remain a commercial decision, and as such it is unlikely to intervene.