The Rio Olympic Games will be screened live in Singapore after all, following a last-minute deal between national broadcaster Media- corp and rights holder Dentsu early yesterday morning.
The deal, inked ahead of this morning's opening ceremony at 7am, will allow sports fans to catch the action on okto, Mediacorp's designated TV channel for sports, and four Toggle channels. Toggle is a multi-platform service that lets viewers catch Mediacorp programmes on the Internet. Its channels are free and no set-top box is needed.
Mediacorp and Dentsu inked an agreement two weeks ago that included only delayed telecasts, after Mediacorp baulked at Dentsu's reported asking price of US$6 million (S$8 million) for the rights to live telecasts. It is understood both parties made substantial compromises to reach the latest deal, believed to be worth about US$3.2 million.
The Straits Times understands that the new deal will see Media- corp get only five of Dentsu's 12 feeds, which will include coverage of Team Singapore athletes.
Mediacorp's rights are also non-exclusive. This means Dentsu can sell the rights to other programmers here, although that is unlikely considering the Games have begun.
This limited package was previously not on the table, but the two sides made concessions after the saga generated much public debate.
A deal had looked unlikely, especially after the Government said last month that it will not provide additional funding. It did so for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, but in this instance said it would not be prudent to "spend more and more on escalating rights fees".
The price of broadcasting rights to the Olympics has risen over the years, from about US$1.7 billion for the 2008 Beijing Games to US$2.57 billion for the 2012 London Games.
It is understood that Mr Ng Ser Miang, chair of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) finance commission and Singapore's IOC member, had been talking to Dentsu to move for a live deal.
Team Singapore will be fielding 25 athletes at the Games, headlined by swimmer Joseph Schooling and the women's table-tennis team.
The butterfly specialist won a bronze in the 100m fly at last year's World Championships, and is a medal contender in the same event.
The Republic's paddlers, led by world No. 4 Feng Tianwei, notched three medals from the last two Games, and are aiming to keep the medal streak running.
Schooling told The Straits Times: "It's good news and I'm happy to hear that, especially since my father cannot be in Rio."
His father Colin is unable to travel to Rio de Janeiro, with high travel costs a factor.
Sports fan Alvin Tan, 53, said: "I'm glad a decision has been made with the interest of the wider community. Hopefully, this gives our athletes extra motivation as they know Singaporeans will be rooting for them in real time."
The agreement brought an end to some 35 months of negotiations. It is believed Dentsu will institute a deadline in future talks to prevent a repeat of this long-drawn episode.
The Japanese advertisement agency holds the rights to the next two Winter and Summer Olympics.
Mr Aravind Venugopal, vice-president at consulting and research provider Media Partners Asia, said given the deal's last-minute nature, Mediacorp might not have time to recover the full value of its investment through advertising revenue.
He added: "For the Tokyo Games, the time difference is only one hour. There will be greater demand and advertisers will be more interested. So more value will be attached to the broadcast rights.
"It would be wise to plan in advance to make sure there is enough supplementary programming around the Olympics."