Broadcast rights holders to major international sports events risk alienating Singapore consumers if they continue to drive up prices for such events, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim told Parliament yesterday.
Dr Yaacob was responding to a question from Nominated MP Ganesh Rajaram, who asked for an update on Singapore securing the telecast of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Dr Yaacob said discussions with Dentsu, which holds the exclusive rights for the Summer and Winter Olympics in 22 Asian countries from 2014 to 2024, are ongoing.
He added: "It would be unwise to take the position that we should have live telecast regardless of the cost and for the Government to underwrite any amount demanded by the rights owners, particularly when the rights are still being negotiated."
Dentsu declined to comment when contacted by The Straits Times.
The mounting rights cost of the Olympics in recent years has led to uncertainty for local sports fans. Deals to provide live coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics and the ongoing Pyeongchang Winter Olympics were only struck a day before the opening ceremonies of both events.
In contrast, the International Olympic Committee provided free live streaming of the 2012 London Games on 10 feeds on its YouTube channel to 64 territories in Africa and Asia, including Singapore.
For the 2016 Rio Olympics broadcasting rights, Dentsu originally wanted to charge three times what it cost to broadcast the 2012 London Olympics live.
MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION YAACOB IBRAHIM. The 2012 London Games was streamed live - and free - by the International Olympic Committee on 10 feeds on its YouTube channel to 64 territories in Africa and Asia, including Singapore.
"For the 2016 Rio Olympics broadcasting rights, Dentsu originally wanted to charge three times what it cost to broadcast the 2012 London Olympics live," said Dr Yaacob. "This shows how lucrative the business of broadcasting rights has become.
"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.
"If the rights owners only seek to maximise their profits, they risk making broadcasts for major games less accessible by driving fans to other media channels or away from the sports entirely.
"This is in no one's interest in the long term."
Dr Yaacob also noted that the Government would not step in to help defray costs for local broadcasters after Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun pointed to instances of this in other countries in a supplementary question.
Dr Yaacob said: "We don't think it is right for us to intervene... (and should) basically let the key players in the market decide what is the best cost structure for them."