Article from Vancouver Sun by Jeff Lee, Oct. 4, 2009. Link dead so accessed from Archive.org Way Back Machine, archived here for posterity and record.
COPENHAGEN – Tune in now or find young people tuning you out as they look for other places to get their information, one of the most powerful people in media told the Olympic movement Monday.
Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP Group, one of the world’s largest advertising companies, said the International Olympic Committee and its partners need to give people information in the format they want if they are to truly make the Olympic movement relevant.
“If they are going online, you go online. Don’t deny it or file it in the too difficult folder”,” he said. “You have to let them play with your content, your assets in their own way.”
In a keynote speech to the 13th Olympic Congress, Sorrell said the “digital revolution” is now so established that traditional broadcasters and print media that do not create interactive online content find themselves increasingly unimportant to today’s youth.
“If the Olympic sports themselves and the way they are promoted online and on mobile do not appeal to the younger audience, they will lose that audience, the broadcasters will reduce their fees and the movement will be at risk,” he said.
Sorrell’s comments struck a chord among the several hundred delegates to the congress, which is looking at ways to keep the Olympic movement relevant in society, and particularly for youth.
John Furlong, the chief executive of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, said he was electrified by the view of Sorrell and others who said that the online world is so powerful that it the IOC and others ignore it at their peril.
“It was a jaw-dropping experience to hear the way people describe the world unfolding,” he said. “When we were tossing around information and technology (at Vanoc) two years ago, I sat there and said “come on, guys, this is not really going anywhere.” In the meantime, 700 million page views later I’ve been proven wrong.”
When Vanoc opened its tickets sales online, they got 1,500 hits a second, he said.
“The data is so massive that it almost comes and goes without even landing. We couldn’t deal with one hit per second if you go back five years.”
In a speech following Sorrell’s, Richard Carrion, chairman of the IOC’s finance commission, said the changes would be felt even more in Vancouver at the 2010 Games. He said the IOC had already started to monetize online rights and was impressed with the size of online viewership at the 2008 Beijing Summer Game.
“We feel the excitement, which will only increase as we reach February. After Vancouver, the media may be impelled to ask whether the 2012 Summer Olympics in London will become the first truly Mobile Games,” Carrion said.
But Alon Marcovici, the vice-president of digital media and research for CTV, the Canadian broadcaster for 2010, said while he was heartened by the IOC’s efforts to appeal to youth, it still has a long ways to go.
“The IOC has made good strides but they are under-resourced in their digital areas and they haven’t done enough. I’d caution members of the IOC not to be self-congratulatory on how far they’ve come,” said Marcovici, who wrote a paper for the congress on the digital issues the IOC faces. “They are in catch-up mode and if they don’t embrace it immediately, they won’t be able to catch up.”
It has only been in recent years – starting with the 2004 Athens Games – that the IOC has explored multimedia platforms. While it was doing that cautiously, demand for online content and interactivity skyrocketed. When NBC first began video streaming in Athens, around four million video streams were watched. At the Turin Winter Games two years later, there were 9.1 million. But at the Beijing Games a staggering 70 million video streams and 600 million minutes of video were watched.
In Vancouver, the online component for Canadians will be even more expansive, Marcovici said. “We’re going to be streaming every second of every sporting competition live, up to 14 concurrent feeds live and every event will be on demand as well. We’ll have interactive features to accompany those themes as well. All of that is online.”
CTV is part of an Olympic host consortium that will deliver television coverage in 20 languages across 11 networks, including CTV, TSN, Sportsnet and the French channels RDS and V, formerly known as TQS.
“The facts are staggering. We’re going to broadcast over 2,000 hours on the Internet alone, plus we’ll easily have over 1,500 clips cut and available.”
And that is just for the Canadian rights alone.
The changes in the social media landscape are profound, Sorrell said. The last time an Olympic congress was held in 1994, Facebook, YouTube and Google were not even around. Now they have market values to rival global brands.
“They have exploded from the position of niche and new media, to the central and essential tools of everyday life for millions of people, in both developed and developing markets,” he said.
With 1.6 billion people online now and four billion using mobile phone technology and the numbers growing exponentially, digital media is now threaded into the fabric of society and there is no looking back, he said. The biggest users of this technology are youth and the Olympic movement has to recognize that.
“They are the most socially active generation and digital culture is their culture.,” he said, noting they affect $600 billion in consumer spending. “Their desire to create content and use it as social currency amongst their networks and communities has profound implications for how media owners and sports rights owners behave amongst them.”
“The most important legacy of any from the Olympic movement is to deliver the next generation of sports fans and athletes,” Sorrell concluded. “To do this, we must ensure the iPod, iPhone generation is tuning in, not tuning out.”
Read Jeff Lee’s Olympics blog at www.vancouversun.com/insidetheolympics