New media guru Sorrell urges Olympic sports to learn from YouTube, Pop Idol or lose fansBy Graham Dunbar, AP
Monday, October 5, 2009
Olympics urged to learn from YouTube, Pop Idol
COPENHAGEN — The Olympic movement needs to learn from the likes of YouTube or risk losing young viewers for life, IOC members were told Monday.
Communications guru Martin Sorrell advised global sports leaders to release their grip on exclusive broadcast rights and hand them over to a new generation of technology-savvy fans.
“If they are going online, you go online,” Sorrell said in a keynote speech on digital media at the International Olympic Committee’s Congress. “You have to let them play — with your content, your assets — in their own way.”
Sorrell, chief executive of London-based agency WPP Group, the world’s largest advertising company by revenue, said sports federations had to learn from how the entertainment industry engaged with viewers.
He urged sports to let passionate fans buy access to archive footage, and held up Major League Baseball as an example of how to make money online.
“They are now driving nearly $200 million directly from subscription revenues to their Web site,” he said.
IOC President Jacques Rogge described Sorrell, a Harvard-educated Englishman, as the world’s most influential man in advertising and communications.
“He has definitely opened up new ways for us,” Rogge said.
Sorrell said 1.4 billion people had Internet access and 4 billion used mobile phones.
People with mobile wireless devices were “no longer satisfied” with just consuming content created by television networks. They wanted to make their own images and communicate through social networking sites, he said.
“The digital revolution has already changed the media landscape and the way in which sport is consumed will never be the same again,” Sorrell said.
“Give content to youth in formats they want — short and fast, customizable and easy to share. Don’t deny it or file it in the ‘too difficult’ folder.”
Sorrell said sports must learn from franchises such as Pop Idol (American Idol), in which viewers vote for their favorite performers.
“Consider the excitement generated by the most popular TV shows, pop stars and new films,” he said.
“See how they use digital media at the core of their communications and consider which learnings you could apply to your own sport.”
Sorrell assured the IOC it had a strong brand, and the 2008 Beijing Games was the most watched television event in history. A total of 593 million people watched the opening ceremony live.
However, the way audiences consumed the Olympics through digital media offered a glimpse of the future, he said.
Users of the NBCOlympics.com Web site watched 70 million video streams compared to 9.1 million for the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.
And online viewers were more committed, spending twice as much time watching the Beijing events than traditional television audiences.
Sorrell said sports leaders would be forced to sell their broadcast rights for less if they did not understand the changing market and lost audiences.
“We must ensure the iPod, iPhone generation is tuning in, not tuning out,” he said.
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