Olympics develop new methods to attract viewers in the age of social media

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Olympics develop new methods to attract viewers in the age of social media


The Rio Olympics concluded with South Korea finishing 8th in the overall medal tally with nine golds, three silvers and nine bronzes. But despite such an impressive performance, TV ratings were decidedly underwhelming. The viewership rate for the most-watched game of Korean athletes barely reached 30 percent according to Nielsen Korea, a market research firm.

This is far behind the ratings for past Olympic Games. During the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, South Korean weightlifter Jang Mi-ran claimed gold with a viewership rate of 61.7 percent, and archer Ki Bo-bae won gold at the 2012 London Summer Games with a 40.4 percent rating.

“In the midst of Brazil’s unstable social atmosphere and the prevalence of the Zika virus, this year’s games drew less attention than the 2012 London Summer Games,” said Kim Hak-su, research fellow at the Sports Media Institute at Korea National Sport University. “The change in media trends also contributed to the viewership drop.”

Kim explained that people nowadays receive information more through social media and less through television, which has traditionally played a major role in making the modern Olympics a global event. First adopted in the 1936 Berlin Summer Games, TV broadcasts opened up the possibility of watching the Games from outside the arena. After the introduction of various broadcasting technologies such as satellite transmission, the Olympics spread across the world.

“In the past, popular sports commentators could boost ratings with their words,” said Song Hae-ryong, professor of mass media at Sungkyunkwan University. “But now, broadcasters need to find new ways to increase viewers’ participation.”

With the shifting trend in media consumption, new broadcasting techniques are being introduced. The 2012 London Olympics made 3D coverage available. Similarly, this year’s Games allowed viewers to watch some of the events in virtual reality (VR), producing VR footage of one game per day.

The Olympics Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, claims that future Olympic Games will provide viewers even more options in terms of their viewing experience, such as the ability to watch any given event from the camera angle of one’s choice.

But Korea had been reluctant to innovate in these ways and has instead merely resorted to showing and reshowing footage of medalists.
“Korea focuses on athletes who won medals,” said one broadcasting industry worker. “So we repeatedly air the same scenes over and over again. We need to stop doing this.”

BY LEE HOO-NAM [shon.jihye@joongang.co.kr]

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