By Patrick Avenell

A research study commissioned by a leading consumer electronics brand has revealed some less than impressive results regarding Australia’s interest in the 2008 Olympic Games.

According to the study, which surveyed 1,000 Australians aged 18-55, only 53 per cent of respondents said they watch the games in enough detail to make comments about it. This could be a result of Channel 7’s much-maligned coverage of the Games.

In the week since the Opening Ceremony, Channel 7 has pre-empted its coverage for a pointless AFL game, thrown to commercial breaks in the middle of play during its Olyroos coverage and subjected viewers to cringe-worthy portrayals of elite athletes in embarrassing situations.

Another disappointing result from this survey was that only 46 per cent of Australians were “set up” for Olympic Games viewing. The release accompanying these statistics defined being “set up” as having a widescreen TV and a comfortable couch. From this, it can be reasoned that either widescreen TV sales in the lead up to the Olympics were not as good as reported, or that Australians have a propensity for watching sport in uncomfortable positions.

The survey also presents figures which are incongruous with hard data. Respondents were asked which sporting event they were most likely to watch in 2008. The survey claims that the 2008 Olympics is the number one pick, “kicking both the AFL and NRL Grand Final and State of Origin off the top spot (sic)”. According to OzTAM, the official source of television ratings, the first match of the 2008 State of Origin series was watched by 897,000 people in Sydney; while the 2008 Opening Ceremony, so far the highest rating feature of the current Games, was watched by only 848,000.

The results are not all discouraging, however, with 57 per cent of respondents saying that they were going to take advantage of Olympics being broadcast in high definition. This is a strong figure considering that high definition is relatively young in Australia and high definition broadcasting of sporting events is even younger.

Furthermore, television viewing figures collated by OzTAM showing that almost 3 million people have been watching the coverage. OzTAM only releases data from the five mainland capital cities, so the actual figure would be much higher.