Norwegians are not reacting well to all the commercials being inserted, for the first time ever, into this year’s television coverage of the Winter Olympics (OL). Now Telenor, one of the main sponsors of the Olympic coverage on Norway’s nationwide commercial station TV2, says it will “reassess” its new broadcast message.
“We absolutely don’t want to upset anybody,” Anders Krokan, information chief in Telenor, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Monday. “We see that some viewers are irritated that there are too many commercials. We have to think about that.”
TV2 won the rights to broadcast Olympic coverage both from Sochi this year and from Rio de Janeiro in 2016. TV2’s successful bid, the actual price of which has never been revealed, meant that Norway’s state broadcaster NRK lost the TV rights for the first time ever. NRK, as a publicly funded broadcaster, doesn’t air commercials so Norwegian viewers have grown accustomed to uninterrupted Olympic coverage over the years. Now they’re having to put up with TV commercials for the first time, just as most viewers do in other countries.
They clearly don’t like it, and TV2 had to fend off a storm of complaints during the weekend as Olympic coverage began in earnest. Viewers were especially irritated when TV2 inserted commercials three times within the first half-hour of coverage of the men’s 30-kilometer race n Sunday, and also when TV2 broke for a commercial just as Norwegian snowboarder Ståle Sandbech was poised to win his silver medal in the slopestyle competition on Saturday.
Telenor, meanwhile, has invested millions in producing a lengthy TV commercial featuring actor and musician Steven Van Zandt, who also stars in the popular NRK TV show Lilyhammer. Telenor itself calls the commercial “one of its most extensive marketing campaigns in Norway” (external link), but the commercial has now aired so many times, interrupting the sports action on TV, that viewers are complaining. Telenor now fears it may offend more potential customers than attract them.
Norway’s huge dairy cooperative Tine, which angered Norwegians when it failed to ward off a butter shortage a few years ago, is also a target of complaints over its many commercial featuring skier Margit Bjørgen. Tine’s commercial for its milk may also work against the sponsor’s intentions, but Tine’s sponsor chief Ann-Kristin Syversen told newspaper Aftenposten on Monday that she thinks the uproar will ease as Norwegians resign themselves to the facts of life in commercial broadcasting.
“We’re only two days into OL,” Syversen told Aftenposten. “I think this will cool down and that we’ll all get used to commercial interruptions.”
TV2 officials have the right to air 12 minutes of commercials every hour in Norway, and won special rights to insert them as they see fit. They note that TV2 relies on such sponsor income and simply must air the commercials.
The Twitter storm of criticism over the weekend, in which several prominent Norwegians took part including a former justice minister, has caught the attention, though, of both TV2 officials and the sponsors. TV2 also apologized for inserting a commercial during the slopestyle excitement, calling that “a human error” that won’t happen again.