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IOC Urged To Separate TV, Web Rights

December 4, 2000

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) _ Internet executives on Monday criticized the International Olympic Committee for restricting video rights to broadcasters rather than allowing wider Web distribution.

``Separate your Internet rights from your TV rights,″ Neil Bradford, managing director of Forrester Research Ltd., said at the opening of a two-day conference on the Olympics and new media.

Bradford and other Internet experts warned Olympic officials that new media companies and sports fans most likely will find ways of bypassing restrictions.

Olympic officials acknowledged they faced challenges to their licenses, but said they probably will not change them through 2008.

``The world is changing and we must change,″ IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch said in opening remarks.

But other Olympic officials said they did not plan any immediate changes to the rules under which they sold exclusive TV rights for the games to NBC in the United States, the European Broadcasting Union and pools in Japan and South Korea.

``Until the technology changes to allow the video to be restricted, we have a problem,″ said Dick Pound, chairman of the IOC’s Internet group.

New media executives want access not only to video, but also to accreditation, which largely was denied to independent Internet companies at Sydney.

``The company that can deliver a great TV experience is different from the company that can deliver a great Internet experience,″ Bradford said. ``Business models that depend on controlling content are doomed.″

During the Sydney Games, the IOC allowed online video coverage of events only by NBC, and then only on a 24-hour delay to a highly restricted audience.

The IOC earned 51 percent of all its revenues from the Sydney Games through sale of broadcast rights, $1.33 billion of the overall $2.6 billion.

NBC accounted for the largest share of that, having purchased video rights for Olympics through 2008 for $3.5 billion.

``Our rights and the reason that we pay an enormous premium for them is totally locked up in their exclusivity,″ said Gary Zenkel, an NBC senior vice president who addressed the meeting.

The difference between the Sydney Olympic audience for TV broadcasts and the Internet was enormous, he said, with 185 million individuals watching conventional coverage, compared to 5.6 million accessing the NBC coverage on the Web. TV revenues were $900 million, compared to $20 million on the Internet, he said.

``The Internet has no boundaries,″ Zenkel said, noting that live video put on the Internet by a provider in one country could preempt the kind of delayed coverage that NBC used for the Sydney Games.

Alan Ramadan, chairman of Quokka, NBC’s Internet partner for the games, said technology was not adequate for more than a small number of people to watch Olympic video online.

``I think there is a false notion that you can stream video to everyone in the world at once,″ Ramadan said.

Other industry experts agree that live video delivery via new media will not be possible until there is wider availability of broadband access through fiber optic cables or other technologies.

``If you want to stream to mass audiences, you are going to consume about half the telephonic capacity of the planet. It is much more efficient to broadcast than to stream,″ said Phil Dwyer, managing director of Jupiter Research, Europe, another firm specializing in the new media analysis.

But he said that sports fans could be expected to follow the lead of music fans who increasingly are bypassing the license-holders to share songs via Internet connections.

``You cannot put a lid on it. You cannot stop it,″ Dwyer said. ``The point is not to criminalize behavior that is inevitable.″

Despite technological limitations, things could change rapidly, said Laurie Courage of IBM, which also worked with the Olympic Committee and NBC to provide Internet coverage of the Sydney Games.

``Streaming audio and video we can absolutely do. We can do that. it is not a technology issue,″ she said. ``It’s a rights issue.″


On the Net:

IOC new media site




Sydney Olympics


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