Will The Olympics Go the Way of Live 8?

This USA Today piece explains that Olympics video content is perfect for online distribution. Much like the Live 8 event that AOL covered online to much acclaim, the Olympic games are filled with simultaneous events that happen sometimes on the other side of the globe. Some events only appeal to niche audiences — like the biathlon — and some viewers want to watch entire events rather than chopped-up retrospectives of each day's events interspersed with montages, inspirational segments and Bob Costas.

So with the recent explosion in demand and media coverage of Web-delivered video, why don’t we have all the Olympic events streamed Live 8 style to our desktops? (Some clips and highlights are currently available on nbcolympics.com, and live streaming video is available only in France and the U.K.) Well, NBC’s broadcast rights compel the network to protect its television advertising. Remember, Live 8 rights were divided between AOL and MTV. And AOL had no conflict or worry of cannibalizing an offline channel or business model — only that of MTV, which of course belongs to a different media empire.

As an aside, CBS has made an interesting move along these lines by announcing it will webcast NCAA tournament games (perfect content for Internet distribution because of simultaneous games and all the other reasons stated above), despite the fact that it is the very network that will carry (and always has) the television rights. We blogged about it here.

Back to the Olympics: Comprehensive online coverage would have to happen with either NBC deciding the benefits will outweigh the loss in television viewers/ad dollars (fear of cannibalization) or the rights being restructured to include online and offline channels — a la Live 8. The latter is more likely, as it could bring the Olympics more money in rights distribution, but it won’t happen until 2012 when NBC’s current contract expires.

When that day comes, all the curling and biathlon fans out there can look forward to watching their events in their entirety and on demand. The pull aspect to this kind of viewing will also allow for better targeting and local advertising opportunities than is available from an NBC broadcast.

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