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Streaming Rights for Olympic Coverage Discussed

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) World Conference on Sport and NewMedia is being held this week in Lausanne, Switzerland, to discuss the future of rights to stream Olympic Sport on the Internet.

Internet companies want a piece of the licensing pie, which currently is dominated by traditional broadcasting companies. Considering the large amount of revenue the IOC gains from the sale of traditional broadcasting rights, it is unlikely to decide anything drastic which might upset the broadcasters. The broadcasters reportedly accounted for $1.33 billion of the total $2.6 billion in revenue for the 2000 Games.

NBC bought the U.S. television rights for the Olympic games through 2008, and were the only company allowed to stream Olympic video on the Net during the 2000 Olympics. Even NBC had limited rights to Internet distribution, providing 24-hour delayed video to a controlled group of reportedly 100,000 U.S. subscribers.

The IOC sells broadcasting rights based on geographic locations, and currently it is nearly impossible to limit video streamed over the Internet to a confined geographic audience. However, the continually evolving technology of the Internet could make geographically limited distribution over the Internet a possibility for future Olympic Games.

Given the difficulties Internet broadcasters have had in turning a profit, it is unlikely that the Internet will be able to compete with television as a revenue source for the IOC in the near future. "At this point, we believe that the Internet as an international media is just not there," said Franklin Servan-Schrieber, an Olympic spokesperson, quoted by the Associated Press.

"It is clear that the IOC will not do anything that will hurt the broadcasters," Servan-Schieber said. "The Internet rights for the next 10 years are not going to be comparable to broadcast, which finances the Olympic Games."

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