IOC nixes online Olympic video - NBC to blame?

Although it holds local Olympic broadcast rights, TVNZ will not be able to carry any video or audio from events on its NZoom site. Is the US network NBC to blame?

Although it holds local Olympic broadcast rights, TVNZ will not be able to carry any video or audio from events on its NZoom site. Is the US network NBC to blame?

NZoom's executive producer for sport, Dave Simonsen, says he would love to be able to carry short streaming clips as part of news and sports coverage of the Olympics. The TV One Website ran extensive video coverage of the the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games in 1998 by arrangement with its rights-holding broadcast parent.

But a communique to rights holders on August 7 from IOC vice president Richard W. Pound, QC, officially put paid to any similar plans for Sydney 2000.

"There will be no moving image and no audio coverage of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games authorised by the IOC on the Internet," the IOC document reads. "All rights are not granted, including Internet rights, or more specifically interactive multimedia and interactive communications system rights."

The ban has been controversial in Australia, where local media sites have, understandably, been seeking to create rich sites around the Games.

In a report for the Sydney Independent Media Centre, Adam Bogacki claimed last week that the US network NBC had been "pressuring the IOC to injunct local Sydney media," including the Sydney Morning Herald, against using any streaming coverage on their sites.

"There exists a gap of eight to twelve hours between an event in Sydney and prime time news in the US in which NBC is - realistically - worried it may be gazumped by the Internet," said Bogacki.

NZoom's Simonsen agrees that the IOC's stance is probably a result of "players like NBC and the major broadcasters in Europe wanting to protect their rights. Which is a little bit strange, because if you could watch it on TV, you would, wouldn't you? The streaming's for people who can't see it on TV, and to relive moments."

The IOC restrictions even extend to the use of Olympic-based URLs, says Simonsen: "It's okay if it's part of a natural directory structure - so our Olympic site is oneoylmpics.nzoom.com, but we couldn't have oneolympics.co.nz, according to the IOC."

This rule does not appear to apply to NBC, which has created a major site at .nbcolympics.com in conjunction with the Internet sports specialist Quokka.com, which partnered last year with New Zealand Telecom on an America's cup Web site. There is already QuickTime video available on the NBC site, but no indication of whether or not event coverage based on official video will be carried.

Simonsen remains confident that the NZoom site, which will also be the New Zealand Olympic Committee's official site, will provide compelling coverage of the Games. Although it won't be able to show event coverage, it will have access to anything shot by TVNZ camera crews.

"If the sports guys get Rob Waddell into the studio to talk about winning a gold medal we can stream that. The only events we will be looking at using are the ones that are unique to the TV One cameras.

"I'm not sure what NBC and Quokka have sorted out for themselves, but no one else will have anything. The IOC is setting up a watchdog panel that is going to surf all over the world during the Games, then send out a bunch of nasty letters."

Among other Internet media players, the New Zealand Herald Online has also created its own Olympics site.

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