Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Chinese Company Gains Olympic Webcast Rights

June 17, 2008, 12:49 am
Chinese Company Gains Olympic Webcast Rights

By Azadeh Ensha

The Chinese Web portal Sohu.com Inc. announced Monday that it has signed an agreement with the Internet arm of CCTV, the Chinese state television network, granting it official rights to webcast the Beijing Olympic Games, including the opening and closing ceremonies as well as all athletic competitions.

Under the contract, Sohu.com will offer live webcasts and video on demand of Olympic events, relying on its 700-person-plus staff to manage pictures, videos, blogs and forums. The company will “provide total coverage of Chinese representatives, athletes, teams, and Olympic champions at least 60 seconds ahead of any other website,” according to the Beijing Games official site.

The amount of the deal was unspecified.

In 2005, the Beijing-based portal reportedly paid $30 million for the rights to host the Games’ Web site for the Beijing Olympics and to use its logo. Sohu also moved to claim exclusive rights to host all advertising by Beijing Games sponsors who use the Olympics logo, a move that spurred other Chinese sites, including Sohu competitor Sina, to form an alliance against Sohu.

The rivalry underscores the growing business of Internet marketing in China. As of June 2007, there were more than 160 million Internet users in China, placing it second behind the U.S., and online ads were expected to generate an estimated 8.3 billion yuan ($1.1 billion) for the year, according to an article in China Daily.

This week Reuters reported that broadcasters had yet to learn whether their applications for licenses to transmit live from major landmarks — an integral part of coverage at past Olympics — had been approved for the Beijing Games, despite previous promises by China to grant access.

“The line we’re getting from various authorities is that policies on live transmissions from outside Olympic venues and iconic sites have not been decided yet,” Kevin Fleck of Global Vision, which provides services to Olympic sponsors, rights holders and non-rights holders, told Reuters. “Broadcasters needed the decision to be made months ago because they have to commit budgets and allocate air-time for Olympic slots,” he added.

Following a Monday meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, International Olympic Committee member Kevan Gosper told The Associated Press: “There has been some progress in the last two weeks, I can tell you that. But I can’t say we are there yet.”

At a meeting among TV executives, IOC officials and top Chinese leadership in Beijing on May 29, broadcasters were told it was unlikely they would be allowed to transmit live from outside venues, the AP reports. Chinese officials may be motivated to limit access in order to prevent foreign cameras from sighting protests by groups opposing the government.

The IOC estimates that about 30,000 accredited and non-accredited journalists will cover the games.

This year also marks the first time the IOC has allowed athletes to blog at the Games.


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