The Olympic Games are being hailed as the world’s latest chance to see that China has arrived. But they may also prove historic for online video.
Despite its hype, the medium has yet to live up to its television-killing aspirations. The Olympics and its billions of viewers could help change that.
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The Games are expected to draw four billion television viewers, but the companies that control the content have been gearing up for hordes online as well.
NBC, which has exclusive rights to the games in the US, will air 2,200 hours, or two-thirds of its total live content, on the Internet.
And CCTV, which controls the rights in China, is planning to offer 5,000 hours of online video. That’s 50 times the total amount from the Athens Olympics just four years ago.
Perhaps even more significant is YouTube’s deal with the International Olympic Committee giving it the right to air three hours of exclusive footage each day to 77 countries.
This is only expected to reach some 200 million—countries with existing distribution deals are blocked from accessing it—but the impact could be far-reaching.
Olympic sponsors will advertise during the YouTube clips, paving the way for a new revenue model for the Google-owned video site.
And online advertising has already begun to gain ground on television. During the March Madness college basketball tournament this year, CBS made more money for each of its online viewers than it did from its television viewers.
Watching online has distinct advantages. Users can view more than one event at a time, and choose the sport they want to see, neither of which is possible with television.
But there will be obstacles. Sites such as YouTube are already flooded with amateur videos of Olympic-related events, making enforcement of exclusivity difficult.
If the international community begins to think of the Internet as the place to turn for live broadcasts, the online video medium will get its biggest boost yet.
It’s possible not all of the winners at this year’s Olympics will be athletes.