Olympics Clips Headed for YouTube

BEIJING (Reuters) – Clips and highlights of Olympic events are to be made available on the video-sharing site YouTube, owned by Google, under an agreement with the International Olympic Committee, the IOC said in a statement.

“The IOC’s priority is to ensure that as many people as possible get to experience the magic of the Olympic Games and the inspirational sporting achievements of the Olympic athletes,” says Timo Lumme, IOC director of television and marketing.

“For the first time in Olympic history we will have complete global online coverage, and the IOC will have its own broadcast channel, which will make fantastic Olympic footage available where young generations of sports fans are already going for online entertainment.” The Games open on Friday.

IOC said it wanted to tap into the youth market that Youtube carries with it. It will be offering three hours per day to viewers which will be a compilation of all the day’s action, as well as Games highlights.

Online pictures and reports of the Games will be available in 77 territories across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, including India, South Korea, Nigeria and Indonesia, the IOC said.

The Video On Demand (VOD) clips start on Aug. 6. The IOC’s channel will be available at www.youtube.com/beijing2008 but will be blocked within each territory served.

The service is meant to bring the Olympics to countries where digital rights have not been sold or have been acquired on a nonexclusive basis.

The financial deal is tiny compared with the traditional TV rights deals and completely different in nature given that essentially it is using the YouTube platform, the IOC said. There will be no promotional rights nor use of logos.

Not what Dad watched

Limited online coverage was available to a handful of territories for the Athens 2004 Olympics and the Turin Winter Games. But Beijing 2008 marks the first time that digital media coverage will be freely available across the world, the IOC said.

The Olympic movement, which depends on sponsorship, hopes this will help limit piracy. But it knows the digital revolution is also a double-edged sword, luring the younger generation away from sport yet offering a potentially wider audience.

Young people in the 21st century have a spreading smorgasbord of sports, music and entertainment media to chose among, and the Olympics has not the special aura for them that it had for their parents, sitting down to a summer special of top TV sports.

“The Olympic Games are not that credible or relevant to most young people in the developed or developing world,” said Jon Tibbs, a public relations executive with several Olympic clients at a London conference this year.

The average age of viewers for the 2004 Games in Athens was over 40 and shows no signs of falling. If the Games lose their cachet in years to come, billions of dollars from sponsorship and broadcasting rights could melt away.

U.S. Internet users viewed online videos 12 billion times in the month of May alone, according to digital research firm comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR). That was a 45 percent increase over the year before. About one-third of those were on YouTube.

In the United States, rights-holding broadcaster NBC will offer 3,600 hours of television coverage of the Aug. 8-24 Games, triple its offering from the Athens Games. About a third of this will be streamed over the Internet.

The IOC expects to earn $2.5 billion from broadcasting deals in the 2005-8 period.

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