Workers Tap Web to Catch Olympics on the Sly

Huge numbers of Chinese are turning to the Internet to watch the Olympics at work, as bosses stop them from watching the Games on television.

Half of the respondents in an online survey by marketing firm Carat China admitted watching the Olympics at work via the Internet. Internet live streaming or replays of events rose on weekdays, when work interfered with televised Olympics events.

Television was still the medium of choice for online respondents, over 90 percent of whom watched the Games on TV, versus 80 percent who also watched online.

“Consumers have turned to the Internet for Olympic information in large numbers,” said Seth Grossman, communication planning director for Carat in Shanghai.

China has the most Internet users in the world, although home connections are often slow or cut off easily.

The 2008 Games are well on their way to becoming the most-watched in history, reaping record audiences for U.S. broadcaster NBC, according to the International Olympic Committee.

Like Chinese, Americans are also watching the Games at work, although online viewership in the U.S. noticeably peaks at lunchtime.

A Nielsen online survey showed higher numbers accessing Olympic information online on weekdays than on weekends, with Yahoo’s (NASDAQ: YHOO) Olympic site, the favorite, averaging 4.7 million visitors a day and a site run by NBC, official broadcaster of the Olympics, averaging 4.3 million visits.

The favorite events for Chinese viewers have been:

• The extravagant opening ceremony attracted 965 million viewers, mostly on state-run China Central Television, or CCTV.

• A preliminary basketball game between China and the U.S. enthralled 378 million.

• The men were outscored by the Chinese women’s volleyball team, who captured well over 400 million viewers in each of their matches against Cuba, the U.S. and Poland.

• Table tennis is widely popular, with the men garnering 478 million viewers in the group final and the women, 443 million.

The figures are based on estimates of all people who watched all or part of the event, from data compiled by CSM Media Research and Carat.

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