Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Websites win right to show Games clips | Australian IT

O.K., here's the main reason I decided to resurrect this blog.

INTERNET sites in Australia will be allowed to show short video clips of Olympic events for the first time during the Beijing Games, following a historic agreement announced yesterday between the Seven Network and the International Olympic Committee.

Basically it's Channel 7's attempt to put some kind of control on a situation that they know they really can't stop anyway. We've seen before that media organisations are going to find ways around a blanket ban, so best to be seen to be allowing some leeway and then applying a parental spanking when they catch the major players inevitably sneaking in past curfew.

Under the agreement, which has been a long time in the making, non-official sites will be allowed to show three minutes of Olympic events a day.
But they will have to "geoblock" their websites so they cannot be seen by internet users outside Australia.

So it's basically the old TV 3x3 agreement (1 minute blocks of footage, no less than 3 hours apart, maximum of 3 times a day) moulded into the web age. I have to say, it's nice to be given at least a little something to work with. During Athens we jumped through hoops trying to give an up-to-date Olympics video news service without showing a single frame of Olympics footage.

Here's where I think there's going to be problems.

Geoblocking any content is hardly 100%, and to be perfectly honest I can see a number of players making only perfunctory attempts at blocking the content from the rest of the world. Even if it does work, separating Olympics video content from the rest of the website is just going to be a bitch. Doable, but a bitch.

But that won't make any difference, because the restrictions only apply (here comes the punchline) to "bona fide news organisations".

Yeah. Right. Because the rest of the population isn't going to record the stuff off-air and stick it all over YouTube. There's likely to be so much of this stuff it's unlikely YouTube will be able to get rid of all of it, no matter how loudly the lawyers of the IOC knock on Google's doors. Then there's all the other video service providers that are going to be having to do exactly the same thing. By the time there's any sort of meaningful response the cauldron will been extinguished, the athletes will have gone home and the doves will have died from carbon monoxide poisoning in Beijing'tos pollution.

In the end I can see this Olympics, the first Summer Games of the YouTube era, causing a few rights holders and host broadcasters to examine whether they're really getting value for money in these deals with the IOC. It's been said for years that TV's great strength in the internet era will be live events, broadcast in real time to a mass audience. The Olympics are made for this and in my estimation are worth every cent live. Where there's going to need to be real soul searching is whether there's any value left in a phantom exclusivity after the event.

Let's see how it goes.

[Edit]While we're on the subject...

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