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Punters to enjoy Olympics online

A veritable Netathlon

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This month's Athens Olympics will become the first to be broadcast live over the Net.

Streaming video will be offered by more than 12 broadcasters (mainly in Europe) via the Internet but International Olympic Committee rules mean that this content can only be offered to users in each TV station's home country. So BBC coverage, for example, will not be available to expat Brits. Websites must use technology to block viewers from outside their home countries.

And there are other restrictions. Norwegians watching the games online must be subscribers of one of three main Internet service providers, AP reports. Many broadcasters are restricting access to broadband subscribers.

Americans looking for live coverage of the Olympics online are out of luck although NBC will show delayed highlights of the games through its website. Coverage will appear online only after it is broadcast. The service is free but users are still obliged to verify their identity using a Visa credit card. US residents with only Mastercard credit cards won't be able to access the service.

By contrast, Brits will get the choice of five video feeds live. Good stuff. Dutch broadcaster NOS will carry its main TV feed online and make three other channels available exclusively to broadband subscribers. Norway's NRK, which angered the IOC by running clips from the Sydney Olympics online without permission, will also be carrying a live channel. Swedish channel SVT will be showing highlights online.

Mobile operators in certain countries (for example Sweden's TeliaSonera) will also make streaming video and highlight clips of the Olympic Games available to 3G subscribers.

Although mobile and Internet coverage is still patchy much progress has been achieved in ironing out complicated rights issues as well as solving complex technical problems. Recently completed broadcast contracts for the 2010 (winter) and 2012 (summer) games automatically include new media rights.

The Athens Olympics will run from Friday, 13 August until Sunday, 29 August. ®

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