IOC strikes deal with YouTube to bring Olympics online

The International Olympic Committee has reached an agreement with online video-sharing website YouTube to broadcast online highlights of the Beijing Games to 77 territories in developing regions.

The International Olympic Committee has reached an agreement with online video-sharing website YouTube to broadcast online highlights of the Beijing Games to territories in developing regions.

The IOC's YouTube channel will be available in 77 territories in Africa, Asia and the Middle East that either don't have existing broadcasting deals or where those deals are non-exclusive, the IOC said Monday.

Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the IOC, will produce regularly updated Olympic content for the channel, which goes online on Wednesday, Aug. 6.

The content will be blocked, however, for regions where broadcasters already hold online rights to Olympic video. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation holds those rights in Canada, while the National Broadcasting Corp. holds them in the United States.

At first blush, the deal is a pairing of unlikely bedfellows.

Google Inc.-owned YouTube has been in the middle of a legal battle with media giant Viacom Inc., which launched a $1 billion US lawsuit against the website for copyright infringement. Viacom and other plaintiffs have argued YouTube wasn't doing enough to keep more than 160,000 unauthorized clips of its programming off the site.

The IOC, on the other hand, has traditionally been protective of its online video rights: even broadcasters that had negotiated television rights to past games had tight restrictions on what they could use online.

But this year, the IOC has shown signs of acknowledging the importance of online video. Beijing 2008 marks the first time that digital media coverage will be freely available across the world, either through the rights-holding broadcasters or directly via the IOC’s channel.

Speaking in London last week, London 2012 head of new media Alex Balfour told the Reuters news agency websites like YouTube , social network Facebook and photo-sharing website Flickr were the future of broadcasting.

"The Olympic Games will be played out on Facebook, YouTube and Flickr whether we like it or not. We need to engage, not disengage, with them," said Balfour.

Anthony Zameczkowski, a London-based manager of strategic partner development for YouTube, told CBC News the deal brings together the common ideal of reaching out to all parts of the world.

"The main objective is to give as much access to as many people as we can," said Zameczkowski. The IOC also said Monday in a news release it hopes that by offering content for free across media platforms, including the internet, it is limiting the risk of piracy infringements.

It's an issue that could be front and centre once the Games begin, as the Beijing Games will be the first Summer Olympics for YouTube, which didn't launch until 2005. Since then the video-sharing site has grown to a community of more than 280 million viewers, said Chris Dale, a spokesperson for YouTube.

While neither Dale nor Zameczowki would comment on whether the Olympics would bring a spike in user uploaded content on the site, Zameczowki said YouTube's Video ID technologies should allow the IOC to track any infringing content and block it from the site.

The IOC has set up a special Beijing 2008 internet monitoring program to monitor for potentially infringing video online.

According to the official IOC marketing guide, the program will use video fingerprinting technology to help "prevent the upload of unauthorised content as well as effectively tracking illegal content on user generated content, peer-to-peer, streaming and [illegal] websites."

The IOC has already had its first controversy over its handling of new media after journalists working at the Games found they were denied access to sites such as Amnesty International, which has accused China of failing to live up to its promise to improve human rights. Some of the sites were later unblocked.

Last week, the head of the International Olympic Committee's press commission suggested that IOC president Jacques Rogge had knowledge of China's plans to censor internet access for foreign journalists during the Olympics.


Paul Jay


Paul Jay is a reporter and producer with CBC Ottawa. You can reach him on Twitter @PaulJayCBC or email him at