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7/13/2006
03:17 PM
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World Cup Broadcast Rights Hamper Internet Video Feeds

Soccer fans streamed millions of video highlights from FIFAworldcup.com, but play-by-play live coverage online was very hard to find.

Soccer aficionados flocked to Web sites offering up play-by-play information on the 2006 FIFA World Cup games in Germany, but streaming failed to score with U.S. fans.

Just ask Christopher Tipper, a 36-year-old Harvard Ph.D. in microbiology. Although the online experience felt limiting, the soccer fan said Thursday he kept an Internet site open on his Apple Macintosh computer screen to glance at World Cup scores as he worked.

"Some Chinese Web sites offered streaming video to watch the game on the computer but it didn't work on my Mac, so I was reduced to getting a text play-by-play from the FIFA Web site," he added. "I would have happily paid to get a video feed of the game."

Broadcast rights limit streaming video over the Internet. The BBC, the United Kingdom's public broadcast regulator, controlled access. It only allowed live streams to IP addresses in the U.K., said Mike Tobin, CEO at research firm TelecityRedbus Group.

Many "people in Europe didn't watch streaming online because most of the games were in the evening," Tobin said. "With several-hours difference in the United States, chances are the fan in the U.S. tracked scores from work. Many only had access to video highlights."

Yahoo Inc. on Thursday said FIFAwordcup.com streamed more than 138 million video highlights to World Cup hungry fans during the games, between June 9 and July 9. It's the first year clips of the matches were made available online.

Yahoo, which hosted the official FIFA World Cup site alongside the Federation Internationale de Football Association, said the page views on FWC.com reached 4.2 billion, more than double compared with 2002.

New this year, the FIFAworldcup.com's Mobile Web site gave million of fans access to stats on the go. Yahoo said 73 million pages were viewed.

In a small sampling, 10 percent of the general public in the U.K. watched the World Cup over streaming media to keep up with the action, according to TelecityRedbus Group.

"Generally, streaming media has been partly a question of control over distribution rights," said Ben Mendelson, president for the Interactive Television Alliance, a non profit trade association developing next-generation television. "At some point the cable guys realize they will have to switch to an IP system, but want to remain in control, similar to the control they have over proprietary systems."

Mendelson said the landscape for streaming media over the Internet will change within the next five years.

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