- The Washington Times - Friday, February 10, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — NBC is greatly expanding its Olympics video offerings for the Internet and cell phones, a sign of increased comfort with technologies that erect geographic boundaries online.

The network’s Olympics site, NBCOlympics.com, will show for free, on a delayed basis, the complete runs and routines for the top finishers and for all U.S. participants in almost every event, with highlights provided for team sports like hockey, said Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics.

During the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, NBC showed only brief highlights. And although access again will be limited to Internet users in the United States, NBC won’t require a Visa credit card this time to verify eligibility.

The controls are required because the Olympic Committee sells broadcast rights by territory.

This time, highlights are available through the major U.S. carriers — about 1 million U.S. phone subscribers who pay for video service from Verizon Wireless’ VCast or MobiTV Inc., which serves Cingular, Sprint and smaller U.S. carriers.

Mr. Zenkel said NBC also was making video available through Google’s video search site as well as through on-demand services that reach 24 million cable and satellite homes.

None of the video will be live; in most cases it won’t be available online or on phones until the end of NBC’s broadcast day, generally 11:30 p.m. Eastern time.

By contrast, the British Broadcasting Corp.’s Web site is simulcasting five television feeds, though only to residents of Britain.

And with NBC planning more than 400 hours of coverage, or more than 24 hours a day, on its broadcast and cable outlets, Mr. Zenkel doubts the Internet will carry any original footage, beyond training ski runs that took place Thursday, before NBC started its broadcasts yesterday.

Olympics video has been slow making its way online.

In 2000, NBC piped delayed video down controlled fiber-optic cables to 100,000 homes, while the rest were left with still images captured from television feeds.

Two years later, a Swiss broadcaster streamed video to up to 2,000 subscribers through a closed network of high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) subscribers in three cities.

More broadcasters were allowed to beam video to computers and mobile phones in 2004 as long as they could restrict access to their countries.

NBC required a credit card from Visa, an NBC advertiser, to check its billing address, though users weren’t charged. European broadcasters largely required high-speed broadband connections, to keep foreigners from connecting via international phone calls.

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