Monday, August 23, 2004

Marketing myopia - Big TV and IOC bureaucrats still don't "get" the web

Big corporations are still not up to date with what real people are doing with technology. And the freedom of the internet is increasingly coming under attack from corporate interests. It was music and movies that started it. Now it is international sport.

First, the IOC tried, rather successfully, to get those organizations streaming live web video of Olympic events to block access to anyone trying to log in from a country such as the US where the IOC had an exclusive television coverage deal. Instead of watching a live webcast on a Finnish site, I have to hope that NBC will broadcast the event, and hope that I will somehow be able to find out when that substantially-delayed taped broadcast will take place (NBC likes to keep schedules a little mysterious to sustain audience numbers).

I don't particularly object to that -- NBC did pay nearly $800 million for coverage rights. Nor do I object to the sustained pretense of their commentators and anchorpersons that all we are watching is actually live. NBC is providing entertainment, not news, so we don't need to be told immediately when the US wins another medal. Four to six hours later is fine. For real-time news we can go to CNN or to the web.

Nor do I object to the IOC putting logo-police in place to prevent spectators from wearing clothing that promote competitors to McDonalds, Visa, and other sole-sponsors. The Olympics, after all, is not about encouraging competition.

But what I DO object to is the latest outrageous attempt by the IOC to censor blogs from the event. According to CNN:
The International Olympic Committee is barring competitors, as well as coaches, support personnel and other officials, from writing firsthand accounts for news and other Web sites.
Anyone who is at the Olympics in any official capacity, other than a journalist, is not allowed to keep an online diary. They are welcome to take notes, but may not post them to the web till August 29th. Oh, and even after the games are over they may not post photographs on their blogs unless such photos are authorized by the IOC.

NBC doesn't get it. The IOC doesn't get it. If they did, they would be encouraging as many participants as possible to blog their experiences. They'd have a blogging cafe in the Olympic village. If the IOC were really interested in promoting the excitement of sport at this level, they would leverage the medium that can truly personalize that excitement. But it seems that the IOC is more interested in protecting the commercial investment of its traditional and out-of-touch television partners than in spreading the excitement of the games.

The marketing myopia of it aside, this is where digital Intellectual Property issues hit people where they feel it. What happened to the freedom and anarchy of the web? What happened to the internet as a medium of free expression? Four years from now the IOC will probably comprehend what they missed this time round, but by then we may well have moved on from blogs and streaming video to something better. The IOC will be geared to support what's hot at the time only if NBC and Visa and McDonalds have figured out how to get a piece of it.

No comments: