Banned from the Olympics

The Net would allow for more timely coverage. Viewers in the States, for instance, could wake up in the morning and watch events that were only a few hours old. But NBC and the IOC had a different idea. NBC decided that because the Games will be held half a world away, it will tape each event and broadcast it hours later. That means some events will be held back from the U.S. by as much as a day as NBC waits for the biggest possible prime-time viewing audience. And the network is withholding in-depth coverage from its Web site until after the event is aired on TV.

"With the Sydney Olympics, it all comes down to one thing: the time difference. That's why making rules on when and where you can access the information is the silliest thing I've ever heard," says Tom Jessiman, CEO of London-based Sports.com, an affiliate of SportsLine.

With all the IOC bans in place many dot-com media honchos have written off the Games altogether, choosing instead to focus on the start of the NFL season and baseball's pennant races. But the bans have hit the sports sites where it hurts most. Official Olympic sponsors such as Coke and McDonald's are spending tens of millions of dollars on TV advertising, but almost nothing online. Says Robert Coen, the chief advertising forecaster for the Interpublic Group of Companies , the second biggest advertising holding company in the world: "Compared to all the money spent on ads for the Olympics on TV, no Olympic-related money is going to the Internet. I don't see the Olympics being much of a factor on Internet advertising."

Until the online Olympics audience becomes much bigger, advertisers will continue to spend their ad budgets on TV. Yet this audience won't grow in any meaningful way until some of the Olympic restrictions are lifted and sites are able to afford broadcast rights.

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