On2 Gets Into the Olympic Act

In an article back in May, we mentioned that the Chinese Central Television's CCTV.com had purchased the streaming rights to the Olympics being held next month in Beijing. For the first time, the International Olympic Committee separately sold broadcasting rights for TV and streaming, including Internet and mobile phone delivery.

The licensing decision caused a sharp exchange of words in May that have reverberated through the web. "CCTV was granted the exclusive rights to conduct live streaming of the August Olympics in the Chinese mainland and Macao over the internet and mobile phones," said Hu Zhanfan, vice president of CCTV International. "Even local TV stations that have live streaming rights for TV are not entitled to transmit the Olympics on their websites or other mobile platforms.

"SARFT will strengthen its monitoring of all local stations as well as news and commercial websites," Hu Zhanfan said back in May. "Violators will be warned and punished and their bad records will be linked to approval of future program licenses." Hu Zhanfan is also deputy director of the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT), the Chinese ministry responsible for program licensing, so his words carried weight.

This week, several announcements, in partnership with CCTV, have been announced.

On Monday, Chinese company PPLive, Inc. announced a partnership with China Central Television’s CCTV.com to stream Olympic sporting events, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies, to its user base of more than 100 million viewers worldwide that boast a Neilsen-backed estimate of over 450 million average monthly page-views.

"We are very excited to partner with CCTV.com to broadcast the Beijing Olympic games through our new internet media platform. We are committed to delivering to our viewers the highest quality and most in-depth coverage of the sporting games that make up the Olympics," Bill Yao, founder and CEO of the company, said.

PPLive's main attraction in China is a healthy dose of domestic and international sports streaming content including the NBA, English Premier League, and European Champion League.

Given the warning from Hu Zhanfan, it's no wonder that companies like PPLive have scrambled to obtain a People's Republic of China governmental license "covering all video broadcasting, streaming and downloading services." PPLive's CEO notes that only a limited number of international venture capital-backed internet media companies have so far received this license in China, but it seems many more are trying in the run-up to the Olympics.

Even On2 Technologies has gotten in to the act, also releasing a press announcement that its VP6 codec—widely used in China for instant messaging—will be a key part of CCTV.com's delivery solution.

CCTV is using On2's Flix Engine, which is the only Flix tool that On2 sells that includes the upgraded VP6 codec, which is capable of delivering almost a 40% bandwidth savings over the original VP6 codec.

"Our bandwidth costs are very high as we need to support a large number of concurrent downloads, and this will inevitably increase during the Olympics," says Shan Xiaolei, Director, Technology Management Commission, CCTV. "On2 have helped us quickly address this problem by contributing the Flix Engines we need to publish our sports coverage."

On2, for its part, sees this as a step in the right direction for both a widescale deployment of its updated VP6 codec in a video-on-demand setting, as well as a foothold in the growing Chinese streaming market.

"We see this as the beginning of a long term partnership that will see our two companies working together to lay the foundation of web TV in China," said Eero Kaikkonen, On2 Technologies' Chief Marketing Officer.

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