Limelight sets Olympic streams

2,200 hours will be available via various Web sites

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NEW YORK -- For the first time, sports fans around the world will be able to access as many as 20 live Olympics events at once via Web streams serviced by Limelight Networks for such rights-holders as NBC.

While NBC and its affiliate channels plan to put roughly 800 hours of the Beijing Games on television from Aug. 8-24, NASDAQ-listed Limelight will make as many as 2,200 hours of video available via NBCOlympics.com and the Web sites of the BBC and host broadcaster China Central Television.

"You'll be able to watch four events simultaneously" in split screen, using media players Windows Media Player or Silverlight, Limelight co-founder Mike Gordon told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday.

Tempe, Ariz.-based Limelight is the second-largest content delivery network in the U.S. by revenue after Akami. Its 250 employees work to deliver video, music and games to end-users over the Internet via 10,000 servers in 70 locations around the world, to which Internet Service Providers such as AT&T, NTT and Deutsche Telekom then connect, Gordon said.

Last summer, "Live Earth," Al Gore's global concert for the environment, set the standard against which big Web casts are now gauged.

In June, Limelight delivered content for the online debut of Disney's "Camp Rock" starring teen rock sensations the Jonas Brothers, an event that tallied 863,000 plays over 24-hours, according to Disney.

"It won't surprise us if (the Beijing Olympics) breaks all the records," said Gordon, Limelight's chief strategy officer.

Limelight won't go to Beijing, but its teams will work closely with NBC in New York and Redmond, Washington, where MSNBC will help package the streams -- making editorial choices and adding advertisements. Gordon said the service will change the way Olympics are viewed.

"What we're going to see with this event is the beginning of the multichannel business of delivery of content around a major global event," Gordon said. "We're adapting to the way Americans born after 1980 are consuming content."

In deference to contracts with the older folks running the companies buying advertising time from NBC, Limelight will not stream everything to the NBCOlympics web site as it happens. The extremely popular women's gymnastics finals, for instance, will show on NBC television stations first, and then on the Web, Gordon said.

"But if you miss it because you're at work, it will be available for replay on the Web," Gordon said. A lot of the color reporting, such as athlete profiles, will not make it to the television but will certainly end up on the Web, totaling an estimated 3,000 hours of highlights, rewinds and encores, Gordon said.

Earlier this year, Limelight reported a full year 2007 loss against revenue of $105 million. It next reports earnings Aug. 12, four days into the Olympics.
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