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Microsoft Wins the Winter Games
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2001 01:34:22 -0500 (CDT)


[Funny, no mention in this article about the security or lack thereof
inherent in Microsoft products. Whatever group tasked with network
integrity is surely going to have their hands full with every
script-kiddie, terrorist, and loon trying to compromise the Olympic
Games security.   - WK]

By Terry Lefton
Jun 27 2001 05:20 PM PDT

In what marks Microsoft's boldest move yet into sports content, MSN
and MSNBC will host and produce official sites for the 2002 Winter
Olympic games to be held in Salt Lake City, sources familiar with the
deal said Wednesday.

The decision ends NBC's two-month recruitment for a Web services
company to produce Olympic sites after financially troubled sports
portal company Quokka, which originally held the Olympic rights,
closed in April. The process was further complicated when
infrastructure provider Logictier, which was to have done the hosting,
also ceased operations.

Underscoring the shifting Internet landscape, Microsoft, a partner of
NBC's in creating the MSNBC television network, is getting the Olympic
rights for free. Quokka, on the other hand, exchanged millions in
equity to secure the rights for one of sports most prestigious events
and one that will generate global interest.

MSN will host and publish sites for SaltLake2002.com, Olympics.com and
NBC Olympics.com, the latter of which will be heavily promoted on
NBC's television coverage of the games. An official announcement is
expected later this week.

During the Sydney games, NBCOlympics.com attracted 5.6 million unique
visitors, while the official site, hosted and produced by IBM,
received 8.8 million.

Although Microsoft isn't paying a licensing fee, it will bear the cost
of hosting and producing the Web sites, according to a source with the
U.S. Olympic Committee. That could cost the Redmond, Wash.-based
software giant about $10 million, according to insiders. Microsoft
agreed to drive traffic to the Olympic sites from various MSN Web

Representatives of Microsoft and NBC, a unit of General Electric, were
not immediately available to comment on the deal.

In the months following Quokka's demise, NBC had been talking to a
variety of sports-media and technology companies as possible site
publishers. Among them were Yahoo, CBS/SportsLine and Ignite Media,
which creates many team sites for the National Football League.

"The traffic will be enormous and, as one of the highest-profile
events in sports, it's an asset that should be able to be monetized,"
said Ignite President and CEO Hank Adams. Given the current difficult
advertising market, however, it might be difficult to make the effort
profitable, Adams said. "This will take a Herculean effort for them to
make sense on a [profit and loss] basis. It could be that Microsoft
can justify it because they've gotten so many other assets. But it
will be a real race to sell sponsors before the games start."

The Microsoft sites will get an inventory of ad space available on the
sites. Quokka was able to sell about $18 million in advertising that
was paid for in cash and in kind for the Summer Games in Sydney. MSN
and MSNBC also get a platform to demonstrate their publishing
capabilities, should they want to expand that portion of their
business. Preparing the Olympic sites also gives Microsoft the
valuable opportunity to bundle ad sales with spaces on its MSN.com and
MSNBC.com sites. Video rights for Olympic competitions are not
included, but the sites will stream athlete interviews and commentary.

The deal also could drive more traffic to the MSN portal, Microsoft's
main Internet content offering, which is striving to boost its
international presence. It also will burnish MSN and MSNBC's
reputations as sports content sites, an area where they have lagged.

Another incentive for Microsoft might be the use of the Olympic rings
in MSN advertising. MSNBC, because it is a joint venture involving
NBC, already had the rights to use the rings. Insiders said
Microsoft's proposed use of what is arguably the most valuable
intellectual property in sports was one of the main obstacles delaying
the deal. Whether and how Microsoft gets to use Olympic logos outside
of its own Web sites could be the key to the whole deal.

"They were trying to back into an Olympic sponsorship," said one
marketing source, familiar with the deal, "but [the Salt Lake Olympic
Organizing Committee] didn't want to give them up, since [Microsoft
wasn't] paying for the rights."

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