The Internet is becoming an increasingly popular information channel for audiences watching the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, said a report from CSM Media Research.
Ninety percent of respondents would choose to see the Games on TV, and 30 percent would like to follow the Games through the Internet, exceeding the amount choosing print media, according to a survey of audiences aged 15 to 40 conducted by CSM in China's 10 key cities.
To attract viewers and advertisers during the Games, major Chinese Internet portals have spent an unprecedented amount of money creating content and marketing themselves, the China Business News reported.
Tuesday, Sina.com, Netease.com and Tencent signed an agreement with CCTV.com to use the latter's multimedia contents during the Games, including its opening and closing ceremonies. Sohu.com got the rights from CCTV.com last month.
CCTV.com, the only official Beijing Olympic Games mobile phone and Internet broadcast platform on the mainland and Macao, may broadcast 3,800 hours of the Olympic Games.
"No one has had this experience before," said Liu Lu, CCTV.com's Olympic copyright protection center chief.
"With the extensive use of broadband and online streaming technology, online video has become one of the most popular Internet applications in China," said Sina Corp's chief executive officer Charles Chao.
In addition to getting online videos, the portal sites have put great effort into buying equipment, contacting athletes and cooperating with print media for covering the 2008 Olympics.
Sohu.com paid an estimated 500 million yuan ($73.33 million) for Olympics-related activities, the paper reported, citing an unnamed official in charge of a sports channel at a portal site.
In 2005, Sohu.com became the Internet Content Services Sponsor of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, reportedly paying $20 million for rights to host the Olympics' official Web site www.beijing2008.com and use its logo.
Sina.com and Tencent's expenses amounted to an estimated 130 million yuan and 100 million yuan respectively, the paper said.
The battle among these portal sites intensified in 2005, after Sohu.com claimed exclusive rights to host all sponsors' advertisements using the Olympic logo. In response, competitors, including Sina.com, Netease and Tencent, formed an alliance against Sohu.
Up to now, the major portals have almost completed clinching contracts with advertisers during the Games, the paper reported, forecasting that those advertisement contracts will bring in a considerable part of their income in the second and third quarter.
However, Charles Zhang, president and CEO of Sohu.com, said that advertisement revenue during the Games was not his biggest concern. "What I care most is to build Sohu.com, the No. 1 Internet portal in China, through sponsoring the Olympics."
But without releasing any details of its advertisement revenue, Zhang confirmed that the company has registered some profits from Olympics advertising, which has already recovered costs in winning the approval as the official sponsor of the Games.
As the Internet Content Services Sponsor, Sohu.com will set up a 700-member editorial team to cover the action at all Olympic venues. More than 100 people from the team have received passes, making the site third only to CCTV and Xinhua News Agency in number of passes.
The competition between Sohu.com and other portals gets even fiercer with the Games fast approaching and as China has overtaken the United States to have the world's largest Internet population.
Chinese Internet users spend about 570 million hours online per day, making the country a huge potential market for e-commerce, according to a report released in Beijing last week by the Boston Consulting Group.
The consulting firm said eight years from now, the online advertising market is expected to surge eight times from its current 9.34 billion yuan to reach 85 billion yuan.