by the time you read this, the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics will be over. Michael Phelps will have secured his place in history having won eight gold medals in a single games and the closing ceremony will have seen David Beckham accept the Olympic torch on behalf of the 2012 host city, London. For the first time ever, high definition signals were used for TV relays for all the events as the Beijing Olympic Broadcaster (BOB) produced live TV signals of 5,400 hours for rights-holding broadcasters. And it’s estimated that more than four billion viewers will have enjoyed the Olympic competition through TV broadcasts. Among those four billion viewers, I found myself glued to the coverage and checking on-line whenever parted from my trusty TV set. While being in same time zone was definitely a factor, my addiction was more significantly fuelled by an abundance of choice. Seven channels of live action, including one in HD, precipitated a dramatic rise in Olympic hours consumed – bearing out US findings that greater choice of viewing platform, far from cannibalizing viewers, actually leads to an overall rise in content consumption. With hours of coverage at 5,400 hours in 2008, up 42 percent from 3,800 at Athens in 2004, it will be interesting to see what sort of rise is reflected in the global viewing figures – and the cost of broadcast rights to 2012.
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