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09:49 PM

London Company Battling Unauthorized Streaming Sports

NetResult is calling foul to companies that stream copyright-protected sporting events over the Internet.

While film and music steal the spotlight on the copyright protection stage, a British company is working to squash an emerging area of intellectual property rights infringement: sports coverage.

Attention is just beginning to turn to hundreds of Internet sites that are drawing thousands, and potentially millions, of viewers away from paid television coverage of sports to streaming "live" coverage, which airs with a 15-second delay, Christopher Stokes, CEO of NetResult, said during an interview Tuesday. Stokes said that the problem is just surfacing and is difficult to quantify.

Some Chinese Web sites offer as many as 700 channels at once, eating away at profits that television companies gain by airing cricket, soccer, Formula 1, and other sporting events. Ninety-five percent of the value of all sports is being able to view it live, Stokes said. And, the problem is global.

"At the moment, we're doing European football games every weekend," he said. "In '06 it was the World Cup and the Olympics."

Stokes said that his company works with European as well as American rights holders, and London-based NetResult has hired Chinese employees in an attempt to gain a greater understanding of the problem.

The motive among those offering streaming sports appears to be different than those who are trying to share music for free or at reduced profits, he said. Many of the software developers offering the sports content are trying to show off their technology, and it may be working.

"They want to be able to prove that it's robust and reliable," he said, adding that some have the capability to stream to millions of people simultaneously.

Just as some broadcasters have turned to Internet companies offering their content without rights to form partnerships and new distribution methods, some of Stokes' clients are beginning to talk with those offering game coverage for free in an attempt to broaden their distribution. Stokes said that many of the companies he works with do not want the problem to go public for fear of losing viewers.

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