Four years ago I savaged the IOC and the Athens Olympics for culpable cluelessness in dealing with the Internet. Fair is fair, so I'm here to acknowledge that the IOC and their US mainstream media channel, NBC, have surpassed that weak performance and turned in a new Olympic record for Internet clues. In many other ways, however, they continue to display retrograde notions about distribution control and the potential of the medium. And NBC appears to be deliberately not selling the advertising inventory from its Internet video feeds.
NBC has done a good job integrating its television and Internet offerings into one master schedule and site. Could use some interface help, here and there, but it generally works.
Viewing NBC's online video clips or feeds requires installing the Microsoft Silverlight player. Hmmmm. Microsoft. Beta software. Trepidation. Macintosh. Safari. More trepidation. But I must say that it so far it looks decent, and has been remarkably stable. It's gotten befuddled when coming back from sleep mode, or in a few cases of a lost feed, but it's never crashed itself or taken down the browser. And so far as I can tell at this point it hasn't done anything evil or unwanted to any of my system settings.
And as a result I've gotten a good down payment on something that should have been done back in 2004: The ability to get live feeds and archives from the lesser known events, and those where the US doesn't necessarily have competitors or a chance. So far I've watched all of the shooting finals, including a men's air rifle event that came down to one shot. I've seen a world record set in the women's team archery, caught a couple of the sailing races, and part of the cross-country portion of the equestrian event. And I dipped into a few other events and decided they weren't for me.
The net is just the place for this kind of event and coverage. Let's face it, unless you're into the particular sport, some of these events are about as exciting as watching paint dry. And they don't necessarily feature the sort of male and female hard bodies, more or less covered, that make for good television ratings. So give NBC some credit for sorting out their big audience attractions and the 'long tail' events, and dealing with both effectively.
NBC is still grossly afflicted with some combination of channel conflict between the old video media and the new, and clue shortages by its management The attempts to paper over its MSM instincts are obviously strained. One almost suspects rival channel groups parsing out terms of a treaty, watched over by phalanxes of copyright attorneys and affiliate relationship managers.
It started from the top, with the opening ceremonies. NBC ran the program on tape delay, and sent out that phalanx of attorneys to try to plug Americans' access to any live feed. When it posted Internet views of the ceremonies, they were deliberately shuffled in order so that the American teams entry wouldn't appear on the net before it did on the tape delay. The commentators spent so much time pointing out that 'Chinese has no alphabetical order' that one had to wonder if they were hoping someone watching the Internet version (I did) wouldn't happen to notice how the stadium in-field magically became less full after commercial breaks. File this one under "Do they think we are idiots?" In this case, they're the idiots. A good chunk of their audience was TiVoing anyway, and the number who would stay up to see it live is small. The ability to reassemble the mass audience, at one time for one event, is on its way out. Get over it, NBC, and learn to deal.
Ditto the decision to censor the live feeds of the 'big events' from the Internet. Anything with those aforementioned hard bodies, from gymnastics to swimming to beach volleyball, is not to appear on the net until well after the tape delay, let alone the real event. Of course, anyone with a vestigial brain can figure out how to get the results from myriad outlets around the world long before NBC deigns to show us. Get a clue. Learn to use the two channels side by side, meeting people where and when they want to be.
Of course, the mainstream video coverage is as lame as ever. The MSM tendency to reduce everything to people 'journalism' is on full display. Even the hard bodies can't save an event if the US gets knocked out, and suddenly those sports down in the remainder bin become important should we happen to medal. I'm not really expecting improvement here, it's what the medium has become, but at least a little futile whinging seems in order. I'm dealing by using the TV as background, with the audio off, while running the net.
And speaking of those lesser sports - and even some of the big events - what happened to all the prelims and elimination rounds? Somehow 64+ competitors get whittled down to a few finalists, and we see nothing of it. If you've ever wondered what happened to all those who march in from smaller nations, never to be seen again, you're not going to find out from NBC. And what would it take? One camera pointed at whatever field of play, and one at the official scoreboard, and an open mike. No commentary, no 'added value', but let's face it, you're not going to be watching prelims in a lesser known sport if you don't know what you're looking at. The IOC should just do this itself next time, or mandate it from its MSM partners.
NBC is apparently deriving no revenue at all from its Internet based video coverage. The video interstitials that show up when changing event 'channels' are all from GE, as well as many of the banners on the main site. If you missed it, NBC belongs to GE, at least for now, so those are all 'house ads'. As in, no revenue.
There's got to be a story here. Are they expecting me to believe that not one supplier of shooting or archery equipment had any interest in those spots, at any price? Or that those catering to the horsey or sailing crowds wouldn't be interested in reaching those upscale consumers while they're watching their favorite activity? Give me a break.
The only possible conclusion is that NBC didn't try to sell the video inventory. One has to wonder why. Was that the price extracted by the affiliates to let any coverage to escape onto the net? Is this how senior management will try to justify complaints about revenue cannibalization by the net, since they've guaranteed they won't have any income on that side of the house? Maybe some enterprising new media reporter can chase this one down.