Admit it. These Olympics have been awesome so far. The mind-blowing opening ceremony. Michael Phelps. The breadth of games covered. All wrapped up in an HD bow. Too bad the online experience doesn’t even merit a bronze medal.
Let’s set aside the bone-headed decision to delay the web video coverage for popular events until after the already delayed West Coast coverage. Yes, that sucks. I’m talking more about the video player.
As we’ve written before, just getting the video from the games to your PC is an Olympic task. But all that effort is going to waste. I tried watching these Olympics online at different points throughout the weekend and just gave up to watch it on oldteevee. Here are some of the big issues:
1. Video presentation. This was supposed to be a big coming out party for Microsoft’s Silverlight. The quality is adequate, but the video doesn’t play full-screen and it fails to capture the energy and excitement, especially for events that don’t have a lot of close-ups (try watching field hockey). And the four simultaneous streams option shrinks the videos so small it’s pointless.
2. No commentary. Yeah, sure. Web video means that you can actually watch archery for the first time, but there are no announcers providing commentary, so I don’t know what’s going on. What’s happening? Why is it happening? Don’t know. This is especially bad in between matches like fencing. There is just a shot of an empty court (is that what they call it in fencing?). No indication as to what’s going on or what’s coming up.
3. Poor navigation. Events aren’t always labeled properly (men’s archery is listed as “Men’s Team Event”). In the “As Seen on TV” option, where you can watch the games as they were broadcast on oldteevee, there’s only one video from Day 2 (trap shooting), and six videos from Day 1. Yeah, preeeeeetty sure there were more than seven televised events over the weekend.
Unfortunately, NBC doesn’t have much incentive to change its behavior. The games have been exciting and a ratings monster for the network. NBCOlympics.com racked up 70 million pageviews on Friday, and 4.8 million people watched 3.1 million video streams on Saturday.
This could have been a golden moment for online video — too bad NBC just couldn’t stick the landing.