68 Comments

Summary:

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 […]

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.

"As Seen On" coverage from Day 2

"As Seen On" coverage from Day 2

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.

  1. Since I’m not around to watch most of the live stuff anyway I just catch it using their online VOD service, http://www.nbc.com/olympicsonthego/

    The installation was a little long.. but was ok, and the HD video is decent quality, looks good on my regular computer or the media center connected to my 45″ TV.

    I subscribed to swimming, track & field, and the daily recap and it DL’s at night so I can watch it after I wake up… or get in late.

  2. yea, i can’t take it anymore. i’ve tried firefox and IE both; when i try and start video my browser will either freeze for 2-4 minutes and miraculously comeback, or sometimes it will be permanently frozen, requiring a hard reset. i was able to see about half of the USA basketball game without commentary (REALLY???) until the browser totally froze up on me.

  3. ugh, randomguy….nbcdirect? even worse.

  4. I like the NBC online video as a companion to the TV coverage on NBC MSNBC,USA or CNBC and there is text based “live blog” style commentary for some events but as you said they could of done it so much better maybe by 2012 they will get it right .

  5. Mark Schoneveld Monday, August 11, 2008

    I tweeted this moments before reading your post:

    “is it just me or does the MS Silverlight player on NBCOlympics.com kinda suck? Stuttering playback + only fair picture quality”

    Very disappointed.

  6. Clearly NBC’s priority is protecting its’ investment and limiting distribution of videos, otherwise why would they bother with this proprietary software that doesn’t work.

  7. Chris Albrecht Monday, August 11, 2008

    The video worked most of the time for me, but did crash once, and the buffering kinda blows, too, especially since they are encouraging you to switch between windows.

  8. @buster

    like I said, the install was long.. but it works for me.

    YMMV.

  9. Daisy Whitney Monday, August 11, 2008

    I totally agree. What kind of media world do we live in when it’s easier for me to watch the opening ceremony I missed via Comcast’s VOD 48 hours later than on the Web???

  10. Totally agree. I woke up early to watch the USA-China basketball game online, but was sorely disappointed to not hear any commentary (Bob Costas not available?) and no rewind. Tivo has spoiled me.

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