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Interview: Perkins Miller, SVP-Digital Media, NBC Sports & Olympics: ‘Taking A Big Leap’

imageThe Beijing Games begin in four days — and with them, the most complicated, intensive digital media Olympics yet. Perkins Miller heads that effort for U.S. rights holder NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) as SVP-Digital Media, NBC Sports & Olympics. We spoke by phone during the last-minute push on a connection via China Mobile that was clear — as was, Miller said, the sky that day in usually smoggy Beijing. NBC plans some 2,000 hours of live online coverage, more than anyone could have imagined even two years ago during the Winter Games and more than any obsessed fan could take in. And yet, NBC’s decision to horde the most popular events for prime-time viewing first, broadband second, leaves the sense that the amount being streamed live comes up short. We talked about that, the plans to track unauthorized use, and the strategy, among other topics. Some excerpts:

Programming strategy: Why not make events available online when they happen and let the TV audience be the TV audience? Miller and other NBCU execs contend people want the best viewing experience in prime time and that means HDTV on big flat screens in the living room whether or not events are live. “Our programming strategy is to try to deliver the best experience on the best platform and by far, that is the best way. More after the jump

When you’re looking at 2,900 hours of live coverage, you’ve got to make some decisions. And we need to address the audience and I think we are. You also need to consider major advertisers and affiliates and NBC’s own investment. That all comes to bear on the programming strategy… you look at that ideal experience — 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night, and Sunday and Monday night, the place to be is in your living room. And given the time difference, the time and place to be Monday morning at your desk may be at your laptop. What we’re trying to do is expand this so broadly I think that effort alone is reasonable. We’re taking a big leap from Torino of two hours live and upped it 2,000. I think we’re going to take a deep breath after this and look to the future and think we’ve done a pretty good job of addressing that ‘when I want it, what I want it’ attitude that’s pretty pervasive.”

Reaction to demand: While some are beyond irked by the lack of live streaming for swimming, track & field and the like, others will be gaining access to events that otherwise would very limited. Miller “We