5 Ways to Fix the Next Olympics Online

It’s been a tale of two Olympics for NBC. On the one hand, it’s been a monster success, pulling in record numbers on both new and oldteevee (except in San Francisco). On the other hand, between tape delays and a crummy online video experience, it’s also been pretty abysmal.

Perhaps smelling blood in the water, ESPN said it was interested carrying the 2014 and 2016 Olympics — and that it would run the games live, from coast-to-coast.

But before ESPN places its bid (and hopefully wins to make up for NBC’s Olympic sins), we at NewTeeVee humbly offer up suggestions to improve the experience for the 2010 games.

1. Get rid of tape delays for both television and online video. Granted, with the games in Vancouver, issues of time delays in the U.S. won’t be as big an issue, but it’s the principle. Mr. Zucker may have “bottled” excitement by delaying people’s access to action, but in an age of instant news alerts, it’s an Olympic task just to avoid results from the games.

The latest Nielsen numbers show that an average of 4.2 million people are following the games on NBCOlympics.com each day at work. Just visiting the front page of the NBC Olympics site at lunch today spoiled who won in Usain Bolt’s 200 meter race. Instead, what if NBC had replaced the text (and picture of the winner) with video of the race accompanied by a pre-roll? The outcome is already ruined and there is little incentive to turn on the TV to watch it, the network could at least squeeze a little more money out of it online.

2. Use what people have. This was a big test for Microsoft’s Silverlight video technology. And while Silverlight worked reliably and the video quality was good, it’s still a hassle downloading new software. It either turns people off or literally turns them away for having an incompatible system.

3. Make video easy to find. What good is that whopping 2,200 hours of video if people can’t find what they’re looking for? Instead of adding features like the four simultaneous streams or the picture-in-picture, focus on the user experience. Labeling a video “Singles” accompanied by a picture of a face gives me no indication about what sport I’d be watching. Is “Most Watched” for the day or the week or from the whole event? I don’t know; it doesn’t say.

4. Set the video free. Viewers should be able to create and post their own highlights on their blogs or social networks. The Olympics are all about uniting and sharing our feelings over a win or a loss or even just a great game, so let people do that. You can even put an ad on it.

5. Don’t be jerks. If Michael Phelps is swimming or newly-minted Olympic sensation Usain Bolt is running, don’t make people wait. Let us enjoy the moment when it actually is a moment. And don’t deny someone the games just because they happen to subscribe to the wrong cable service.

It will be interesting to see what happens as the web video industry matures in the coming years. By 2010 there will be all sorts of online video advances (crossing fingers for full HD). Hopefully NBC’s oldteevee success at these games won’t embolden it to clamp down even further on newteevee the next go ’round.

But what do you think? What would have made your online Olympics experience a better one? Leave a comment and let us know.