Through some quirks of scheduling, I got my first taste of Olympics action on a laptop through in-flight wireless — not the big screen in our living room — and watched the winning ski jump late at night on demand using the NBC Olympics iPhone app. The 2010 Winter Olympics may not be the “everything online live” Olympics but it’s close to the “everywhere” Olympics — as long as by everywhere in the U.S.,you mean on NBCOlympics.com.
The network, which expects to lose money on the Vancouver games, is trying a feat as tricky as some of the moves in pairs skating: produce a social media-centric Olympics without allowing video sharing or embedding. Perkins Miller, SVP of digital media for NBC Sports, makes no apologies for the decision. It’s all part of a strategy to make every one of the 17 days count for every second. Key elements include keeping all the video on NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) sites; making highlights freely available; and limiting online access to more than 1,000 hours of video on demand and 400 hours of live competition streaming to users who already pay for video via satellite, telecom or cable.
So far, it seems to be working — although it’s hard to say how much higher traffic might be if users could watch marquee events live online. Through the first two days, the network says NBCllympics.com traffic was up 350 percent from the Torino Winter Games in 2006 with 4.5 million uniques compared to Torino’s 1.02 million. NBC also says the site has delivered 4.5 million video streams, up nearly 700 percent over Torino. (NBC is also using autoplay so it’s hard to know how many of those were initiated directly by users.) No word on how many times the iPhone app has been downloaded but it’s the top free app now (it’s also a featured app, which helps) and had 5.3 million pageviews Saturday, compared with 2 million for opening day.
— Destination NBCOlympics.com : Miller explained the video strategy in an interview from Vancouver as he was preparing for the Games. “The single destination for Olympics video is at NBCOlympics. When you have a 17-day event, we do everything we can to focus everyone’s interest around a single destination. What we found is that people actually like having one place to go and our session times reflect it. People come to NBCOlympics.com. We’ve made sure we