Thursday, July 31, 2008

2,200 hours of digital Olympic fun

You would think the modern Olympics were actually designed as venue for a multi—media digital platform rather than a live event to be attended. Even in my early Olympic viewing days, Jim McKay was poised in front of multiple screens, jumping from one venue to another, and providing the back stories that we all need in order to empathize with athletes we’d never see or hear about in the intervening years. I relish finding out who the hot new kayakers are.

Today’s viewing audiences can pick and choose their events (how many hours of soccer will you watch? diving?). Or, given NBC Universal’s plans for 2,200 hours of live coverage, die-hard fans will get their fill and more, especially with the variety of venues for viewing. All the sports featured in the Summer Olympics will have full video coverage, audio play-by-play, and live blogging by NBC Sports experts. For digital media folks, this is a great opportunity to survey the possibilities, since this is where the newest and best will be deployed in massive outlay. It has the budget, the interest, the built-in hype, and international appeal. This should be the premier digital event of the year. And judging from NBC’s announcement yesterday, it will be. According to Adweek,
The network announced plans that will encompass many of the digital platforms in use today. It also will include fantasy and casual gaming, VOD and interactive TV. Major partners include Microsoft, Amazon Unbox, Schematic and many others. Starting August 6, fans logging on to the MSN homepage ( will have exclusive access to’s comprehensive coverage of the Beijing Games.
Gary Zenkel, President, NBC Olympics said, “Over the past 20 years, we have continually expanded our coverage of the Olympics to new platforms as they have become available, and the Beijing Games will mark another milestone … With the Beijing Games, the Olympic viewer will be able to define his or her own Olympic experience like never before, watching every sport throughout the Games be it at home on TV, in the office on their computer or on the go on their mobile phones.”

Of course, there are technological glitches expected – after all, the streaming video and online platform runs on Vista (that’s a necessary dig from a Mac user) and even NBC admits there will be a bit of delay until people get used to using Schematics rather than their usual media players. But the Schematics platform has some great features, including a close captioned stream of live commentary, a variety of ways to interface with the selections, and more. In order to add a touch of "social" to the medium, there will be blogs, widgets (updates on your personal computer), simultaneous coverage on Telemundo, and a whole series of online games.

Too bad NBC-U didn't step up to the plate with live viewing at selected public venues. They could have scored some goodwill, some additional advertisers, and some additional exposure for the industry. Fortunately, NBC content licensee Thomson (owners of PRN), have, as this press release notes:
Thomson's Premier Retail Networks, Inc. (PRN), the world's most experienced provider of digital media solutions at retail, has been selected as the exclusive provider of NBC Olympics highlights to retail shoppers during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, August 8-24. The announcement was made today by Gary Zenkel, President of NBC Olympics, and Richard Fisher, president of PRN.

Beginning August 9, highlights of the previous day's events and information about NBC's programming schedule that night will be broadcast daily to retail locations nationwide - from the Opening Ceremony to the Closing Ceremony. Stunning high definition footage of individual events will play on HDTV screens in more than 5,000 home electronics departments at key retailers. While waiting in line to check out, shoppers will also be able to keep up with some of the key moments from the Games on PRN's Checkout TV(TM) network, available in approximately 2,000 stores.
I don't have the time to spend 2,200 hours in stores to watch the Olympics, but a few minutes at the checkout counter? Sign me up!

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