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The last pre-Internet Olympics?


NBC's focus this time around was on TV, not the Internet


'Net Insider By Scott Bradner , Network World , 08/27/2008


The Olympic spectacle and achievements are over for the next two years.


It was quite a show — very beautiful opening and closing ceremonies (no way for Vancouver and London to even match them), also beautiful venues and some exciting competition. I know this because I watched it on TV.
Next time I expect I will know the quality of the ceremony and competition because I will see it first on the Internet, and some of it later on TV.


This time around I did not even think of checking out the streaming video coverage — there were some good things, but not nearly enough. NBC provided the exclusive TV coverage (or at least they kept the other TV outlets to only providing snippets of coverage). Published reports put the cost to NBC for this exclusivity at $894 million, plus millions more in coverage expenses. Spending close to a billion dollars for the coverage rights seems to have paid off for NBC because it sold about $1 billion in advertising for the two weeks for a profit of close to $100 million. But only $5.75 million came from the Internet.
This was still a made-primarily-for-TV Olympics — maybe the last such one.


After the Olympics were over I took a look at the NBC Olympic video Web site. It is rather annoying that you have to install the Microsoft Silverlight plug-in before you can look at the videos (something that I expect eliminated a lot of non-techies from the potential audience) but I will say the videos look rather good when you (finally) get to them. The site has a lot of videos on it. They seem to cover all of the sports that were present at the games but some of the editing leaves a lot to be desired. For example, there is about eight minutes of random overhead at the beginning of the hour-and-52 minute video of the women's individual event quarterfinals in archery, and it's 10 minutes into the video before the first shot is fired (I chose this video at random.). NBC also does not need the quite disruptive Olympic rings graphic zooming across the screen when starting and stopping replays but I guess they learned that technique from TV football coverage.


But with all the good technology (and bad editing) NBC is apparently a timorous beast (maybe NBC stands for Not Being Courageous). It was afraid to put most high profile videos up before they showed the competition during its primetime TV coverage (which tended to be very fragmented, jumping from sport to sport). Somehow NBC must have thought that people watching a 5 x 8.5 inch video of the opening ceremony on their PC would skip watching it on their living room TV set. (Or maybe they realized that watching "as if you were there coverage" without inane paid-by-the-word announcers would spoil the viewers.)


Whatever the reason that drove NBC to avoid giving their viewers better coverage, I doubt it will happen next time. I think this was the last pre-Internet Olympics and Vancouver in two years will be very different, with the primary coverage for the lesser teams or sports being shown live via the Internet. I expect there still will be a lot of TV coverage, and that will generate far more ad revenue, but Internet ad revenue will become the key to NBC making a profit on future Olympics.


Disclaimer: Except for its investments, Harvard does not aim for a profit so would not have, and does not have, an opinion on NBC's timidity.


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