SBD/July 30, 2012/Olympics

NBC Criticized For Use of Tape Delay, Quality Of Live Stream Broadcasts

NBC had 7 million video streams Saturday, compared to 1.6 million four years ago
NBC said that it had 7 million video streams Saturday, "up from 1.6 million from the first day of Beijing competition" four years ago, according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. Those streams Saturday "came despite widespread technical difficulties." As with CBS' NCAA men's basketball tournament coverage in March, NBC's Olympic digital coverage "was meant for viewers whose TV comes from cable, satellite or telecommunications distributors." And like the "first day that system was used on the tournament, there were lots of glitches Saturday." NBC Sports Senior VP/Communications Greg Hughes said some of the glitches "were from our end and some from the user's end" and were reduced by Sunday (USA TODAY, 7/30). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports early returns "indicate that streaming is extremely popular." On Saturday, the total videos streamed, "including highlights and replays, stand at 13.2 million, compared with 5.2 million in Beijing." However, Twitter has "turned into a fiery digital soapbox against NBC, as its users have merged their resentment over tape delay with problems viewing the live streams." The outrage has been "distilled, simply, into #nbcfail." The "ire of #nbcfail was stoked Sunday" when NBC Chief Digital Officer Vivian Schiller retweeted a message initially from CNN’s Jonathan Wald that said "the medal for most Olympic whining goes to everyone complaining about what happens every 4 yrs., tape delay." Twitter has been "lit up" with similar complaints of the NBCOlympics.com live stream. However, Hughes said, "We're enjoying tremendous success with our digital offerings." He added, "A small number of complaints, relative to the huge number of users, is a very positive early sign."  (N.Y. TIMES, 7/30).

DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES ONLINE: CNET.com's Chris Matyszczyk wrote logging on to NBC's live streaming website "was extremely easy." Matyszczyk: "The only question I had to answer concerned my cable company. I gave the NBC site the name and I was in. ... I didn't have to offer a password. I didn't even have to spell my name out." One thing that "might strike some viewers as eerie" is that there is "no commentary." It is a "little like going to school with no teacher." Suddenly "you have to think for yourself." Viewers "do have to listen to the occasional enthusiasm of the crowd stirrer-uppers at the actual event." During a timeout in the U.S.-Croatia women's basketball game Saturday, viewers could "hear every word uttered between U.S. coach Geno Auriemma and his players." One could "actually get used to this," as it is "bizarrely authentic" (CNET.com, 7/28). However, YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Wilson noted when prospective viewers visited NBC's Olympics website, they "found out they needed to have a username and password through their cable company to actually watch the live video, a requirement not widely circulated in the advertising." Then, with a "majority of the Internet tuning in to watch the Phelps/Lochte 400 IM showdown ... the streaming service had some issues" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/28). The N.Y. TIMES' Sandomir wrote some people are "having trouble actually watching the events on their computers, smartphones and tablets." Sandomir: "Each time I tried to play a live video, it froze or started and stopped. Similar problems were reported, anecdotally, on Twitter and in my e-mails." NBC officials said that the video problems "are not widespread and that its feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive." NBC Sports Digital VP & GM Rick Cordella said that tweaking "will continue and that he hoped that the problems were resolved on Sunday" (NYTIMES.com, 7/28).

SPORT OR SPECTACLE? The AP's David Bauder noted NBC drew a "storm online for its decision not to stream the opening ceremony digitally." NBC Sports VP/Communications Christopher McCloskey said that the Opening and Closing ceremonies "were always planned to be shown on tape delay." Many people took to Twitter "to complain Friday that they felt cheated by the decision, and provided online links to other outlets, like the BBC, that were streaming the ceremony online" (AP, 7/28). In L.A., Robert Lloyd writes in defending its decision not to live-stream Friday's proceedings, NBC "sought to delineate a difference between the Games, which it is streaming whole, and the framing ceremonies, which it termed 'entertainment spectacles.'" Lloyd: "I see less of a difference. Because although unquestionably a sporting event, the Olympic Games are also a kind of theater, an unscripted performance on the theme of athletics as much as an athletic contest in fact. ... And as theater, these ceremonies are also kind of sport, with each successive host nation striving to outdo the last" (L.A. TIMES, 7/30).
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