Comcast's Olympics Authentication Process Showing Signs Of Success
Early returns "suggest that Comcast’s plans to authenticate the London Olympics -- making sure the Games’ online feeds are available only to cable and satellite subscribers -- will be the cable industry’s most successful verification process to date," according to John Ourand in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Signs are "promising, at least for Comcast’s systems." In the week leading up to the opening ceremony, 90% of Comcast subscribers "who tried to authenticate (around 100,000 total) were successful." Only 10% of the Comcast subscribers "who tried to authenticate were not able to do it." Comcast Senior VP/Digital & Emerging Platforms Matt Strauss said, “That’s the highest we’ve ever seen with authentication.” Comcast’s 90% success rate for the Olympics so far is "significantly higher than the cable operator’s previous authentication efforts around big events," such as Turner’s “March Madness on Demand.” However, some of its subscribers are "unaware that they’ve even been authenticated." Up to 75% of its authenticated subscribers "completed the process in-home, where Comcast recognizes IP addresses." An action as "simple as clicking on an Olympic link via NBCSports.com or Xfinity.com, after logging into a Comcast email account, can lead to authentication." For Comcast, "most problems have come from subscribers trying to log in from work." NBC Sports is "allowing a one-time four-hour pass to people who have problems logging in" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/23 issue).
CALL TO ACTION: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir noted, “Verification (or authorization) should be easy and quick,” and it “looks simple in the short demonstration video” NBC sent to cable, satellite and telephone company providers. Replays and highlights of most sports "will be immediately viewable on NBC’s video archive." But events that NBC "wants to showcase during its prime-time broadcast -- gymnastics, swimming, diving, beach volleyball, track and field, for example -- will not be available to repeat until the prime-time broadcast ends on the West Coast.” NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel said, “Sure, we have fears that people who are asked to take action, to click for access, are going to be deterred. We learned two years ago that the consumer needs more education. A portion of the population is getting comfortable.” Zenkel added, “The core of our business is still prime time” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/22). Strauss said that one of the "tools to organize content is what Comcast calls the 'ultimate viewer’s guide,' which is available at www.xfinity.com/nbcolympics." It “enables subscribers to navigate the Olympics coverage and search by sport or athlete.” Strauss said that subscribers also can “program DVRs to record coverage of a specific athlete or sport.” In Philadelphia, Bob Fernandez notes, “Not only will the guide track the cable channels, it also knows what events among the 32 sports will be streamed that day." There will be "on-demand clips for each medal-winning event, in addition to other clips, totaling more than 1,000” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/23).
RARE COMPANY: In L.A., Ed Sherman wrote NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus “joins a select group,” as Olympic coverage in the U.S. "has been guided by two men" -- Roone Arledge and Dick Ebersol. Lazarus “ultimately will be held responsible for producing ratings and, just as important, critical acclaim for the network's $1.18-billion investment in these Games.” While Lazarus will be “held accountable from all angles,” he tried to “downplay his role.” Lazarus said, “I don't have an individual goal on the mark I want to leave on the Games. I think that we want to come out of this with a sense that the viewing population of America says, 'That was a fun two weeks; I can't wait to do it again'” (L.A. TIMES, 7/21).