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NBC Olympic Coverage Reveals Network’s Digital Dumbness

February 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Remember that post from a couple of weeks ago, where I said NBC might be the first traditional U.S. TV network to decommission itself? When I wrote that I didn’t expect additional evidence to arrive so quickly. But the online razzing that’s being given NBC for their bone-headed scheduling of tape-delayed major Olympic events sure seems to add weight to my case.

If you haven’t seen the flaming blog posts and tweets, the story boils down to every clued-in U.S. fan of the Olympics slamming NBC for avoiding live daytime broadcast of major events (downhill skiing, snowboarding, and other fan favs are most often mentioned so far, I’m sure there will be others in the next 10 days). Instead, NBC goes to extraordinary lengths to hype its prime-time delayed replay of these events, despite the glaringly obvious fact that anyone with an internet connection or a radio knows the results. NBC even avoids revealing results on its own Olympics website for fear of diluting the prime-time audience.

NBC’s digital dumbness is in treating the U.S. audience of 2010 is just like the 1984 audience that couldn’t easily find out the results of events in Sarajevo before U.S. prime time.

Exasperated fans with a little techie skill can set up a VPN account with an off-shore VPN provider and then log in to the Canadian Olympic website that features multiple live videostreams of most of the Vancouver events. BusinessInsider has step-by-step instructions for you (you’ll need to appear as if you’re outside the U.S. because our ISPs are blocking traffic to that Canadian site to protect NBC’s exclusivity in the U.S.).

So as NBC fends off criticism that it’s “the network that’s not showing you the Olympics“, local affiliates are reaping the lower lead-in audiences that don’t include the ticked-off Olympics fans who are avoiding the packaged prime-time show. You’d think that CNBC and MSNBC could serve up daily live events and the main network could still repackage them for prime time, and the combined audiences would keep advertisers and affiliates happy. Doesn’t it make more sense in an era when the most committed viewers are seeking out live coverage? They’ll go get it somewhere else if NBC isn’t bringing it to them — and that’ll get even easier next Olympics.

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Google Dissing Telecom Laggards on Broadband

February 11, 2010 1 comment

I’m thrilled at the news today of Google’s plan to build a public test-bed high-speed broadband network.

Of course Google isn’t going to build a national 1Gbps overlay network (stop your scoffing, Verizon). As WSJ.com reports, Google product manager Minnie Ingersoll says Google’s just “putting its money where its mouth is” in an effort to prod the FCC to put serious effort into a regulatory plan for advanced broadband. The test-bed, slated for a few towns or small cities, is needed to find out just how much headroom there will be in a network where a high percentage of the packets are carrying video or other latency-sensitive application data, and where there is “open access” rather than the severe throttling of traffic that occurs today in the U.S. carrier networks.

Certainly Google benefits from the actual test-bed, but it’s getting an equal PR bounce from its willingness to tweak the U.S. carriers for their foot-dragging in building faster data networks and committing to net neutrality on them. FCC chairman Genachowski wasn’t shy about praising Google for this “significant trial” and that likely caused some teeth-grinding at the carrier regulatory affairs offices.

Everyone knows Google isn’t going to invest or pull together the kind of investor pool needed to tackle a serious national high-speed network—even though Google could possibly afford it. No, the goal is to highlight the carriers’ hesitations by having a couple of thousand thrilled broadband users appear in news reports and PR videos, saying how great it is to have one wire pour an unlimited river of cool stuff, including a ton of high-definition video-on-demand, into their homes. Google has absolutely nothing to lose.