It would appear that the International Olympic Committee bestirred itself from its antediluvian luddite position on online media and demanded that the bidders for broadcast rights cease the ass-hatted pre-Tivo practice of taping and delaying coverage for prime-time American audiences and make available the athletic events in realtime AND online.
Online was a misery of DMA takedowns during Beijing (which I lived firsthand thanks to the paranoia of the IOC that any manifestation of YouTube video would undercut the value of its crown jewel broadcast rights).
While details are sparse from the New York Times coverage today, the second paragraph of Richard Sandomir’s article stands out: “…Comcast responded with a knockout bid and a promise that it would show every event live, on television or online, a recognition of the immediacy of technology and a drastic reversal of NBC’s policy of taping sports to show them to the largest possible audience in prime time.”
If you’ve ever watched Olympic coverage in Europe on EuroSport you’re accustomed to getting complete coverage of every event, , no matter how long-tailed, in realtime. Think hours of men skiing with rifles and you get the European viewing experience, versus the usual NBC saccharine around some perky pre-pube gymnast who overcame Demeaning Plebney while ardent fans of the 50 meter air pistol get bupkus and have to scrounge around online in hopes someone, somewhere encoded a feed of their passion.
If the Games make it truly online — and they sort of have to now that the world is 100% obsessed with video the way they want it, when they want it — then London ought to be a delight for longtail sports fans. Let’s just hope NBC gets its online act together in time, doesn’t strike a Devil’s deal with Microsoft Silverlight, and delivers a multiplatform stream (iPad, droid, PC) that kicks ass and finally delivers on the promise of a truly interactive Olympics. If I were at NBC interactive I’d be on the phone to the MLB.com guys and looking for some technical ninja help.
The online rights and pay-per-view revenue should, in theory, kick the stuffing out of the old broadcast rights that typified the Dick Ebersol era when there were three networks, no Tivo, and no Interweb. My fingers are crossed.