08.14.2008 11:50 PM
Navigating NBCOlympics.com Takes Tenacity
Olympics acolytes can access just about anything Games-related online, if they can find it. NBCOlympics.com“s front page has nearly 30 sections, including still images, results, local coverage, athlete profiles, features, clips from the past, a poll sponsored by McDonald's, “Destination Beijing,” brought to you by The Hilton Family and a quick-pick game from the fine folks at Coca-Cola.

Digging has its benefits for enough people to have generated 456 million page views through Thursday, according to NBC. The network said 25 million people visited the site and watched 22 million video streams in addition to the page views. Another 3 million visitors accessed the site through NBC“s mobile WAP service and other video-on-demand offerings.

NBCOlympics.com is streaming an unprecedented 2,200 hours of live video through Microsoft“s Silverlight-based player, the company“s answer to Adobe Flash. Anecdotally, the player is visually sharp compared to others used by networks to stream full episodes of various TV content. A clip of a balance beam performance required minimal buffering, even at 744 kbps download.

Using the player is intuitive; downloading it, not so much. Before a selection of live video feeds is made available, surfers have to give up their ZIP codes and then be prompted to identify their cable or satellite provider. A “quick select,” menu names the usual suspects--Comcast, Charter, Time Warner Cable, Cox, DirecTV, Dish, Mediacom, Cablevision, Verizon, AT&T and somewhat less well-known, Bright House. Then there“s a long list: Antietam Cable. Ygnition. Winnebago Coop Telecom, USDTV, Broken Bow Cable. Griswold, Grove and Great Plains cable. Jefferson, Lincoln and Kennedy cable. Tongue River, TiVo, Tip Top and Teton Wireless, etc., etc.

Not included on the list are WiFi, wireless broadband cards, over-the-air, master antenna systems or “none of the above.” Paul Drahn of Crooked River Ranch, Ore., told the Seattle Times that he does not have television by choice, and was therefore locked out of online coverage. However, according to Rafe Needleman of CNET, just picking a local provider from the menu works.

Needleman is correct. Thus, intrepid users who insist on seeing Alicia Sacramone“s extraordinary recovery must lie about having a multichannel video provider if they do not.

The provider proviso is part of NBC“s rights package, a network spokesman told the Times. He said there were parts of the deal that were out of the NBC“s control.

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