NBC says pay up to watch the Winter Olympics

OK, let’s first view the glass as half full. NBCU claims it has doubled the amount of coverage for this year’s Winter Olympic Games. This will be the first time the entire event will be shot in HD, encompassing almost 835 hours total coverage across all 15 sporting events. This compares to 419 hours from Torino in 2006 and just over 375 hours from Salt Lake City in 2002. The coverage will air across NBC, USA, MSNBC, CNBC, Universal HD and NBC Olympics.com. For Web streaming viewing, NBC will again rely on Microsoft’s Silverlight player.

The USA Network, which reaches more than 98 million homes will be the primary cable outlet. CNBC will begin coverage on Feb. 13, with curling, hockey and the biathlon. MSNBC will follow with 100 hours, and both networks feature live — that always hot sport — curling.

But, the glass might be half empty. The network will stream 400 hours of live coverage at nbcolympics.com. The site will also offer a 1000 hours of delayed playback covering 15 sports. However, that’s less than one-half of the 200 hours of live coverage that came from the Beijing Summer Olympics. Of course, the network could deliver all of the coverage live and online in real time. However, according to Paidcontent.org, NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker has said live streaming “devalues” top events like the Olympics and Super Bowl.

NBC is using subscription authentication to ensure that only “paid” subscribers, i.e. customers of cable systems that have specific Olympic carriage contracts, will be able to watch live streaming video.

General Electric’s CEO Jeff Immelt said that NBC Universal will lose an estimated $200 million on the February Olympics. He said the company expected tough economics around the Olympics.

The IOC will open bidding for the 2014 Winter Games and 2016 Summer Games sometime this year. NBC’s parent company, General Electric, will determine if the network will again bid on those games.

NFL says no to watching football on the Internet

The NFL is probably the most controlling sports network on the earth. AT CES, Flo TV demonstrated a new application, developed in conjunction with Mophie, that will bring live TV programming to the iPhone. The product uses a slide-on case for the iPhone that allows the phone to receive Flo transmissions. The application allows reception of live sports from such networks as the NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA and NCAA football. But, not from the NFL.

To get NFL games, you have to be a subscriber to an official NFL audio stream, have a subscription to Sirius or have DIRECTV’s expensive NFL package — AND pay an additional fee for laptop/iPhone streaming via DIRECTV Supercast. That costs $380! Okay, while the DIRECTV iPhone application, called Supercast Mobile, is actually “free,” it doesn’t work without the TV Supercast subscription. That’s like saying, “The tires are free, but only if you buy the car at list price.”

Football junkies have devised all manner of hacks to fill their need for a football fix. Slingbox is one of the more popular solutions to avoid the NFL roadblock, but it permits only one game per box and market.

Some might say that the NFL controls professional football to a degree even Microsoft might be envious. There is no competition to the NFL’s actions. In fact, reflecting the NFL’s controlling business practices, just such a case is now before the Supreme Court. The case is focused on the NFL's 2001 decision to grant exclusive licensing of its official league clothing and gear to Reebok. For decades prior, the league permitted individual contracts with multiple apparel manufacturers, including American Needle. However, once the contract was awarded to Reebok, American Needle was prohibited from producing NFL gear, and the company sued, arguing the NFL is a collection of 32 competing businesses, not one single business. By choosing to deal with Reebok alone, American Needle argued, the teams had conspired to prevent competition, in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The league won in the lower courts, which held that the NFL was a single entity at least for the purposes of apparel sales. The Supreme Court will decide if the lower court was right.

Will a ruling against the NFL force them to open the door to free, or less costly, streaming football games? Nope.

This case is too limited, so don’t expect the giant of sports monopolies to willingly do anything that might give the fans a less-expensive football experience.

Customized advertising

The Web site GoRumors released a story about a recent Xerox patent application that, if implemented, could radically change advertising. How’d you like to have your broadcast ads be “behavioral targeted” to viewers? No, not just ads based on viewer characteristics, but ads that modify the broadcast ad with different logos and audio — all properly lip synced!

The TV set or STB would modify the broadcast content based on viewer demographics. OK, so far that's not unusual. The Xerox patent application describes a technology that would remove the broadcast logos and audio messages from the original advertisement and replace them with different (behaviorally appropriate) logos and audio. The resulting advertisement would supposedly then be more relevant to the viewer (and client). The new advertisement audio would be automatically lip synced.

The patent describes an example where an advertisement from a company named Modell’s is modified and turned into ad from Macy’s. The original company’s logo and accompanying audio are deleted and replaced with Macy’s appropriate logo and audio. In addition, the on-screen announcer’s mouth is lip-synced to the new audio.

Google also is expanding its advertising muscle by proposing to allow its clients to highly target ads. The company has filed a patent application for a “video overlay advertisement creator.” The application allows an advertiser to enter viewer attributes via a browser-based GUI. Then, when viewers with those characteristics watch the video, the client’s ad appears over/before/after the video. The application would permit multiple options for the advertisement, including location, time, duration, image, text and schedule.