Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympics, Digital family style

Ah, Olympics time. Not just added DVR this time -- lots of options, right?

My family is not very geared up for the Olympics. Perhaps it is because we've been without TV for the past week on a family camping vacation. We've had mobile internet on my Blackberry, which has kept us enough in the loop. In fact, we have enjoyed the mobile download to my Blackberry -- one click for NBC Olympics updates with a cool logo for my mobile desktops. Starcut was brought in to launch this service and seems to have done a nice job. It was great on the road.

Now that we are home, for my savvy tweens, tuning into NBC's main show has been fairly flat. It is hard to DVR, as the scheduling is in 4 or so hour blocks, so we get chunks of programming instead of what we want.

So we went to the Time Warner VOD service, which was below underwhelming. There were two recaps and not in HD. Perhaps this is because we are early in the games. I'm assuming the technological challenge to vend segments to the headend servers is just too expensive and not too important to those involved.

So we went to for solutions. Now, I consider myself fairly digitally savvy, but I expected a little more handholding coming into this -- and in fact expected some marketing to enjoy the games this way. There was a banner and three buttons -- what was the difference?

My favorite thing on the site was the TV listings at I didn't realize that so many NBC-related channels were in the Games. As a result, we've been parked on Universal HD watching women's basketball for much of the day.

To go further into their onlines services for streaming video, found also at, I needed to both download Microsoft's Silverlight (which I had before during a presentation) and had to register with the program to ensure which cable broadband system I was on. I hadn't realized that NBC and MSN Video had agreements with the broadband providers directly for this expanded streaming service. (Why didn't my broadband provider let me know they were giving me this great service? And why no promotion and ads? Is Microsoft paying for most of this to get Silverlight into our homes?) Glad that Time Warner had arranged this -- evidently the baggage is a bit deeper with Cablevision, which held out and didn't get the expanded package, according to MediaWeek. It quotes that about 10% of multiplatform subscribers won't get the packages -- unless they lie and say they are in one of the systems that has cracked a deal. Not something that I'm in favor of online, but it is an option...

So after the hoops and too much personal information for my taste, I had the wonderful experience of the Live viewing option with 4 subscreens and Picture-In-Picture (PIP). Loved the view of the opening ceremony.

But then, not through this site, I found out about NBC Direct's online VOD with subscription by sport. NBC Direct itself has been in Beta since November 2007 with not very great reviews. Here, I needed to sign up for myNBC service and download a whole interface program, download a Windows patch, restart my computer, etc. Augh!

Upon relaunching, I found a different screen sponsored by Lenovo and muddy language telling me that I'm part of the NBC Direct Peer to Peer Network to get high quality video. Hmm?

I then was taken back to to update my subscriptions, which I set up. Not sure how much of my hard drive space this will eat up here....

I'm downloading now...and will have 48 hours to watch each after I start viewing before they mysteriously disappear...

So now I'm heading back to watch the opening ceremony on with Universal HD in the backgrounds, watching my kids drift in and out of the room, and will wait to see what downloads.