The Olympics has been both fabulous and frustrating. It’s been a great games with some fascinating stories of triumph and heartbreak but NBC has once gain contrived to make it near impossible for you to watch the games real time. Sure you can watch a lot online but not everything. It’s also frustrating to know that there are other content providers such as the BBC who have the content you want but to find you simply can’t access it because of rights issues. Put another way, the content you want has been created but the ability to access it on demand doesn’t exist. Yesterday’s mens 100m final was a great example. This event wasn’t shown live, instead you had to wait until almost midnight to watch the tape delayed version. CRAZY!!!! Of course the Olympics are a rare event and the prices paid by people like NBC require them to find ways of getting their money back BUT their approach is the same as many other content owners – force people to either watch it when we want them to or access it later via tape delay or some on demand service. There appears to be no other option. You can’t even click a button that says: ‘watch live for $5’. All this got me thinking about how much other content is out there that people would like to access but they don’t because it’s just too hard to get. In these Google and youtube infused days it seems crazy to be struggling to access content but we do. Some of the problem is that searching is still too dependent on our ability to describe what we are looking for and the other part is there aren’t always systems that allow us to see the content when we find it. Madness. What we need is the technology to find the right content AND the technology to allow you to access it. Here in California I have access to a mass of TV content that I don’t consume and don’t even want to consume. I’d gladly substitute 99% of the unwanted content for another few percent of content I do want. This all reminds me a paper Theodore Levitt wrote where he mentioned that people don’t want to buy fuel for their cars, they simply want to be able to drive somewhere. In other words they would never care if they saw the fuel. Likewise I don’t care what content I am given access to, I simply want the content I want. Of the hundreds of channels on my TV I could have three or four and be perfectly happy if those channels had just the stuff I want. In other words I want someone to do to the TV what Spotify has done to music. Now Netflix is trying to get there but even that has a long way to go.
I should be clear though, my argument is not just about TV content it’s about all manner of content that currently exists on the web that is either hard to find or restricted in terms of who can access it. Hence my belief that we are now in an era where the content creators have done a great job of generating material but those responsible for enabling us to access it have a LONG way to go. But when we get there we are going to experience events in a very different and even more exciting way. Until then, I’ll just have to put up with Bob Costas and NBC for a bit longer.
NBC reportedly paid a $1 Billion for the rights to show the Olympics in the US. I guess when you have paid that much you don’t want people to feel like they are watching a re-run and instead want them to feel they are watching it as it happens. Sadly, given the time difference with Beijing, this means many of the events would drop out of prime time if shown live. NBC’s answer is to say the event is live, as they did with Phelps 200m butterfly event, even though the event happened hours ago and you can easily find out who won by surfing the web. Indeed by the time Phelps dived into the pool for the 200m race on NBC, he was already warming up for his next race, a team relay (which he also won). Given how good the NBC.com coverage of the Olympics is, I know they are web savvy. So why don’t they just admit that their coverage isn’t really live or at the very least not try and pretend it is? As it is I now find myself checking bbc.co.uk in the evenings to see the results of things that NBC keeps saying is ‘coming up live in the next hour.’ Come on NBC. In a world where people use the Internet as much as they do their TV you really need a better solution than to try and pretend your coverage is live.