Never mind the content: which Olympic platform will be king?


As you settle down to enjoy the London Olympics, spare a thought for those enthusiasts following the very first Games of the modern era.

Back in 1896 the reports from Athens took four days to reach the UK - and even then sports fans had no choice but to follow what newspaper editors chose to report. In the years since, attendant broadcasters have often manipulated the schedule.

NBC regularly time delayed events to suit American primetime while Soviet State TV was so traumatised by the USSR’s shock 1980 ice hockey defeat they simply did not report the result.

In the four years since Beijing however, the massive advances in over-the-top content delivery and omnipresence of social media have transformed the digital landscape. Viewers are no longer beholden to event schedules and their expectations are forcing broadcasters to push technology to its limit.

Here are half a dozen of the most innovative platforms enhancing the viewing of this summer’s Olympic Games:

Not surprisingly, the home broadcaster is promising a fabulous array of viewing choices. With up to 24 HD streams set to deliver live coverage of every single event their optimised desktop & mobile sites, Red Button service and smart TV apps allow viewers to flip between live and on demand video while concurrently overlaying related metadata.

YouTube has partnered with the IOC to create an Olympics hub that will stream all events over 10 HD channels for free. Viewing is restricted to 64 territories throughout Asia and sub Saharan Africa, but this will still be the most comprehensive Olympics coverage yet seen on PCs, phones and tablets.

Verizon is taking full advantage of NBC’s extensive coverage in the States by launching the Verizon Olympics 2012 smart TV widget. Newsfeeds, schedules, medal tables and clips will sit on screen alongside live feeds allowing viewers to flip between the scheduled coverage and the additional content whenever they choose.

The Hammersmith-based company’s logo will appear on screen at certain points throughout coverage right across the NBC suite of channels. Enable the app & tag Olympic moments to see relevant events schedules, medal tables, athlete bios, photos and related news on your mobile device.

Terra, the Brazilian arm of Telefónica, has launched perhaps the most ambitious Smart TV app of the games. Available for Phillips, Samsung and LG televisions it incorporates 20 channels of live coverage that sit alongside catch-up VOD and on-screen social media conversations.

Finally, Yahoo! is hoping its two-pronged attack will drive viewers to use its services. Their second screen app IntoNow provides synchronised images, athlete bios, trivia, expert analysis and medal counts while the Yahoo! Sports connected TV app puts all of the above on screen alongside archive VOD clips, and interviews.

Recent evidence shows viewers may just want to watch traditional TV in the same way they always have. Will one of these viewing platforms convince viewers to change their habits?

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Giles Wright, Senior Developer

This is part of our on-going blog series 'Olympics and the Future of TV'