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2008 Beijing Olympics as a Media Test-Bed 134

CNN is reporting that NBC is using the 2008 Olympics in Beijing as a test-bed to understand how people are using different media platforms. "NBC has scheduled 3,600 hours of Olympics programming on its main network, along with Telemundo, USA, Oxygen, MSNBC, CNBC and Bravo. That's the equivalent of eight days of programming packed into each day. In addition, the company is planning to make 2,200 hours of streaming video available on Consumers may also get video on demand via their computer and Olympics content through their mobile phones."
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2008 Beijing Olympics as a Media Test-Bed

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  • The Olymp-whats? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by writerjosh ( 862522 ) *

    The problem with this test is: who's actually going to watch the Olympics?

    If they're using the Olymipcs as a test bed to see how people view media, then somebody in that department needs to be fired. You can't test a wide range of media on content that nobody's going to view in the first place (at least not enough to make it a real "test" of various media strengths).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AuMatar ( 183847 )

      A surprising number of people do watch them. I don't know why- most of the sports on the list would draw record lows on ESPN8. But throw in the every 4 years thing and some flags, and all of a sudden a large number of people care.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by AkaKaryuu ( 1062882 )
        Who doesn't love ribbon dancing and curling?
      • by mixmatch ( 957776 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:00PM (#24089405) Homepage
        Maybe it has to do with the fact that it's an international competition for athletic dominance.
        • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

          In a bunch of sports that nobody cares about. Like I said- throw in some flags, and for some reason people watch.

          • Throw in some politics. They're better than flags.

            Have you ever been to a country that cares about their country and nationalism? Watch European football, live, then you'll understand.

            It's like a war... but without a death toll. Oh wait... [].
            • I went to a hockey game the other night, and a fight broke out.

            • Have you ever been to a country that cares about their country and nationalism?

              You mean that there are countries that don't have crowds of apathetic people who dream of living in other countries?

              Can I care about my country without enjoying sports competitions? I'm sure it is a spectrum, some of us don't care about televised sporting competitions (or sporting competitions in general), though I am sure my bicycle is better because of sporting competitions, and maybe we are all better on a whole becaus
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mixmatch ( 957776 )
            I guess it just depends on who you talk to. I'm pretty sure NASCAR is pretty low on the rank of international sports, but its #1 spectator sport in the USA... Lets not equate NASCAR to racing. That would be like saying that gymnastics is defined by baton twirling.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by QMalcolm ( 1094433 )

          Even more than that, it is a pure humanist celebration. Even though two countries hate each other, they compete together fairly under the same rules, and acknowledge when they lose. The entire world is also looking at one city for a while and if you follow the coverage you'll inevitably understand that place a little better.

          And that's just the sports, there is all sorts of cultural stuff that goes on. Saying the Olympics are all curling and ribbon dancing is like saying the world cup is just a bunch of p

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by QuantumRiff ( 120817 )
        I can't stand watching them on TV, because they will show one heat of a swimming event, then cut over to the 5000meter run for a few laps, then go to curling, etc. I want to watch the freaking event. Maybe if they stream all of it, I'll actually watch the events I want to. (I don't necessarly just want to watch the media's favoritte American's compete.. Thats not the point of the olympics)
        • What channel have you watched on? Whenever I viewed them as a kid I remember entire sequences of events that showed most if not all the competitors performing. Sure they had commercial breaks, but they always showed the entire competitions, even if it wasn't live...
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Chees0rz ( 1194661 )
          That's what I love about the olympics- even the long track events are fast (and interesting) enough that I can sit through them AND be entertained. I could never watch even a mile in highschool, or a 5k in d3 college track.
          The Olympics are when distance events aren't just excuses to give sprinters rest ;)

          NOTE: above is said with humor and respect.

          I can't watch that long ass swim event, though (like 25 laps?)... and am glad when they cut away, but that's only because I don't understand the sport. S
        • That's one of the coolest things that NBC is going to be doing.

          Since they're doing streaming, they're not limited to the physical channels they have available, so they can do many simultanous events in their entirety (and have the whole things available for on demand).

          And because they can do advertising around the video frame instead of having to cut to ads, they can keep the events going end-to-end without interruption.

    • Re:The Olymp-whats? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Morris Thorpe ( 762715 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:59PM (#24089389)
      Nobody's watching? You better tell the 4 billion people who were planning to do just that...

      Beijing expects four billion TV viewers for '08 Games []
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by vertinox ( 846076 )

        Nobody's watching? You better tell the 4 billion people who were planning to do just that...

        Historically, the Olympics have gotten low viewership in the West even when we host the Olympics. I think the Beijing estimates are a bit rosy even though they would now of course be higher due to domestic viewership in China.

        • Chinese government to citizens: Watch the Olympics or be killed.


          • Far far simpler. the government controls the media. just make it all olympics all the time and they won't have a choice but to watch.

            • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) *

              just make it all olympics all the time and they won't have a choice but to watch

              TVs don't have off switches in China?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by fremsley471 ( 792813 )
        This piece wonders how they count those 4 billion []

        Lies, damned lies and TV viewing statistics: The most watched televised sports events of 2006


        Football, Italy v France World Cup final, 715.1m/260m

        American football, Super Bowl Steelers v Seahawks, 750m-1bn/98m

        Winter Olympics, Torino 2006 opening ceremony, 2bn/87m

        Football, Champs League Arsenal v Barça, 120m/86m

        Formula One, Brazilian Grand Prix, 354m/83m

        NASCAR, Daytona 500, n/a/20m

        Baseball, World Series game five, n/

    • So it's more of a narrow test even than you might think. To participate you have to have more money than sense. The advertisers should love it.

      Until the servers go down, anyway. Microsoft might have some smart folks, but they're no YouTube.

      • While Silverlight is not Vista-only, you're right in another respect: we've had four different beta versions so far for Silverlight in the past four months. Somehow, I sense panic in a certain room in Redmond.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rts008 ( 812749 )

        The message I got trying to watch one of the videos:

        "Video is currently supported on the following browsers:

        - Internet Explorer 6, 7 for Windows (2003, XP SP2 or greater, and Vista)
        - Firefox 2 for Windows (2003, XP SP2 or greater, and Vista) and Mac OS 10.4.8+ (Intel only)
        - Safari 2, 3 for Mac OS 10.4.8+ (Intel only)

        - (coming soon) Firefox 3.x for Windows (2003, XP SP2 or greater, and Vista) and Mac OS 10.4.8+ (Intel only)"

        *Disclaimer* I knew it would not work, just curious on what would happen. I run Kubun

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rronda ( 1139207 )
      Yes, you are right. Who would like to watch the best athletes in the world, make their best effort, competing against each other as they strive to be the fastest, strongest human beings in history, as they strive to achieve perfection in their disciplines. Who would be that crazy? PS: I know this guy is being a troll, but nevertheless ...
      • And how exactly does curling fit into that? I mean I could probably place in a competition involving eating nachos whilst programming, that doesn't make it a legitimate athletic event. Same goes for the luge in the Winter games.
        • by rronda ( 1139207 )
          Well I don't know how to go about a set of criteria for telling whether something is a legitimate athletic event. After all, several athletic events are just throwing stuff into the air, and others involve shooting stuff, jumping on a pool, etc, so they can all be easily ridiculed. If people get really good at nacho-scripting, there is no a-priori reason why it should not make it as an athletic event.
        • by chaim79 ( 898507 )

          You gotta love Robbin Williams take on Luge:

          "What Drunken German Gynecologist came up with this sport? 'I am going to dress myself like a sperm, shove an ice-skate up my ass, and slide balls-first down an ice chute.', 'how will you steer?', 'I will clench my ass and do kegles all the way down'.

          "And don't even get me started on two-man luge, I'm going 'fellas, get a room'. 'hard right, hard right, make that turn you fucker, ohh yah'. 'You cost us 1-100s of a second with your thing going 'bbbrrrng' all over t

    • I am sick and tired of the Olympics.

      At least I don't watch TV anymore, so I can avoid some of the mind numbing crap coming out of this "cultural event".

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      From the article:

      NBC has contracted with Quantcast Corp. to get a sense of who is using

      In that case, all the Linux and Mac users being blocked by Microsoft's dodgy deal with NBC [] should head over to [] and make sure they know the decision to block us was a bad one. Bonus points for leaving the site, and never returning, when you hit a lame 'platform not supported' message (I hit one in the Video section).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      To put it in a geek context, one word: Silverlight [].
    • I was just thinking. The Simpsons had better not be cancelled for the olympics. I really don't have any time for that stuff.
  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:51PM (#24089235)

    The other networks have to turn it into a fucking soap opera giving you a 20 minute tear-jerker biography of the damn athlete before each event. That cuts into time that could be better spent, I don't know, covering the actual Olympics? There are so many sports that don't even make it on television.

  • I recall a lot of folks were annoyed during the last olympics because the BBC blocked access to their online video streams to American IP address blocks because of NBC legal threats/licensing junk.
    • by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:27PM (#24089857)

      And the reason people were going to the BBC for online content was.... NBC's coverage sucks.

      NBC insists on covering the Olympics "live", in prime time. Problem is - the Olympics are being held in a different time zone. So NBC tapes the events, blocks any "live" coverage that it can, and then presents the taped event in EST prime time as if was live. (That's why so many of the events on TV have *surprise* American winners - they just discard the tapes from events where the Americans lose badly).

      Hopefully, if NBC is streaming content, they'll stream really live content from all sports. If not... then broadcasters that do a decent job in other countries will see a large uptick in their traffic.

    • Yeah, I think they did. They do with a lot of stuff these days. I think it's a pretty safe bet, it'll be on TV (with added 'red-button' coverage - extra TV streams so you can pick what you want to watch, either live or on a repeating basis. It ranged from 2 streams on Freeview to 5 on Sky during Glastonbury last month), on radio (5 Live probably), and through iPlayer, probably both as live streams and archived. Oh, and it'll more than likely be on BBC HD too. That is, until the sound breaks down, or the pic
  • by Anonymous Coward
    that whatever content you consume, it will be logged and analyzed. don't say they didn't tell ya.
  • by AmIyourJuliet ( 858232 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:04PM (#24089485)
    I would love to see them actually stream decent quality video on their website. All networks want to boast their revolutionizing web access, when all they do is stream some ultra low res grainy crap. It's totally unwatchable when you are used to watching the exact same events in HD, for free. Why are content providers so scared to broadcast HD feeds via the web? They could leave the commercials in, and it would be the same as watching it on TV. It can't honestly be that they are worried about people distributing the content. I mean.... people can very easily capture the HD feed to their computer with a tv tuner. And when it comes to the "too much bandwidth" argument, couldn't they just use bittorrent? I know the reason probably has to do with money... but I'm not seeing it. Someone please enlighten me.
    • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      1. Can you even use BitTorrent for video streaming?
      2. We're talking about live video, too.
      3. ?
      4. Profits

      • Well I guess you can, Azureus Vuze does something like that. If the viewer is OK with a longer delay than for normal streaming then it can work.
        The server can just send to 1000 people and let them send to the others. The ones that receive the stream last could have a big delay (minutes, but hey, you have to compromise something).
        You'd also need a client that knows to prioritize the chunks at the beginning so that the movie flows without interruptions.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by QuantumRiff ( 120817 )
      An HD broadcast requires a big transmitter to be setup once, and then broadcast over the area. Big initial cost, then basically free (there are still some upgrades, power bill, etc) To show HD on the internet, your talking about Multiple Megabit connections for EACH viewer. The costs of that are astronomical. I guess, it would be similar to the differences between Multicast (transmit that 2GB file once to 100 machines), and unicast (transmit that 2GB file 100 times!).
    • by rayzap ( 700032 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:18PM (#24089717)
      Plus it is in WMT wrapped in SilverLight poo! No Linux, they promised Mac but did not deliver. WMT is a great streaming format for live but not when wrapped in SL poo. WMT is fine for corporate work but consumer streaming is best with Flash so all can view. NBC is just a big lumbering media company who no longer "gets it".
      • Same story as two years ago. NBC Sucks []. Microsoft has bought them and is using them to push their platform and is refusing to support anything other than Windows and Windows Media Player.
    • couldn't they just use bittorrent?

      Not if the goal is video streaming. Bittorrent is all about maximising the use of the upload bandwidth of the peers to distribute chunks of the file. The chunks distributed are spread throughout the file ; once the seed has served a chunk, there is little point it serving it again because one or more peers can now seed it ; instead, it concentrates on uploading unseeded chunks until the full file is available from peers in the swarm. At this point, the seed is no longer required (as long as no peers go offl

    • The US (Golf) Open did a great job with their online coverage. Full following of a couple marquee groups, coverage of a couple holes for all players that came by, simulcast of ESPN coverage, all of it in both SD and HD.

    • by Bombula ( 670389 )
      Back in the stone age of internet video, about 15 years ago, streaming-only video was rationalized as a form of copy protection: if people could download videos, the quality would be higher (and compete with broadcast quality) and they would be able to fast-forward through commercials. The advent of Tivo and later DVR incarnations quickly rendered that logic bunk. But we're stupidly and annoyingly left with the outmoded architecture of that logic.

      Streaming video is simply retarded. It burns more bandwidt

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      HD feeds wouldn't work out so well, as most people don't have the bandwidth. Bittorrent wouldn't be good for NBC, because think about what happens when the masses start learning how to use bittorrent. You know someone will edit out the commercials and create new torrents that will quickly become more popular than NBC's torrents.

      However, it's not hopeless. I think they should create a proprietary, cross-platform P2P based Olympics viewer. A user could simply rank the events they were most interested in, and

    • Bittorrent isn't exactly designe for low-latency live broadcasting :).

      Have you watched any of the Olympics sample content yet? If you have enough bandwidth, I think it looks pretty darn good.

      • by Inda ( 580031 )
        You chaps in this part of the thread should look at technologies such as SopCast and the other 'pirate' video streaming applications. With a decent seed the action is more than watchable with minimal delay.

        I wish the FOSS community, with their huge knowledge, would start a project like this. Blow the big boys out the water and make them compete properly... ...oh, and the BBC uses P2P for some of their streaming. It can be done.
  • My fiancee is a big fan of the olympics. We'll be out of the country for the first few weeks of August with no intentions of watching any TV. So she's looking into DVR options. I think every minute of coverage will be available somewhere on the internet after we get back. It'll certainly be easier than trying to pick everything to record beforehand. But she's afraid to take the chance that she'll miss something.

    So will NBC or others make all of the video available online immediately after the events?

    • So will NBC or others make all of the video available online immediately after the events? Will someone else?

      Seeing the Olympic is an international event you might be able to foreign websites to view streaming video as long as you don't mind it being in your native language.

      • Seeing the Olympic is an international event you might be able to foreign websites to view streaming video as long as you don't mind it being in your native language.

        Ummm.. But assuming that all the people on Slashdot have English as their native language there are lots of other countries that speak English that may have it streaming, though some may have IP blocks for US IPs...

      • Seeing the Olympic is an international event you might be able to foreign websites to view streaming video as long as you don't mind it not being in your native language.

        There, fixed that for you.

        Also, consider that if you speak or are learning a second language, it might be a beneficial experience to watch in a foreign language.

  • Just making sure, we're all on the same page.
    • No, they definitely meant mean Olymics. The idea of media covering the Olympics is just obvious and completely un-newsworthy. Slashdot would never do that. I haven't RTFA yet, so I don't know what Olymics is, but considering neither of us have heard of it it probably needs news coverage, right?
      • Well I think he was trying to make a joke but I do agree with you that I haven't heard of Olymics so his joke while it might be brilliant is way too obscure. Google doesn't really know either, he keeps hinting that I didn't search the right thing. Maybe he just didn't know how "Olympics" is spelled and wanted to make sure because the kids in school laughed at him, who knows.
    • No, the olympics are a completely different thing, and most americans can't afford such luxurious name-brand products with the dollar in its current condition.

      Thus, china and wal-mart bring us, the OLYMICS!

      the 400 lb limited hurdles, the permanent vegitative state skydiving competition, the senior citizen milk run championship! tune in, and see it all on FSPN!

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:13PM (#24089623) Journal
    They keep bragging about something called the Beijing Olympics in NBC. What the hell is Olympics?
  • A Joke (Score:2, Informative)

    by rayzap ( 700032 )
    I am a track coach and the latest Olympic Trials streaming for track was a joke. They only webcast the same hours they broadcast. No in depth streaming, just re purposed broadcasting. Plus, if I have to watch stories instead of performances I am pissed. NBC is lost when it comes to Track and Field (as opposed to the NCAA where I happily sat at my desk and watched hours of great events. It's Ok to watch streaming as we are a streaming provider and I am the owner, haha.
    • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      The coverage may be bad, but, hey, be thankful your favourite sport is in the Olympics. Some of us love sports that are ideal [] candidates, but don't make it in because of stupid IOC politics. :-(

  • "The whole idea is to get the same person and to touch them across all different sorts of platforms,"

    Spielberg's "Minority Report" might not be a classic, but it was very savvy in it's predictions about technology. In particular, the above quote brings to mind the excessively invasive advertising keyed to individuals via eye-scans. You can tell these NBC bastards have a hard-on for that kind of future.

    We're basically in a one-sided war. Advertisers are pulling together intelligence and getting orga
  • Well gee, with 2 events potentially being held at the same time or at 3:00 in the morning in a US time zone, obviously on demand is going to beat everything else because then people can watch it whenever they want. Plus, people without DVRs can't just pause and re-watch anything so they'll double up with on demand also. Here's another prediciton too: all the traffic is going to melt the freakin internet!
  • But will it be available on demand? With a roughly 12 hour time difference between Beijing and the US a large number of events are going to be in the middle of the night. Without allowing on-demand even with this wide a coverage it's still going to be difficult to know when a particular event is going to be broadcast.
  • if you get CBC... (Score:4, Informative)

    by wardk ( 3037 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:35PM (#24089983) Journal

    they do an outstanding job covering the Olympics, if you can get it.

    while they of course emphasize Canadian athletes, they don't cater to them exclusively.

    and you get to actually watch complete events. not flip from event to event in a format apparently designed only for those with attention deficit.

    I bet CBC even gets some of the smog on screen. what a wonderful place to run long distances...

    • I bet CBC even gets some of the smog on screen. what a wonderful place to run long distances...

      I was just reading about China's plans to combat pollution. []

      Since taking hundreds of thousands of cars off the road hasn't done the trick, they are planning to shut down a whole bunch of industrial factories. It really says something when a country has to turn down its industrial output just to have breathable air.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Last I heard a few weeks ago, the technology NBC will use is supported ONLY on Windows Vista.

    If that is still true, this "test-bed" will only be testing that tiny percentage of the market that swallowed the hook and upgraded/bought Vista.

  • There was a cartoon in the paper that read something like:

    "We have just had a report that other countries are competing in the olympics. Now back to our coverage"

    That has pretty well summed up every telecast I have seen in recent times, and what I fear will happen for Beijing no matter how many hours of coverage they stream/broadcast

  • Bravo? (Score:3, Funny)

    by ya really ( 1257084 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:46PM (#24090175)
    What exactly are they going to carry? Synchronized swimming?
  • by SengirV ( 203400 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:03PM (#24090401)

    I can't even watch the Olympics anymore thanks to NBC bastardizing it. It's like they swap out the NBC sports division with the staff from Lifetime.

    Guess what NBC, I WANT to see the fucking prelim races for ALL of the track and Field events. Not just 1/10th of the final race/event with 10 hours of stories about the F'n athletes that don't even win.

    DIE!!! DIE!!! DIE!!! You've killed the Olympics NBC, and your network is in last place for a good reason. Isn't it time for Law and Order Peoria to make it's debut?!?!?!?

  • They're sure to have full access to online coverage. Even if the Chinese teams were to lose to Taiwan or protests were staged during the event, I'm sure the government wouldn't be so petty as to use their Golden Shield to#`%${%&`+'${`%&NO CARRIER
  • I, for one, welcome our new car dealer prices [] overlords.
  • Just to determine that most people will be watching "House" reruns on their iPod.
    • Is it just me, or does it look as though the Olympics are flush with cash. I think it is more of a case of, "we have a dumptruck full of money, how can we cash in on this internet" type of thing? There is going to be advertising, correct?
  • NBC ... Telemundo, USA, Oxygen, MSNBC, CNBC and Bravo. That's the equivalent of eight days of programming packed into each day.

    Eight days of programming each day on seven channels? That's only 87.5% compression. They can get up to 80% with H.264. Then they could have 8.75 days of programming each day on the same 7 channels!

  • NBC wants to use this to discover how people view media. But if the streaming is restricted to Vista, they'll be forced to come to the conclusion that only a small minority of people use their PC's to watch television sports.

    All because the vast majority of people are still using Windows XP, not Vista. Somebody at NBC sure isn't thinking straight.

    I guess they figure that anyone who watches TV on a computer isn't interested in watching sports to begin with (what is known as a self-fulfilling prophesy in this

    • Or they *are* thinking straight and just want a certain result.
    • by jocknerd ( 29758 )

      This is probably Microsoft's doing. Some idiot at Microsoft probably thinks that people will upgrade to Vista in order to watch streamed video on their PC that was already shown on television. How do these idiots get in the positions of making decisions at these large corporations?

  • Now we can't even spell for posting of stories? Sheesh... Or are we afraid of some potential copyright issues over the term Olympics?

  • I've always wanted to watch Olympics, but it's just so painful to find the event you want, wait for it to air, watch the boring "human story" of the american athletes who are expected to place 4th or 5th because it isn't US's best event, all to get to a few minutes of events. I tend to give up quickly

    Recently, I watched a swimming qualifier after recording it. After getting rid of the crap, an hour of coverge was 15 minutes of a great swimming meet! I even watched a couple of the post event interviews.

  • With the Olympic committee censoring the athletes and their families, dis-allowing blogging regarding the events, only allowing certain networks to cover the event, etc...

    The Olympics and China are a perfect match.

    Furthermore, NBC Universal(having exclusive rights) are teaming up Microsoft(a convicted monopoly) to bring you internet coverage using Silverlight(closed, proprietary, no Mac or Linux) technology for the coverage of events in (the censored country of) China.

    The sheep are their oy

I came, I saw, I deleted all your files.