K7 Media

K7 Media

Broadcasting the Olympics: How to Get Gold

America has once again hailed gold. With a total of 46 gold medals and 104 medals overall in the 2012 Olympics, American citizens must be enjoying an incomprehensible feeling of euphoria and elation. To witness such outstanding success in what is the most important sporting event in history surely could not even be describable. That is, if they watched it.

The hashtag #NBCfail became a tragically frequent sight on Twitter during the Olympic Games. Criticism flowed extremely freely for the broadcaster’s poor streaming services, editorial mistakes, inaccurate commentating and major tape delays. NBC openly admitted its intention to pigeonhole Olympic viewership into primetime slots. This crime can be forgiven, especially considering the $1.1 billion rights fee which could only be returned with higher advertising rates. Plus we’re multi-platform now. Viewing the Games live online is not a problem. Until you discover you are only able to watch coverage online if you have a $100-a-month subscription to a cable-TV service.

Not only were viewers stripped of their rights to witness the events live, but their Twitter voices were also at stake. Retweet the broadcaster-defying hashtag and risk the same fate as British journalist Guy Adams who had his account unceremoniously suspended. So America decided to sit at home twiddling their thumbs, not watching the Games, and not Tweeting. Not likely.

So as a broadcaster, how do you cover the Olympic Games without instigating national revolt and encouraging an uprise of illegal online hacking? AAA. No, nothing to do with angles, aviation or alcoholics. Make it available to anyone, anywhere, at any time. In the UK, the BBC’s multiplatform coverage of the Games included not only a continuous stream across its channels but also up to 2,500 hours of live action online and 24 live streams covering every session of the sport, available via the BBC’s red button service and a corresponding smartphone application. Live and catch-up content generated a massive average of 9.5 million users per day on the BBC Sport website, a quarter higher than the previous record. As a result the BBC is now looking to introduce a web player for its other sporting events, Wimbledon and Formula 1.

As a nation, the UK is ordinarily rather sceptical. We anticipated a horrifically embarrassing affair where the rest of the world looks back in years to come to pinpoint our event as one not to be replicated. But we proved ourselves wrong. The UK is still engrossed in a patriotic buzz which can only be attributed to the Olympic Games, and its coverage. Should we have been unable to watch the events as they happened, we would not have experienced the infectious and simply unavoidable sporting spirit that swept our nation. Thank you BBC, you have defied all odds and made me like sport.

Sophie O'Brien