Monday, August 6, 2012

The Olympics and Second Screen - not so great

While the 2012 Summer Olympics has certainly been appropriately dubbed the first "Social Olympics" (Twitter and Facebook comparisons discussed daily on the broadcast discussions by commentators) and even NBCU has come out and described it as a TV Everywhere success (streaming every event live for authenticated Pay TV subscribers in the US), it has be abysmal for Second Screen enthusiasts.

Don't get me wrong--I think the streaming capabilities to watch the events live were usually well delivered, and I have nothing against the massive Twitter and Facebook discussions.  I guess my point of view stems from the belief that until now, it has been live sports that has really driven the most valuable use cases for a second screen or companion app while watching the first screen, usually resulting in a more engaged consumer.  Knowing the stats of the football, baseball or basketball game of key players, updated in real time, is a big plus for the sports enthusiasts (of any sport).  But somehow, the Olympic implementations fell well short.

The Olympics created two official apps for the games: one for live updates and one for score/medal consolidation and schedules.  But both apps were really designed for smart phones (not tablets) and were either intended as informational at large or to help enable your 2nd screen as a first screen.

Yahoo announced a major upgrade to their IntoNow application to drive better use of live stats during the Olympics, but at least my attempts over a multi-night period never delivered anything much better than the previous version.  Even my prime time viewing attempts worked out rather poorly.

NBCU created a live viewing companion app that tried to have interesting features during their nightly primetime playback of the days events, but the curated Twitter feed fell extremely short (only their own tweets presented) and the facts presented about every minute during the event were either uninteresting or just not relevant.

One of my go to apps in this case is usually tvplus, but on the few nights I tested it, the stats and events didn't update.  The curated Twitter feed was much better than NBCU's, but I am not using a 2nd screen app for the Twitter feed.

I gave ConnecTV a try and got much better details about key athletes, but had real trouble getting the app to pay attention to the channel or event I wanted to watch.  I was disappointed with their normally pretty cool "What's Trending" widget, since what I wanted to know was which of the 5 Olympic channels should I be watching and they seemed to lump all the Olympics into one result.

Viggle gave me lots of opportunities to play quizzes, win prizes, etc--but not a lot of information about the events I was watching.

And Yap.TV did a decent job on the social side (they always do), but again, more about the Olympics in general rather than a specific event either on right then or being shown as a prime time event for the US.

Now, to be fair, I didn't get to check out Zeebox since I was in the US during the Olympics and they have not yet launched here.  I did use the NBCU Olympic website on a laptop a few times and must admit, that combined with the Apple TV and Airplay, it was probably the best experience of all.  The website was reasonably well architected to let me see what live sporting events were on right then, to have two streaming views to toggle between at any given moment (the one I was watching and the one I was browsing), the alerts on events I "favorited" worked pretty well (we got to see the 100m finals live), and the Apple TV integration from my MountainLion OS-equipped Mac Air meant I could push it all to the first screen for the entire family to watch.

So why was most of my experience pretty poor?  My guess is that the normally huge volumes of stats on teams and players for most sports don't really exist for the Olympic athletes who play every four years (except for Phelps of course).  I think the sheer volume of it all and unpredictable nature probably created the largest problem for 3rd party apps (they didn't really know what would be played during prime time each night and the actual live streaming was very unpredictable).  Perhaps this points the industry into the direction of finding a better, more efficient way to share or even syndicate valuable metadata so that networks like NBCU and sporting brands like the Olympics can aggregate the viewing audiences across multiple apps and engagements rather than just their own "official" apps (since in all cases, the apps were given away for free)--giving them a chance to participate in wider revenue shares and brand awareness in the process.  Not to mention the opportunity to get consumers more engaged in the process, lengthening their viewing time of the first screen (the real goal after all).

Looking forward to discussing this controversial view @ IBC on September 8th.

Hope to see you there.


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