NBC goes all in for online coverage at Sochi

By Cole Kennedy
Screen shot of the NBC Olympics website Feb. 7
This past Friday, at 10 a.m. CST, the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics kicked off in Sochi, Russia. NBC won't broadcast the show until primetime in the U.S., as the network has done for every Olympics in far flung timezones.

But with the advent of social media, the audience is no longer unaware of the events as they happen. NBC had been hesitant to live stream many events in the past. The network had concerns the stream would cut into primetime ratings. However, the online audience made very vocal complaints about the tape-delay strategy, according to an article on Mashable.

This year, NBC is taking full advantage of its cable networks, like the NBC Sports Network, which Variety noted "didn't even exist by that name during the last Winter Olympics." According to the same article, NBC also rebranded its digital app to offer complete live streaming of every single event during the games. Similar to other streaming platforms such as HBOGO and WatchESPN, NBC offers the live stream only to subscribers to the full cable package. The website and app asks users to confirm their subscription via their cable provider.

The Variety article also explores how much the media landscape has changed since the Vancouver games. The iPad, now a staple of the streaming and digital media diet, was introduced in March 2010, a month after the last Winter Olympics ended.

With the devices like Apple TV and Google Chromecast, NBC must now prepare streams that are readily viewed on screens large and small. To prepare, the network is streaming at 5.5 mbps. Speaking to Variety, Rick Cordella, NBC's general manager of digital media, said that the quality of the stream is "beyond the HD you have on your TV set."

All of this is being coordinated from NBC Sports Group's campus in Stamford, Conn. In a tour of the building, Cordella showed Mashable reporters entire rooms dedicated to nothing but processing highlights, and other rooms dedicated to inserting ads into online clips.

NBC claimed to have lost money in Beijing in 2008, which predated most of the surge in internet streaming and social media coverage. The network managed to make a profit in London, which was the first Olympic games in which live streaming of every event was attempted, according to the Mashable article. In that article, Cordella noted the importance of keeping vigilant regarding platform adaptation, as the "expectation of streaming are getting higher and higher." It will be interesting to see the consumer response to the NBC live stream strategy once the Olympic Games in Sochi are complete.

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