London 2012 — NBC Signup Needed to Stream Olympics
If you heed any advice before the London Olympics begin Friday — beyond buying earplugs to muzzle Rowdy Gaines’s shouting as swimmers reach the end of their races — it is this: verify your cable, satellite or telephone account on nbcolympics.com to watch the live video streaming of all the events.
This edition of the Summer Games promises to be different from past Olympics, and it might be a real boon for viewers. Every stream from every event from London will be live. There will be no dilly-dallying as there was two years ago at the Vancouver Winter Games when NBC streamed only hockey and curling live on its site.
In all, there will be 3,500 hours of live streaming video. Few will watch them all (is it possible, I wonder?), but they will be there. Still, whatever you watch, at whatever time, you will want to be able to dip into it without encountering any access problems.
“Sure, we have fears that people who are asked to take an action, to click for access, are going to be deterred,” said Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics. “We learned two years ago that the consumer needs more education.” He said customers have, over that time, learned to verify their accounts for other content.
“A portion of the population is getting comfortable,” he added.
Verification (or authorization) should be easy and quick. It looks simple in the short demonstration video starring Carson Daly that NBC has sent to cable, satellite and telephone company providers: Go to nbcolympics.com /LiveExtra. From a drop-down menu, choose the cable, satellite or telephone company you have an account with.
The next step depends on where you subscribe (and if you’re on a digital tier that includes MSNBC and CNBC, which is nearly everyone’s). Generally, you will have to enter the user name and password that corresponds to your account to verify your computer, mobile device or tablet. If all works well, you will never have to verify again.
But Comcast and Cablevision have developed ways to speed the process.
When Comcast Xfinity and Cablevision Optimum broadband customers identify themselves on the NBC Olympic site from their home computers, their accounts will be recognized and automatically verified without the entering of user names and passwords.
“We wanted to create a frictionless environment and remove obstacles to let them get to the Olympic content,” said Amalia O’Sullivan, Cablevision’s vice president for broadband product operations. “We know that for a very condensed period time, and for a broad base of customers, there would be great interest in this product.”
Optimum customers can also automatically verify their accounts if they try to access the live streaming from 35 Wi-Fi hot spots. Xfinity subscribers can also verify, in a sense, when they are doing something else, like signing in to their e-mail accounts.
“Most people know their user names and passwords,” said Matthew Strauss, Comcast’s senior vice president for digital and emerging platforms. “We have about 10 million customers with e-mail accounts.” He added: “We’ve tried to do everything to streamline the process and to make it simple. We think of ourselves as innovators.”
For Comcast, the controlling owner of NBC Universal, easing the verification process makes sense. It has more customers than any other cable operator and has a huge financial investment in making the Olympics succeed this year and through 2020.
For verification to go smoothly, the technology must work well and the customer service agents at all cable, satellite and telephone companies must know what they’re talking about. Yes, this system sounds better than in the past, when you had to fish around for your 16-digit account number. But the Olympics creates huge expectations, even among those who wouldn’t watch an Olympic sport in non-Olympic years.
Those who haven’t already verified may try to do it at the last minute, with seconds to go before a Michael Phelps-Ryan Lochte race. Fortunately, NBC created a new safety feature: if you have trouble signing in (whether it’s your fault or not), you can get a four-hour temporary pass. After the four hours expire, you have to verify.
The advent of all-live Olympic streaming raises another subject. Replays and highlights of most sports will be immediately viewable on NBC’s video archive. But events that NBC wants to showcase during its prime-time broadcast — gymnastics, swimming, diving, beach volleyball, track and field, for example — will not be available to repeat until the prime-time broadcast ends on the West Coast.
“The core of our business is still prime time,” said Zenkel, even as NBC’s Olympic coverage has evolved from a single broadcast network, to multiple networks, and to multiple networks and streaming. He added, “For those who miss Michael Phelps live and have to wait four hours, they’ll be blown away when they watch in prime time.”
Whose voices will viewers hear on the live streaming? Some sports will be called by NBC announcers and some by announcers hired by the London host broadcaster. And about half the events will be silent. For some, that might be a blessing.