Friday, August 17, 2012

The Olympic live stream -- observations, recommendations and predictions

I watched the Tour de France and the Olympic Games (from both NBC and BBC) online this year. I'm a sports fan, but I also spent a lot of time focusing on the Internet content and experience. You can see my detailed observations here.

For this, the short version, I will list a few observations and conclude with some predictions for the future of live-event coverage on the Internet. First the observations, in no particular order.

Now for a few fearless predictions.

NBC paid the International Olympic Committee $4.38 billion for the media rights to 2014 - 2020 Summer and Winter Olympics. We will see major changes in the coverage and the industry by 2020.

There will two separate markets. The first will be for producing content -- video, commentary, interactive features, Web design, and so forth. NBC was the content producer in this case. The second market will be for efficient networking to distribute that content. During these Olympics YouTube (Google) provided the networking expertise.

Both the content producers and the networkers will have learned a lot from past experience and will do a much better job than they did this year. We have even seen improvement during these Olympics. This is just the start of the IP TV era -- it is like the crystal set era in the early days of radio.

Given the expected improvement, the majority of people will be watching live events and other video on the Internet by 2020 -- we will have cut the cord and be watching over the top.

While there will be both network and content industries, the content industries will not have a lock on production. As the comedian Louis C. K. showed us, the production company will be dropped in some cases. Louis C. K. decided that he could do a better job of producing his comedy DVDs than Sony, and the Internatinal Olympic Committee might decide that it can do a better job than NBC or another production company.

It will be interesting to see what Google does in this area. If their fiber pilot study in Kansas City looks promising and replicable, they may become a networking powerhouse. At the same time, they are developing content and learning by working with folks like NBC. They may end up being able to offer the whole package.

Of course, there is a disclaimer to these predictions -- never underestimate the power of well-funded, entrenched lobbyists and huge corporate legal staffs. On the other hand, it is hard to find good buggy whips these days.