Wednesday, May 14, 2014

NBC's (Comcast's) sad live stream of the Tour of California bike race

I've taken an in-depth look at the live streaming coverage of the Olympic Games and the Tour de France in past posts so was curious to see what NBC's coverage of the Tour of California was like.

I liked NBC's coverage of the Tour de France last year, but it seems there is more advertising in this year's Tour of California.

The streaming site opens with the race video in a window surrounded by ads -- the ads cover 2/3 of the screen area:

If you switch to full screen viewing, most of the ads disappear, leaving only a think group of display ads across the top of the screen and an occasional pop-up ad or spoken plug by the announcer. But, just as you begin to relax, there is a commercial break. I timed the commercials for an hour and they are on about 30 percent of the time -- enough to wreck the experience for me.

I did not keep track of the number of commercials during last year's Tour de France, but I enjoyed it -- so either there were more commercials for this event or my tolerance for commercials has gone down since I have been a cord cutter for a couple of years.

Last year, NBC charged a fee to watch the Tour de France, but the Tour of California is free ... as long as you have an approved Cable TV subscription:

Note that Comcast Xfinity heads the list of those approved providers. But, wait, doesn't Comcast own NBC? Aren't they trying to acquire Time Warner Cable (home of the LA Dodgers)? Doesn't NBC have the rights to the Olympic Games through 2020 and the Tour de France through 2023?

If this is a glimpse of the future of live coverage of events on the Internet -- gratuitous bundling and conflicts of interest -- it is sad, but familiar.

Update 5/15/2014

The viewer has a couple of neat features (one of which is broken, but its a good idea regardless).

The first is an instant replay button -- click it and the video rewinds about 15 seconds. Click it twice and it rewinds about 30 seconds, etc. Very handy.

The second is a good idea, but buggy (for now). You can elect to Share a Play, as shown here:

The problem is that the feature is broken -- I tried to share a play and it took me to the Golf channel instead, which was not even streaming at the time.

Note also that they carelessly lifted this from another sport -- we do not have "plays" in bike racing :-).

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