My ZDNet colleagues Tom Steinert-Threlkeld and Ryan Stewart ran the raw numbers on Olympics online viewership. While the amount of traffic on the videos over the weekend was impressive -- 3.42 million video streams with 66.7 million page views and an average visit of 15 minutes on August 10th alone, the fact of the matter remains that when comparing it to the highest volume video streaming web site in the world, YouTube, it only represents a small fraction of that site's daily volume, approximately 2 percent.
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Why such comparatively low numbers? Doesn't everyone love sports and the Olympics?
Sure they do. But I think there are some mitigating factors as to why we are seeing less online viewership.
First, I expect that live television viewership to be equally affected because most of the Olympic events are occurring when most of us adults in the United States are sleeping. I say most adults, because I'm not counting the Red Bull-powered college kids and people who live on Vampire Time, like some of my out-of-work friends. So people aren't awake to watch most of it.
Second is the advent and wide proliferation of DVR technology. Many of us have cable or satellite, and some are lucky enough to have FiOS or similar fiber service. Many of us have DVRs like Tivos, or the DirecTV HR series or the DishDVR combined with these services, integrated DVR cable set-tops or are DVRing using over-the-air antennae, so we time shift our viewing. We're not watching the events until the following morning during breakfast or until we get back from work the next day.
Third is the proliferation of High Definition television. While I wouldn't consider HD penetration to be at majority levels yet, enough households do have them, particularly in combination with DVR technology, that a online-based experience is just not going to match the visual beauty and awe of watching it on a super crisp, super detailed and bright HD screen. While the Silverlight content is indeed excellent, and it has the ability to show coverage of stuff that isn't shown on TV, as well as quick access to the important medal-winning events, it doesnt compare to watching it on a 32 inch or greater HDTV set.
Fourth is quite simple -- during work hours, sucking down streaming video is a big demand on corporate bandwidth, and companies are likely to blacklist the site for fears of decreased productivity. And frankly, nobody wants to get caught watching Phelps do the Aquaman thing when they are supposed to be crunching an Excel spreadsheet or creating their TPS reports.
Are you watching the Olympics on the web, watching live events, or are you a time shifter? And has Hi-Def changed altered your viewing preferences? Talk Back and let me know.