How Seven blew the internet Olympics

How Seven blew the internet Olympics

Summary: If there ever was an opportunity for a broadcaster to showcase the potential of internet video, this was it, and Seven has blown it. Perhaps its executives should have rung their mates at NBC in the US and gotten some pointers on online coverage.

TOPICS: Browser

Like most of us, I've been watching more TV than usual for the past week, what with the Olympics on and so many interesting ads to watch. Squinting through Beijing's pervasive smog, I've even been able to see some interesting sports as well.

This is the first Olympics in the era where Web video is unremarkable, multi-channel HDTV is commonplace, and online content is actually starting to resemble TV (witness the smooth, full-screen streaming video of the ABC's iView service).

So I have to say that I was expecting just a little more from the Seven Network's coverage, which could easily have used both online and offline channels to let us choose from dozens of simultaneous events to watch.

As I write, however, Seven is broadcasting the medals ceremony for the 100m men's backstroke — and is showing the same ceremony on all four of its SD and HDTV stations. At the same time, Seven's streaming portal is showing a postcard-sized video of the men's weightlifting of such poor quality that it looks like the smog has infiltrated indoors.

The portal also offers heavily edited, two- or three-minute clips of completed events featuring Australians in all kinds of sports. The overall effect is a resounding thud on the impress-me meter.

Every Olympics offers a unique broadcasting proposition: while they're heavily watched when they're happening, they will not be shown again after the event. Live Olympics events are exciting, but pirated videos of Olympic events will not be sold feverishly through backstreet markets and dodgy online retailers; heck, post-Olympic discounting rarely even manages to clear out all the leftover merchandise.

Yes, the value of Olympics coverage is in its immediacy and accessibility, and for this reason Olympics footage would have seemed like a natural candidate for experiments in multi-casting. Just consider the online coverage in the US, where as I write NBC's Olympics site appears to be worlds ahead of what we're getting Down Under.

I say "appears to be" because the video isn't available in Australia, and the usual public Web proxies refuse to handle the volume of video coming through the site. What I'm led to understand, however, is that NBC has teamed up with Microsoft to offer an interactive Olympics portal showing up to four live events simultaneously in crisp, clear quality.

The site's live video menu tells me that, were I in the US, I could be streaming the men's basketball preliminary match between Croatia and Russia, an Egypt-Russia handball face-off, softball between Taiwan and Canada, Greco-Roman wrestling (see Roy and HG on this subject below), men's individual sabre and 17 other sporting events.

Now, I understand that Seven has millions in advertising revenues to protect, and that most people are still happy to come home from work and plop on the couch for a few hours of heavily edited highlights packages. So we cheer, and do our part for the Team Previously Known As The Green And Gold.

But Seven really could have done a lot better in developing a multi-channel strategy to help people really enjoy the Olympics — their way. Believe it or not, there may even be some interesting sporting competitions that don't involve Australia — but we can pretty much forget about seeing them, unless (a) Seven can't find another medals ceremony to show; (b) Bruce McAvaney has the day off; and (c) the network has used up its footage of reporters eating nasty Chinese "delicacies".

If there ever was an opportunity for the network to showcase the potential of internet video, this was it, and Seven has blown it. Perhaps its executives should have rung their mates at NBC in the US — from which the network already sources shows such as Heroes and Lipstick Jungle — and gotten some pointers on online coverage.

Of course, NBC teamed up with Microsoft in the US to deliver its content using Microsoft's Silverlight multimedia technology — and in Australia, Microsoft long ago sided with the Nine Network, which pretty much rules out the Yahoo-affiliated Seven from tapping into this particular revolution. Yes, the networks are that petty.

Just look at the week-long ban on Nine, supported by the IOC-reinforced culture of fear around exclusivity of broadcast rights.

Let's not forget Telstra. Its Next G Olympics offer is as cutting-edge as we're going to get when it comes to these Games, with Seven-backed broadcasting rights letting the mobile carrier offer content packs to its Next G subscribers for a flat AU$10 or AU$4 per day.

For their money, subscribers get access to highlight packs — no doubt the same ones available through Yahoo's online site — and live, streaming video of Seven's TV coverage (curiously, the service isn't available on the iPhone, the one Next G device on which watching video is actually tolerable; this is one of many examples supporting my argument that Telstra and the iPhone aren't exactly a match made in Heaven).

That deal probably put lots of money into Seven's coffers — but what about the millions of Australians that aren't Next G subscribers? Anecdotes suggest major sporting events like the Olympics are a tipping point for many people to upgrade their TVs or embrace HDTV at last, but do services like this really convince people to change mobile providers? And if you were switching providers for the video, wouldn't you want to get an iPhone?

How many people really want to watch live video-on-demand on their mobile phones, anyway? Mobiles, if anything, are ideal for the highlight packs since I don't think many people will spend hours watching an Olympics soccer match in 2-inch SquintVision.

Seven is supposedly so serious about the internet that it bought its own wireless ISP.

Last October, I argued that deal could make Seven the next Telstra.

For now, however, Seven seems quite content to let Telstra remain as the next Telstra, while it remains the same old Seven it always was — but with a patina of online video to silence people who want to watch the Games events they want, when they want them.

Perhaps the problem is just that Seven had no incentive to shake the tree, so to speak, since it knows it won't be doing the Olympics broadcast in 2012 and saw no reason to explore the online multi-casting that would have been a sensation.

Hopefully, Nine and Foxtel have bigger, better things planned in four years. Until then, I'll just sit back and watch yet another medal ceremony on Seven — or trawl YouTube for other interesting sports like this, this and this.

How are you getting your Olympics fix? Watching much on your mobile? Would you watch more if it were available online?

Topic: Browser


Australia’s first-world economy relies on first-rate IT and telecommunications innovation. David Braue, an award-winning IT journalist and former Macworld editor, covers its challenges, successes and lessons learned as it uses ICT to assert its leadership in the developing Asia-Pacific region – and strengthen its reputation on the world stage.

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  • Well said!

    In 2004 I was in South Africa where they had 10 dedicated channels for the Games.
    One showed Swimming only - full coverage of every heat in the morning, highlights while there was no live action and finals at night. Another was reserved for track and field. Another showed highlights packages for every day that had so far taken place so that if you missed anything you had a chance to catch up. The remaining channels covered everything from Show Jumping and Archery to Weightlifting and Kayaking. We were spoiled for choice.

    All this and they hadn't even begun to look at the Internet as an additional medium.

    We got to see the best sports men and women the world has to offer, no matter which country they represnted. Heaven forbid there is a budding young Australian champion in a sport we don't compete in. He will never get a chance to see what great looks like.
  • Channel 7

    Whilst organisations such as where given "No Thank You" to develop this mobile service for the Olympics.
  • Yep, my thoughts too..

    You should try to watch in Rural Australia where we have the Seven affiliate Prime. Half the time the sound is missing on HD and when it is there, it's out of sync with the video. I also agree re the multi cast, I thought there would be some different coverage on the other 3 SD channels that are broadcast, but no, seems just too difficult. Just to see some other sports would be great, not just swimming, medal cerimonies, stupid panel interviews and pool side interviews. What should have been the best coverage ever is yet another Seven Ego boost turned to rubbish. THanks God for SBS
  • Olympics on 7?

    the real Olympics is on SBS
  • I agree too!

    While 7 are mostly only covering the sports we compete in (and only snippets of that in some cases), they also insist on using the personalities we see on every other 7 show - Dancing with the Stars (is that 7? I get mixed up with all the copies), House and Garden etc. Which hardly gives credibility to the hosts as sports commentators and is why we have to endure so many "insightful" questions at the pool side interviews....

    As for the coverage, in my opinion it is a case of provide the least coverage for the most income. The only people getting excellent coverage seem to be the advertisers. It reeks of the apauling Winter games coverage...

    Like Karl said, thank goodness for SBS...
  • SBS continues to show sport

    It's funny that the coverage on 7 is so geared towards Australia and medal presentations, that we are deprived of some of the exiting sports that are on offer. Last night I watched Japan beat Norway 5-1 in Womens football, while 7 had some horses jumping. They didn't evevn show the game of softball that Australia was in, and it was supposed to be an exciting game. Oh well, lets hope we get to see more then just advertising at the next Olympics. One can only hope.....
  • Fail

    What a failure, I have HD and only 2 channels of Olympics. Why did CH7 bother buying all those extra Digital Channels and investing in Technology if they are not being going to be used. Rang CH7 to ask why, and they can only offer to pass my comments on. No "solutions", no "that's a great idea", Fail, Fail, Fail.
    Lets hope the next broadcaster learns and offers more, see you in 4.
  • price check

    1. You don't need Microsoft or Siverlight for that matter to stream video, in fact there are many better alternatives.

    2. We should not be taking a leaf from the Yank's book or encouraging yank Television Media standards - although most commercial television here try to mimic it, it is becoming impossible to swallow with all the cheese.

    3. Thanks ABC and SBS for providing content for real Australians
  • 7's crappy telecasts

    I live in Darwin and I agree with the above comments. Give up 7 you don't have what it takes or you are happy doing it on the cheap.

    Thankyou SBS and ABC well done.
    I was particularly interested in the Russia V Iran Basketball it wa excellent
  • Agree!

    Gotta love these TV execs. 7 was doing well compared to alternatives at the start of the year. They take on a major event like this and whoops, drop the ball. Poor coverage, jumping between events, at times braodcasting the same event as SBS (Mens Cycle Road Race). And not using the digital channels they already own. Are these people media executives or monkeys (and not the monkeys that could write Hamlet).

    As others have said, thank goodness for SBS.
  • Channel 7 missed it by miles

    Yep, channel 7 has done nothing to impress with both their TV (SD & HD channels) and internet fact their internet offering for some sports is just pitiful.

    As for NBC Sports online yep it looks good AND it has footage of Australian efforts in some sports (equestrian) that Channel 7 dont have replays of... but pity outside the US we cant watch these...

    But the big paranoia hand spreads far and wide...Channel 7 does'nt have sufficient replay content available on-line - we can't see see the NBC sports content - AND if you try to bend the legality rules a little by fulfilling the lack of local (Australian) content demand with a little YouTube re-edits, etc what do you find...yep NBC Sports (US) has a planet block on anything that may be olympic content....

    Come-on...if Channel 7 wont meet the local content demand, NBC Sports only allows US viewing but blocks the rest of the world... then just get out of the way of the amateur Youtube channels to fullfil regional content needs and rather than flatout blocking its upload...why not take one of the less dramatic video ID matching routes and say (outside US) allow uploading but have Google assign the various advertising partners that the corporations are so worried about protecting.... best of both worlds the masses get to see the content THEY want to see on demand and the corporates get the advertising coverage they are so worried about....
  • I Could Not Have Said It Better

    The 7 Network's coverage has been so boring and all they seem to be showing is the swimming. Sure I want to watch our olympic swim team win gold in the pool but I would also love to watch our other athletes who have worked just as hard to get to the top. Channel 7 need to be reminded, it is not a swim meet - it is the Olympic Games! I called today to see what time our Boomers game was being telecast and was told they were only showing the last two quarters and it would start at 2 - well it is 2:20 and they have just started broadcasting nearly 5 minutes into the 3rd quarter. It is pathetic. I hope channel 7 either use these comments as constructive critisism or loose the coverage for the next olympic games.
  • Multi-channelling

    My understanding (and I'm open to correction) is that commercial stations can, under current legislation, only show different programming on their HD and SD/analogue channel. Hence the proliferation this year of alternative programming on Seven, Nine and Ten's HD channels. True multi-channelling on SD won't be allowed until January 1, 2009.
  • Yes Seven blew it

    Seven should have had 2 channels running separate content - 7HD and 7SD. They're not allowed to have more SD channels until next Jan.

    But they could have had more via the Internet or using SBS. SBS is allowed to have 2 SD channels and a HD. 7 and SBS together could have had 5 channels of coverage.
  • BitTorrent

    I've been downloading the UK coverage of the Equestrian events using BitTorrent.

    Excellent quality presentation - zero advertising.

  • Next G olympics not that good

    I changed from CDMA to Next G last Saturday and at same time took up Olympics subscription...2 days of it not working and reporting the problem they say "we are working on it" .... I can now get some service but the live coverage gets about 20 secs and then buffers for a further 20....reminds me of the dial up days of internet...thank God it is only $10 as it is not really even worth is really a marketing ploy to suck people into other services like sitcom reruns at $5 each etc.

    I changed to Next G and find often "out of range" messages etc....and I live in Sydney (on the Southside in a black spot called Grays Point)....come on Telstra...lift your game.
  • Where were you?

    I watched a part of the softball game that Australia beat China in and it was on 7. You must have dozed off. :-p
  • Channel seven sucks

    Like most corporations in Australia acting in their own interests and then hype the public up.Does anyone complain by Email or phone at the actual TV station ?
  • I was cheated by News Ten Australia

    This is Xiao Lu, poor Xiao Lu. Our country held 2008 Olmpics games. I used to work for the irish times and the australia long time,so I had deep expericence for media.I 'm also expected to work for this olmpics games. I gave up my good salary job to studied English about Olmpics games from Feb - July this year . I did these jobs to become for asistant of foreign media.
    I sign an constact with news ten australia through DPSC at end of July in this year. They send one person call "Craig" to Beijing. I' was gald to serivce for Austral media. I had been connected with this reporter when he arrive Beijing before. He stoped whole connection with me after he got to Beijing. I did not know why? I worked with a lot of foreign journists to meet first time this bad man. His action destried my dream of the olmpics games , but also made big loss of my life. I know real Australia through this thing. I hope everybody to stop to see programes of news ten australia about the olmpics games , their reporters about this olmpics games did not real depond on this matter.
  • How Seven blew the internet Olympics

    I am currently on holiday in the UK and have been watching the excellent olympics coverage on the BBC. They have multiscreen options that provides the viewer with a great choice of events to watch. Yes the coverage has a British bias (only to be expected). However, there has been very good coverage of many events that have little or no british interest at all. This not a wingeing pom writing just someone who has experienced Australian sports coverage in the passed and has been extremely disappointed by the coverage.

    Patriotism is a great thing and I am all for it. However, there really is more to sport than what eminates from this great country.