The organizers of the Olympics really blew it this time. Not showing the unbelievable comeback of Michael Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly race, which he won by one-hundredth of a second, is evidence of cowardice. And a total lack of commercial savvy, in the digital age.
Can you imagine how many views that finish would have gotten on NBCOlympics and any other site sanctioned to replay the stunning conclusion of that race?
Don’t know about you. But I watched the replays on the NBC TV channel, repeatedly. It still looked to me like the “other guy” won. Every time. Let me see the closeup, please, as each touched the wall, from under the water and above the water.
If Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) or whomever is the keeper of official video cares not to release its video, so be it. Give me Webcams on the wall. What’s wrong with a little controversy? Call me crazy, but I have enough faith in my fellow human beings that wars are not going to break out over a matter of one-hundredth of a second. Or the loss of a gold medal.
Release the tension. Let people blow off steam. Reap as many views on the Internet as you can. And engender as much bar room and living room intensity as you can. This is what competition and sports are about.
Sure, there were 2,200 hours of streamed video this time. But only one stream from each sport, in three versions (regular res, high res and picture-in-picture). Here is what I am expecting from online coverage of the next Summer Olympics in 2012 in London:
• Webcams (sanctioned) at every finish line. Whether it’s a track or a swimming pool or the Westminster Abbey, if they choose that as the endpoint for a cycling race, I want to see for myself how a race I’m interested in ends. By 2012, I expect the streaming site I use to offer HD-quality video capture and playback. And the ability to slow down the feed to a speed I choose so I can see what is going on, frame by frame or pixel by pixel, if I so desire.
• Loads of (sanctioned) camera angles. This is something interactive (cable) TV was supposed to deliver, a quarter-century ago. Remember Qube? Never came to my living room. This is something online video streaming can deliver. In that 200-meter dash that the Bolt from Jamaica won, it’s easy to see how he performed. The fun is seeing how everybody else performs – or doesn’t. Train a camera on every lane. And let the “experts” in the audience spot the fouls that rob other runners of their medals. Talk about engagement.
• Athlete isolation. A corollary. Put enough cameras out there that you or I can watch the athlete of our choice. Let us look for our own stories. We know not everyone is going to win. But, hey, I might just be interested in how well a team from Iceland does in beach volleyball. Let me see the game from their perspective, only. Okay, I know everyone just wants to watch Misty Treanor and NBC had that covered, like a blanket. But there are other athletes at these and future games.
• User-generated commentary. A new version of user-generated content (UGC). Most all of the feeds online this year from NBCOlympics.com were raw. If you know the sport, fine. That makes it better. No nattering. You make your own judgments on what is going on. Works great in basketball and soccer. Less so in diving, cycling or other sports with little-known nuances. Every sport has its expert, waiting to be unleashed. NBC and its foreign equivalents need to give them mikes. Not just keypads. Text commentary takes the eyes off the game. Spoken commentary keeps eyes on the game.
• Crowd computing. I want to see how the crowd is reacting. Give me close-ups of fanatics doing nutty stuff. Give me a crowd meter that shows just how loud the reaction is to a gymnast’s maneuver on and off the parallel bars. Show me how they rate a performance, compared to the official judges. They may be there, but I am with them, even in the chair in my den.
• Personal Olympics. Let me pick the events (and camera angles and athletes) I’m interested in and figure out how to send HD streams to my X-Box, Sony Playstation, TiVo or other storage device that can give me a personalized view of the Olympics when I get home at night or have spare time in a day to watch.
• Tons of data. There can never be enough stats on competitors, their performances and the history of the events they take part in. Give me as much as you can. And let me set up my own scoreboard. So what if Ethiopia happens to win in the medal count in the sports I am interested in? That is how I care to look at it.
• Official video, out the wazoo. Like the NBA has started to do, give me the digits. Let me have official feeds to mash up into my own highlight reel for the games. Let me distribute that reel and promote it. Let me be your marketing arm.
Everyone wants to be part of the Olympics. Most of us will never take part as athletes.
Open the games. Stream everything. Share everything. Embrace controversy. You still get to make the official (and final) calls.
But hide nothing. Viewership and interest will go through the roof.
What will you expect (or crave) from live video online at the 2012 Olympics?