I did not watch the London Olympics on any of the apparently thousands of outlets on which it was being shown. This doesn't mean I was unaware of what was going on--I'm no troglodyte, despite what some might think--it means I had better things to do than lock myself in front of a TV, tablet, smartphone, PC or any other device to watch athletes I've never heard of compete in events that I wouldn't watch on the coldest winter night when there was nothing else on TV and no one had written an interesting book in months.
I preferred to spend the hottest summer on record doing summer things: golfing, biking, swimming and generally enjoying the outdoors and my own forms of recreation and reading a good book. So OK, grab your torches and pitchforks and come get me. I'm not a fan of the Olympics.
All of this truculence about the summer festival of patriotic fervor does not mean I didn't understand the significance of the Olympics as a proving ground for multimedia TV. That I understood very well. I understood that NBCUniversal through its parent company Comcast paid a lot of money to have the rights to push the Games on every imaginable screen. I understood that, although the final dollar figures are not yet in and these things tend to temper out over time, the investment was a success, even if the coverage, in many instances, was not.
I also understand one other thing that perhaps many among the billions who did watch the Games don't understand: This was the beginning of a tectonic shift in TV viewing. Everybody has talked about TV Everywhere but it's been limited to what TV content owners wanted to show everywhere and what platforms were available. The Olympics were, literally, TV Everywhere. They showed that if you sufficiently hype an event and throw it on every available media the public will come and watch.
My old friend and colleague Mike Reynolds, of Multichannel News, tallied up the results: "Cable, satellite and telco video customers verified 9.9 million devices either on NBCOlympics.com or on the NBC Olympic Live Extra app, a total that NBCU officials believe is the highest level of authentication for any 'TV Everywhere' event," he wrote in a story today that broke the levels down to the most-watched live streams and the most-clicked athletes. Really?
Anyway, snarkiness aside, I appreciate that thanks to this summer orgy of athleticism IPTV may finally take off, not just in the rest of the world but in the U.S. Because IPTV is based on a foundation of IP and IP, not any other form of transmission, paved the way for wrestling on smartphones and badminton (the scandals, the horror, throwing games!) on tablets. IP launched pole vaulters across PC screens and tiny gymnasts with blazing smiles onto flat screen HDTVs. I think there was even some 3D in the mix, but I could be wrong about that, since 3D is in the eye of the beholder and my eyes don't see it.
Anyway, despite a scowling queen who appeared more annoyed with all those commoners taking up residence in her country than pleased with the spotlight and a less-than-elegant group from the Today Show dressed in running suits and embarrassing even the most remotely connected member of the media, the Summer Games were a success. Whether they pay off financially is still to be determined but, strangely, it doesn't matter. They showed what the new media can do; and they showed what the new media will be. --Jim