Olympics XXII coverage will be inescapable

Loads of Sochi Olympics action will be just a click or swipe away, thanks to what's being touted as user-friendly NBC and Xfinity apps and websites.
Loads of Sochi Olympics action will be just a click or swipe away, thanks to what's being touted as user-friendly NBC and Xfinity apps and websites.
Posted: January 31, 2014

AT FIRST glance, the Sochi Winter Olympics seem too distant, vast and foreboding to visit, let alone wrap mind and body-clock around as a TV viewer.

But with content-sifting, space-shifting mobile devices, apps and high-end cable boxes at the ready for the XXII Winter Olympic Games, all is won. Russia's big do will find you. Come to you. On your schedule. And peacefully, we pray.

Slavic head count: TV coverage kicks off with early competitions next Thursday night. Opening ceremonies are Feb. 7 and will be broadcast that night.

The games continue through Feb. 23. A total of 98 sporting events are scheduled for this year's winter meet, up from 85 at Vancouver 2010.

For that uptick we can thank (or blame) new competitive categories like team figure skating (go figure), women's ski jumping and verging-on-Xtreme events like freestyle half-pipe skiing, slope-style snowboarding and full-body security frisking.

Half-kidding about that last one.

Complicating matters is that pesky nine-hour time difference between here and the Black Sea coastal town of Sochi, which means that live action commences each day at 3 a.m. East Coast time and is pretty much done by 3 p.m. here.

NBC and parent company, Comcast, will do their darnedest to ease your viewing burden, working the mobile tech and Web streaming so that you can watch events wherever and whenever. And make the ratings rise.

Windows of opportunity: NBC is spreading its wealth of content 'round the clock over five channels. Plus the NBCOlympics.com website and the NBC Sport Live Extra app for mobile phones and tablets. Full access to the Website and app requires your subscription TV ID and password.

In addition, Comcast will super-serve its Xfinity cable TV subscribers with refined search tools and lots of extra, time-shifted video-on-demand.

Not incidentally, some of the neatest stunts require a new-generation X1 cable box (and supporting software platform) that fully integrates cloud-based content and Web interactivity.

Comcast sees the Olympics as a test kitchen to showcase X1's skills, company executives shared recently. They're hoping to win over new subscribers and inspire current ones to upgrade to the triple-play package - TV, phone and Internet - necessary to get an X1.

There's industry buzz that our homegrown media giant wants non-Comcast cable systems to adopt the X1 platform, too.

More better: No newcomers to the "Olympics Everywhere" mission, Comcast and NBC worked a smaller but similar high-tech press for the London games two summers ago, with very positive results - 159.3 million streams clocked online and on NBC apps.

Viewership of Olympic content on devices within Xfinity service territories, covering about 20 percent of U.S. households, was disproportionately large - a 35 percent share, said Vito Forlenza, director of Comcast's TV Everywhere content and product strategy. And when all was said and done, London 2012 was the most watched event in TV history, scoring 217 million viewers.

A free-for-all: To kick-start the XXII Olympics cause, Comcast will unlock all of its public-location Wi-Fi Hotspots in the U.S during the Olympics. So, while gulping coffee or waiting for a train, any password-verified pay-TV subscriber (Comcast or not) will be able to tap into everything on the NBCOlympics.com site and NBC Sports Live Extra app on a mobile phone, tablet or laptop. That includes live action, highlights and mini-documentaries about favorite participants.

Of course, all cable, "telco" and satellite TV customers can tune into the 500-plus hours of Olympics to be carried on five NBC networks: NBC, NBC Sports, CNBC, MSNBC and USA. "Every event will be available live from at least one source," said Forlenza.

Additionally, Xfinity subscribers with video-on-demand gain access to a cumulative 200 hours of cached highlights, and can tap into the resources at xfinity.com/nbcolympics to search across TV, On-Demand and online for events and teams you want to see. The site will even set your DVR!

X1 for XXII? Some of the coolest search-and-enjoy tools will work only on the new, far more powerful Xfinity X1 set-top box, which offers slicker on-screen graphic displays and a larger capacity video recorder, plus full integration of streaming Internet content.

Getting an X1 installed in time for the games may not be easy, though. The boxes are in "high demand," Gizmo Guy's been told. No one's saying how many have already been installed. But here's some of what makes them worth perusing:

* With an X1 doing the downloading, all content on the NBC Sports Live Extra app also will be viewable full screen on your TV, scaled to produce a "high quality" picture, said Dana Wilson, Comcast's executive director of product strategy and operations and program manager for the Olympics.

* Also useful is a replay feature dubbed "Instant Video On Demand for Prime Time." Flip on the NBC3 Olympics channel any time after the evening coverage has begun, hit a button, and the night's coverage will restart from the beginning. You can pull off that stunt to the last minute of the prime-time broadcast, though not a second afterward.

* To keep abreast of trending Olympics action, Comcast's SeeIt! enhancement for Twitter will automatically switch your X1 box to the hot-topic happening and push video snippets to your mobile device. Never miss a magic moment again.


Blog: philly.com/GizmoGuy

Online: ph.ly/Tech

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