August 20, 2008
| by Richard M. Sherwin
Could the Olympics with NBC’s integrated coverage from many platforms including regular TV, On-line TV, On-line on-demand TV and mobile phone TV be the catalyst in making the 10 year history of trying to converge TV and PC content a success?
So far, it seems that millions of consumers are participating in all genres of Olympic TV watching. NBC’s web based video is available live and pre-recorded. But more importantly, consumers seem to be using the online on-demand version of Michael Phelps & Co. The result from this coverage is that record breaking numbers of people are using web based video on their PC and on their TV instead of viewing traditional TV only content.
Viewers are seeing clearly marked “live” events unlike TV coverage which has a 12 hour delay. They are getting live web coverage on their Media Center TVs or Media center Extenders or just their PC. This is the first time viewers are able to view and enjoy content for an extended period of time for more than one event like the Super Bowl or Academy Awards. It’s compelling and sort of must see TV-PC.
NBC is averaging nearly 60 hours of integrated TV coverage on regular television through six channels NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Telemundo, Oxygen and USA Network. But, despite the ultra annoying 15 second commercials that are not fast-forward-able, its Internet based coverage on NBCOlympics.com carries twice as much coverage of some categories and most of the top events both live and on-demand.
NBC’s Internet coverage almost makes you think that the advent of a truly convergent mix on TV, Internet and personal content is here. But it wasn’t always this way and the genre still leaves a lot to be desired, whether you are using one of Microsoft’s Media Center extenders, or Internet enabled Linux based extenders from 2-Wire and AT&T, HP or other modem-router makers and soon to be joining the fray TV makers like Samsung.
About ten years ago several leading personal computer firms partnered with Microsoft and/or with the big modem-router makers like Linksys, D-Link and 2-Wire to offer a product for around $300 that would enable you to get some of your PC and Internet content on your TV. Some industry wag reported after the first six months of sales of these content extenders that he couldn’t find one retailer selling them or more than a few even early adopters using or buying them. He’s probably right. I interviewed quite a few leading tech columnists and reporters who were given these devices and could only find one in 25 that would admit to using one even though they got it for free.
The biggest problem both technologically and usability-wise was that no one wanted their PC or early Internet content on their TV and vice versa, and that if they did, because of the computer based format of media extenders, the devices hardly worked or were too difficult to set up.
Because company’s like TiVo, VuDu and Apple TV are leading the way in getting consumers comfortable in configuring routers and software in order to allow these device to deliver PC and Internet based content and vice versa, Microsoft, AT&T, Comcast and Cablevision and others are re-launching their media extenders, hopefully this time with a little more usability and reliability.
Since it seems that more and more consumers want digital convergence and are watching video on their PC and PC content on their TV, I have recently taken a look at this next generation of media extender to see if the manufacturers got it right yet.
Richard Sherwin is a former syndicated technology columnist and TV/Radio analyst, who has also been a marketing executive with IBM, Philips, NBC and a chief advisor to several manufacturers and service providers.