Olympics Test for TV Everywhere

The London Games are being billed as the first digital Olympics. Thanks to NBC, the sporting event will be available on TVs, mobile phones, desktops and tablets -- both live streams and on-demand -- for the next two weeks.

The Games will also be the biggest test to date for TV Everywhere, the cable industry’s three-year-old effort to bring cable programming to digital devices. TV Everywhere has not been adopted broadly by operators. If digital delivery of the Olympics proves popular with viewers, that may change.

NBC will offer all 3500 hours of Olympics programming on digital venues, but the caveat is that in order to watch a viewer must subscribe to a cable, satellite or telco provider. That means cord-cutters won’t be able to watch online without some serious wire rejiggering. That’s ironic, given that NBC is a broadcast network, but the authentication play underscores how vital the distributors are to the success of any network.

Plus, 87% of homes nationwide still subscribe to a multichannel service, so most TV viewers should be able to watch the Olympics on TV, on, or across any of the apps NBC has launched for the event. The authentication process is also automated for the first time, meaning that subscribers will not have to enter a log-in or password.

Automatic verification is a huge breakthrough for TV Everywhere and can significantly foster usage, said Will Richmond, analyst with VideoNuze. “There is no question that the Olympics are the biggest TV Everywhere initiative that has yet been tried. If people watch online and on their iPads via TV Everywhere it’ll demonstrate there is real interest and that viewers want access. That said, the Olympics is a very unique event and there is the time difference factor and the fragmentation of sports to keep in mind.”

Richmond does expect digital viewing to be high, but that might not translate into high digital viewing for entertainment programming down the road. Still, the Olympics could become a watershed event that ushers in more TV Everywhere rollouts --at least to support sports programming.

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