Fast Company

NBC, The Olympics and Online Video

My experience so far with NBC's video website for Olympic content has been less than stellar and I would not recommend it to anyone - stick to regular television.

The improvements are easy to see and there will be countless blog posts about how they should have done it. Instead of focusing on what they should improve, I want to share my idea for what they should have done in the first place since I think the entire strategy is the old media way of thinking.

Old Media Approach

  • Film content, edit to shorter clips and upload to website
  • Prevent full-screen of web video so that people are more likely to watch on television (i.e. more ratings)
  • Provide a sub-par experience on the web so people will watch on television - e.g. no commentary on web video

This kind of thinking is merely the application of old thinking to a new medium rather than taking advantage of what the new medium truly offers. The approach they should have taken was that of an online video site, not a television station going online.

Learning from what users do for anime coming straight from Japan and creating "fan subs" literally hours after an episode airs in Japan (and years before it usually makes it to America) is critical, and when combined with a YouTube approach to user-generated content, would have been much better.

NBC should have created a website more akin to YouTube: Users could record video from NBC's television feed and upload the clips that they liked. These clips would come with commentary and you would now have millions of people helping to catalog and tag the videos, making it much easier to find them.

NBC would be able to place advertising across the entire site just like how YouTube places ads on partner channels. They know what content is going up - it's theirs. Sifting out the limited crap that will get up is not hard, just look at the fact that YouTube sifts out porn.

NBC would also have created their own official channel on the website so we could get their direct content as well. Imagine the stickiness of the Olympics video site if people could leave comments?

It seems that old media companies today refuse to think of NEW ways to use a NEW medium and instead let their old ways of thinking restrict innovation.

Here is a summary of the new media approach I described above:

New Media Approach

  • Leverage UGC culture to get users to edit and upload clips recorded from the television broadcast
  • Millions of users catalog and tag videos
  • Allow users to leave comments and let other users be able to give a thumbs up or down so that spam and offensive remarks are quickly buried
  • Encourage people to share the video clips via Digg, StumbleUpon and more - use te social web to drive traffic
  • Place advertising across site since the quality of the content is a known factor
  • Create an official NBC channel on the site for NBC's owndirect content

None of this requires re-inventing the wheel, merely leveraging what already exists and adapting to your needs to generate revenue while providing a better experience for users.

Since that is not what NBC did, I will now go back to watching the Olympics on regular TV because I own a Mac at home and my PC at work doesn't seem to like the Silverlight player since it keeps freezing.

Of course that means that my DVR is working overtime and I am gladly fast-forwarding through every single commercial.

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