The Real Problem With Real Time

The recently closed Olympics illustrated several significant challenges faced by all media in this increasingly fast paced world. The time zone difference and the power of Twitter meant that anyone in the US who wanted to watch an event without the results being a foreknown conclusion pretty much had to put a bag on their head to avoid spoilers especially from social media. The scheduling was all over the place so finding the event you were looking for was tougher than usual. When the would-be sports fan finally made it to the event in their own time zone they then had to sit through what felt like endless prepackaged features on the US interest in that event. Then there were the commercials. Obviously NBC had to meek significant budget targets but the relentless and endless commercial interruptions drove me at least to the DVR to back up enough of the content to get through the event without serious mind damage or terminal boredom. In a media world characterized by real time content forcing the wired fan to sit through well produced by turgid content surely can’t fly for many more Olympics.

All the social media platforms did a pretty good job of allowing news and opinion to flow and over all I was impressed with the tone and quality of both the original content and secondary comment from followers. There were silly moments where side issues developed weird amounts of heat but overall it felt encouraging. What was missing was the next step in the evolution of this kind of content…the evolution to the new on-demand. Right now I can use I-tunes, Netflix or the lamentable options offered by Verizon Fios to stream movies and some TV shows. Depending on the provider, I can choose standard definition or HD, I can choose to rent or buy the content permanently. Let’s extend that paradigm to the Olympics. As a viewer I’d like to be able to see the event real time live and or I’d like to be able to see that event when and where I choose. I’d like to be able to see it at the resolution of my choice and I’d like the option to view it with or without commercials for a small fee. With those choices not only would I watch much more of the coverage I suspect that charging me a few cents to avoid the commercials is going to be more valuable to the networks than charging advertisers for my time. I have $50 says most if not all of the options above will be in place by the time of the next summer Olympics with some aspects showing up as soon as Sochi 2014.

On a side note I sat through the closing ceremony last night and I have a couple of observations. Over all I thought it was enormous and often pretty whacky fun….Lord only knows what large chunks of Humanity watching made of Eric Idle singing “Always look on the bright side of life” (complete with Roman Soldiers but minus Crucifixions). I have no idea why the Spice Girls bothered to reunite; they looked more like The Desperate Housewives than their old selves. What bothered me…and it probably shouldn’t have, but it did; is than in  a festival of Brit music and culture packed full of really quite good performances, with the notable exception of Freddy Mercury (who had a really good excuse not to be there) why were so many performers missing. Hats off to Annie Lenox for doing a killer performance but where was Dave Stewart? Half of the Who and 25% of Pink Floyd who did show up and added excitement just by being there but where was Bowie, Waters, Gilmore etc, etc.  I have to imagine they were all invited but couldn’t get over their artistic differences…did Bowie really have something better to do than play to a measurable percentage of all of Humanity? Was it a gym appointment (I hear he’s put on weight)? Had the Floyd bitten the bullet and played together they would have had to reinforce the stadium roof to keep it on. It was a missed opportunity…but even with that…one heck of a good show.