The Peacock Wrestles With The Net

“Time Waits For No One” goes the old Rolling Stones tune, and NBC learned that lesson the hard way when it tape-delayed portions of the Olympics.

Tape-delaying the Olympics is almost a time-honored tradition among TV broadcasters, as coverage often has to deal with multiple time zones. With a 12-hour difference between New York City and Beijing, NBC’s delayed broadcasts represented an old-school television practice, a technique that served past sports programming, most notably ABC’s “Wide World Of Sports,” quite well in the medium’s first half-century of existence.

But delaying coverage of a popular worldwide event doesn’t cut it today. Especially when it’s a half-day delay of the long-awaited opening ceremonies. Not in the day of YouTube.

The New York Times reports that the network spent most of August 8 playing “digital whack-a-mole,” requesting Web sites remove illicit clips, only to find other Olympics footage appearing online as soon as the infringing video was taken down.

NBC paid $894 million to exclusively broadcast the Olympics in the U.S. and has right to demand Web sites remove footage of the Games posted by users. But NBC isn’t the only exclusive broadcaster in the world.

The BBC is the Olympic carrier in Britain, Canada gets the Games via the CBC, Japan the NHK and Mexico watches the competitions on Televisa. Furthermore, various broadcasters from other countries are also beaming the games to their viewers, giving those inspired to post clips on Web sites a vast source of options to draw from.

About 100 video clips of the opening ceremonies were uploaded to YouTube even before the festivities concluded. Meanwhile, international TV site streamed coverage live – until NBC persuaded it to cease and desist.

The International Olympic Committee is pretty clear about television coverage, stating that networks with local rights are the only ones that can broadcast the Games in individual countries. But in a world where individuals not only are connected, but share content such as music, video and news, it’s hard to imagine fans waiting for their official Olympic TV network to get around to showing 12-hour-old footage when they can get what they want instantly.

Furthermore, while the International Olympic Committee is allowing networks to stream broadcasts, the committee is also expecting geographic blocking technology to prevent, say, an NBC broadcast for the U.S. from being viewed in Spain.

As NBC continues to keep its exclusive Olympic coverage, well, exclusive, the rapid response of Netizens providing work-a-rounds to the network’s attempts to block its intended audience from seeing what they want is yet another example of just how fast the digital age is moving.

Just as VCRs introduced viewers to “time shifting,” or delaying viewing programs until a later time, the Internet is giving viewers the ability to watch programs in real time, regardless of the local broadcaster’s program schedule. You could say the rules have changed. But the reality is the viewer has changed, and will no longer dance to the networks’ schedules.

“The Olympics to me is a benchmark for how fast we’ve gone with technology,” Brad Adgate, senior VP for research at media buying firm Horizon Media, told the Times. “Thirty months ago, no one was talking about YouTube. Now it’s a verb.”


I Want My Palladia!

MTV Networks is rebranding its high-definition music video TV channel – not only changing the name but upping the content as well.

Come September 1, MHD will become Palladia, a name MTV says represents the “state-of-the-art channel’s rich and varied musical offering to viewers eager for an immersive, high-definition home entertainment experience.”

In plain English that means content and lots of it.

For starters, the channel will air a different concert each Saturday evening, and run what it calls “the finest collection of seminal rock movies in one place” on Thursday evenings.

Other content includes employing themes around programming to increase awareness. For example, the first week of September will be “Outdoor Music Week” and will include a series of outdoor concerts featuring Madonna, Dave Matthews Band, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Green Day and more.

Keeping with its outdoor theme, Palladia will air “Glastonbury 2008,” the U.S. television debut of England’s most popular music festival, on September 1. Programming on other nights during that first week of September includes “Dave Matthews Band: Live From Piedmont Park” on September 2, “Green Day: Bullet In A Bible” on September 3 and “BBC RadioOne Hilights,” featuring performances from BBC Radio’s outdoor concert series, debuts on September 3.

Other programs and specials during Palladia’s first week include “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” “Rothbury Music Festival 2008,” “Isle of Wight 2008” and “Duran Duran: Live At Wembley Stadium.”

“It’s a bigger, more distinct name for a channel that has grown in size as well as satisfaction among music HD fans,” said VH1 Executive VP and GM Tom Calderone, who oversees Palladia. “We’re also reinforcing that the channel is THE home for an increasingly broad range of musical styles and artists in high-def performances that can’t be seen anywhere else. We believe these changes will help our distributor partners as they continue to sell HD and strive for the best content.”


Best Buy Hawking iPhone

National consumer electronics chain Best Buy announced it will start selling Apple’s new 3G iPhone in September.

The deal marks the first time the popular smart phone will be marketed outside the Apple / AT&T universe. However, the pricing structure – $199 for the 8GB handset and $299 for the 16GB model, the same as AT&T’s prices – suggests that AT&T will subsidize the price, making the phone available at prices much lower than when Apple debuted it last year.

Of course, AT&T is the exclusive carrier for iPhone, so the company will still reap those service plan dollars.

The phone will be sold through Best Buy Mobile, the cell phone center located in each Best Buy location. The company recently completed renovation of all 970 stores to include Best Buy Mobile. Best Buy employees recently underwent 80 hours training for the iPhone.

“We had a lot of work to do, obviously, to get in a position where Apple and AT&T would feel good about Best Buy Mobile carrying it, and that’s what we’ve done in the last 18 months,” said Shawn Score, president of Best Buy Mobile.