NBC Proud That It Made It More Difficult For People To Watch The Olympics

from the really-didn't-think-this-through dept

We've already explained how screwed up NBC's Olympic coverage policy on the web turned out to be. Its use of proprietary technology and annoying restriction severely limited its online audience -- even though the company admitted that its own research found that the more people watched online, the more they watched it on TV as well. So, given all that, you have to wonder why NBC Universal's Rick Cotton is somehow claiming a "victory" in preventing other sites from showing Olympics coverage. After all, his own company admitted that online viewing didn't cannibalize TV viewing, but only encouraged more of it. By that measure, Cotton's efforts to prevent clips of the Olympics being shared elsewhere on the web actually shrunk NBC's audience. Yet, according to Cotton: "It was a great, great success." Then again, this is the same Rick Cotton who once tried to convince Congress that it had to stop movie piracy to help poor corn farmers and claimed that no one at NBC Universal could come up with a working business model for TV content without government help, so logic might not be a strong point.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 10:40am

    Its pretty simple . . .

    "you have to wonder why NBC Universal's Rick Cotton is somehow claiming a "victory" in preventing other sites from showing Olympics coverage."

    Its pretty obvious why Mr. Cotton would want to put as positive a spin on this as possible, you dont get bonuses for screwing things up.

     

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  2.  
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    sehlat (profile), Sep 16th, 2008 @ 10:58am

    Re: Its pretty simple . . .

    Sure you do. Just google for "CEO" and "golden parachute".

     

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  3.  
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    maxo, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 11:12am

    NBC

    I for one will never watch anything NBC for the rest of my life.

     

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  4.  
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    brianh, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 11:18am

    I agree that NBC's online coverage SUCKED. Their player was horrid, the quality was crap, and it was tough to find certain content. But I don't understand the logic behind advocating that anyone should be able to snag anyone else's content and display it as their own. "...his own company admitted that online viewing didn't cannibalize TV viewing..." - but that doesn't mean that they want other online outlets to cannibalize from their own online content. TechDirt always seems to have this stance, but I doubt they would like it if I took their articles, fed them onto my own site, put up my own discussion forum under each article, then brought in a little ad revenue based on the traffic. Is this not a comparable scenario, or am I missing some key point?

    As for the spin, that's a no brainer - it's his job and carreer hinging on good performance, so of course the online component was a success.

     

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  5.  
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    ECA (profile), Sep 16th, 2008 @ 11:41am

    Funny, this guy made a joke

    I liked the numbers they came up with, on HOW many people WATCHED..
    It was Laughable..
    1. only person in the USA could watch NBC, in the USA..you couldnt goto/come to other locations and WATCH it online.
    2. they had a 90% of the USA watching it..I DONT THINK SO.
    I figure that a good 30% didnt have access. I know Linux users couldnt see it, I know MAC users had MAJOR problems, I know that 40+% of the USA has NO HIGH SPEED ACCESS..
    I wont even COUNT the people who worked or slept threw the WHOLE THING...

     

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  6.  
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    Jim, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 11:49am

    Re:

    ...but I doubt they would like it if I took their articles, fed them onto my own site...

    Mike would love it if you did that. You probably wouldn't get much traffic, but you wouldn't be hurting TechDirt at all - you would be giving them free advertising.

    As a matter of fact, it has been done before. There was a site that just "stole" TechDirct articles and hosted them with ads. I can't find them anymore though... they probably just converted a handful of people to TechDirt fans, proved Mike's point, and fizzled away.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 11:50am

    Welcome to our CAPITALIST Economy

    He is charged with MAKING MONEY for NBC, that is his job, make sure that NBC maximizes profits. His job is not to make you happy, his job is not to make sure people can access olympic footage on the internet. His job is to make money for NBC, thats it! Are you a communist, an anarchist, or just too stuborn to see that his company makes more money based on the number of TELEVISION viewers during a time slot? If people watched the coverage over the internet what reason would they have to watch it later when NBC collects viewer stats? They wouldnt have any reason to do so. If NBC licensed EXCLUSIVE distribution and broadcast rights they have every right to pursue distribution on their own terms. If you want olympic coverage on the internet, I suggest you purchase the internet distribution rights to the coverage.

     

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  8.  
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    PaulT (profile), Sep 16th, 2008 @ 11:56am

    Re:

    You might want to double-check the meaning of cannibalize in this context...

    It doesn't mean that other people are stealing the content. What he meant was that viewers didn't choose to watch the online content *instead* of watching TV. That's the criticism in a nutshell - he seems happy that the Internet didn't take over the TV broadcasts, while totally ignoring the larger group of people who were put off by the restrictions. To somehow suggest success just because a group of people who might have watched better, less restricted content weren't able to do so is stupid and counter-intuitive.

    Also, you might want to read this site a bit more closely before commenting. You're not the first person to suggest "stealing" Techdirt content, and every time Mike says he wouldn't mind if you did that because their business model doesn't totally depend on people coming here to view the content. Unlike NBC, who are apparently afraid of any model that doesn't involve restricting people as much as possible.

     

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  9.  
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    Narcuru, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 12:17pm

    Re: brianh

    To go along with what Jim and PaulT said Mike has on many occasions told people to go ahead and steal the post word for word. (and there are several that do or at least did) one proof can be found here: http://www.techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20070412/183135&threaded=true#c612. Words from Mikes own mouth that you can go ahead and took Techdirt's articles.

     

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  10.  
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    rec9140, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 12:37pm

    MS, silverlight, NO WATCH here.

    Linux 100% and I am not going back either.

    ms blew it and their day is over.

    LINUX, LINUX, LINUX.

    Learn the word, you will be hearing it alot soon.

    Some other phrases you will need to learn:

    X, KDE, terminal, CLI, .deb, apt-get......

     

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  11.  
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    Rob M, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 12:40pm

    Something doesn't add up....

    From the linked article:

    "...some 53 million unique visitors watched 75 million streams, taking a combined ten million hours to do it."

    So, basically, the average viewer stayed 11 minutes on the site. Considering the Olympics lasted over 2 weeks, that's pretty pathetic.

    And he's claiming that a search on YouTube for "Olympics" turned up so few clips is a victory for seeing non-NBC content? Because YouTube is the only place in the world to watch video, apparently.

    Whatever Cotton is smoking, I really wish he'd share...

     

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  12.  
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    TheDock22, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 12:40pm

    Affiliates

    You know, I NEVER understood why companies like NBC don't transfer their affiliate model onto the Internet. They have made a KILLING offering content for affiliates, as long as they are allowed a percentage of their commercials to be broadcast (then the local affiliates also get a percentage to show local commercials).

    Think about it NBC. You could offer ALL your content only for affiliates to link to as long as they include...or lets say...two banners somewhere on the website that you can control to serve up your advertising. You still get ad revenue, the affiliates get content for their website and some ad revenue, and the users are happy campers. You could even offers users a chance to watch videos ad-free if they register with your website and pay something like $10 a month (then you could offer HD shows that are ad free for those of us with a kick ass media center setup).

    I think it is sad they don't even consider the alternatives. It may be their biggest downfall. I mean look at newspapers...

     

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  13.  
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    John, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Welcome to our CAPITALIST Economy

    I take it that you neglected to actually read the post. Check sentence #2. You'd have to debunk that before anything in your response makes any sense.

     

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  14.  
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    DanC, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Welcome to our CAPITALIST Economy

    His job is not to make you happy, his job is not to make sure people can access olympic footage on the internet. His job is to make money for NBC, thats it!

    Intentionally creating a smaller viewing audience for your advertisers doesn't really seem like a good way to make money.

    If people watched the coverage over the internet what reason would they have to watch it later when NBC collects viewer stats? They wouldnt have any reason to do so.

    Then why did they bother to put the coverage on the web in the first place? Oh wait...because, as NBC admitted, it encouraged more people to watch the Olympics on television.

     

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  15.  
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    Mike (profile), Sep 16th, 2008 @ 1:07pm

    Re:

    But I don't understand the logic behind advocating that anyone should be able to snag anyone else's content and display it as their own. "...his own company admitted that online viewing didn't cannibalize TV viewing..." - but that doesn't mean that they want other online outlets to cannibalize from their own online content.

    You missed the part where the online viewership actually INCREASED television viewership, which is where the big money actually was. So, in keeping the video off other sites, it likely decreased television viewership, decreasing ad revenue.

    TechDirt always seems to have this stance, but I doubt they would like it if I took their articles, fed them onto my own site, put up my own discussion forum under each article, then brought in a little ad revenue based on the traffic. Is this not a comparable scenario, or am I missing some key point?

    Sure, that's a comparable situation, and you are free to do so. It probably wouldn't work very well for you, and, if anything would likely drive more traffic to us.

    I've said it before (http://www.techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20070412/183135#c612) so I'll just cut and paste:

    Yup. And as we've said repeatedly, we have no problem with people taking our content and reposting it. It's funny how many people come here, like yourself, and assume you've found some "gotcha." You haven't. There already are about 10 sites that copy Techdirt, post for post. Some of them give us credit. Some of them don't. We don't go after any of them.

    Here's why:

    1. None of those sites get any traffic. By itself, they offer nothing special.

    2. If anything, it doesn't take people long to read those sites and figure out that the content is really from Techdirt. Then they just come here to the original source. So, it tends to help drive more traffic to us. That's cool.

    3. As soon as the people realize the other sites are simply copying us, it makes those sites look really, really bad. If you want to risk your reputation like that, go ahead, but it's a big risk.

    4. A big part of the value of Techdirt is the community here. You can't just replicate that.

    5. Another big part of the value of Techdirt is that we, the writers, engage in the comments. You absolutely cannot fake that on your own site.

    So, really, what's the purpose of copying our content, other than maybe driving a little traffic our way?

    So, if you really want to, I'd suggest it's pretty dumb, but go ahead.

     

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  16.  
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    Mike (profile), Sep 16th, 2008 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Welcome to our CAPITALIST Economy

    He is charged with MAKING MONEY for NBC, that is his job, make sure that NBC maximizes profits.

    So why would he limit NBC's ability to maximize profits, by limiting its audience? That's the point we're making.

    His job is not to make you happy, his job is not to make sure people can access olympic footage on the internet.

    No one said his job was to make us happy. We're questioning why he FAILED to maximize NBC's revenue, by SHRINKING its audience.

    Are you a communist, an anarchist, or just too stuborn to see that his company makes more money based on the number of TELEVISION viewers during a time slot?

    And NBC's OWN STATS show that the more people who watched it online, the MORE PEOPLE it drove to the TELEVISION. In other words, if he had left the clips online, MORE PEOPLE would have viewed the Olympics on TV, making NBC Universal MORE MONEY.

    If people watched the coverage over the internet what reason would they have to watch it later when NBC collects viewer stats?

    NBC's OWN STATEMENTS suggest that that's exactly what most people did, wanting to see the events on their larger screen.

     

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  17.  
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    Ljlego, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 1:52pm

    It's not really all that incomprehensible that NBC said they were happy with the way they handled it. People don't get to high places in the corporate ladder (especially in a company as big as NBC Universal) by admitting they made mistakes. That said, for them to actually BE happy with their coverage is a different issue entirely. We can't know how NBC actually felt about their performance until the next Olympic Games, when the two years of think tanks come to fruition in the online coverage. If it's the same, then yeah, NBC is pretty dumb. But trying to save face isn't dumb, it's just business. In the fickle eyes of the American public, admitting to a mistake is akin to euthanasia.

    A few points about the stellar intelligence of the commenters, while I'm at it: to the guy who said he wasn't going to watch NBC ever again...I'm sure that will really upset them. That's the way to get your point across, take away from the numbers that they're pretending to try to save. As for the guy who somehow thinks he's stumbled onto some hidden secret in Linux...buddy, Linux has been out for a long time. You are not some revolutionary trendsetter in using it. There are plenty of people who do. That doesn't make Microsoft any less powerful in comparison to it. Apple's been around for a damn long time and they've been unable to compete. Linux has been around about as long, same deal.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 1:52pm

    Glad your so proud, I am boycotting you.

    NBC: Proud to suck

     

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  19.  
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    NoGoodSonOfABitch, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 1:53pm

    Re: Welcome to our CAPITALIST Economy

    Apparently you didn't read the article... Go do your homework and then come back to the big-boys table. Typical reactionary douche.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 1:53pm

    The Olympics happened?

     

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  21.  
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    brianh, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 2:20pm

    Re:

    we have no problem with people taking our content and reposting it.

    That's because your business model isn't advertising, it's consulting. The ads on your site are sort of an after thought. But if you're main goal was site traffic, and you wanted to grow that business, you wouldn't want a bunch of other sites taking your content. Sure, you say that the sites that do it now are small and no big deal, but on the internet that can change very quickly. NBC is wanting to make their online business (which could like by their only form of entertainment in the future) a legitimate, profitable business. You can't do that if everyone takes your content and reposts it.

    Sure, the online component may drive the TV audience right now, but that isn't the idea anymore - it's to mold the online component into a legitimate business, separate from TV.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 2:31pm

    Re:

    @brianh

    As long as they don't claim the work as their own (plagiarism), what harm could be done? The more people know about Techdirt, the more people will want to know what it's all about, direct from the source.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 3:00pm

    Um... What?

    So, I am a bit confused. How were the Olympics difficult to watch?

    Was it because you needed silver light? Because you needed to wait an hour after prime time coverage for your event to stream? Because they limited their audience by successfully stopping the span over to YouTube? Come on now... Seriously...

    I am happy they used Silver Light. Like it or not, it is a good technology for delivering media. The quality you get out of it is fantastic, and not only that, it scales far better for various internet connections. Yes, for those browsers that don't support Silver Light, they are limited. However, not severely limited as this article implies.

    The online streams didn't include the audio, sadly. Which I think helped to encourage TV watching. That, and for events people were able to catch on TV, it makes sense to do so. Who wants to watch Michael Phelps win 8 gold medals on a 22" monitor, when you can step into your living room and watch him do it on much bigger (and likely higher quality) television - with commentary! Again, for those who can watch on a TV, it makes sense.

    The other post that this one links too, says 93% of the Olympics was made up of TV watching. That means online watching accounts for what? 7%? That seems pretty high to me. Yeah, it doesn't compare to YouTube, but of course it won't. You have to compare apples to apples. YouTube is cemented into the online community, and is used for virtually every type of footage you can imagine. No video site can compete with YouTube, why would anyone expect NBC to even hold a candle to them - especially on a single event?

    ...Even then, you can find plenty of Olympic 2008 vids ("2008 Olmpyics yields over 65,000 results") on YouTube. Many of them bearing the NBC logo. Seems to me, they did get some extra exposure.

    So, in conclusion, I fail to see how these Olympics were severely limited and difficult to watch. I watched more Olympics this year than I have in any other year. I streamed at work, in coffee shops, and got text message alerts when I was camping! At home and at the gym I watched it on TV... Not only that, when you consider the mass of people that use Windows+IE and are capable of installing silver light, I can't see that as even a large limitation.

    NBC may be proud that they prevented the streams from going elsewhere online, which I'll admit is dumb in some ways, but truthfully I think they did a fair job all around. More live events, commentary, and a more user friendly website would be things to improve on in my opinion.

    They were the first to try this with the Olympics, and they had to build a whole new infrastructure for it. Given how it could have gone down, I'm pleased.

    Cheers.

     

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  24.  
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    Mike (profile), Sep 16th, 2008 @ 3:10pm

    Re: Re:

    That's because your business model isn't advertising, it's consulting.

    Actually, it's not consulting either, but you're correct that it's not advertising.

    But I'm not sure what your point is. How dare we choose a good business model, and somehow that makes it okay for those who choose bad business models to make bad decisions to protect those bad business models?

    The point is that anyone can choose a good business model that doesn't require ridiculous limits on what people can do.

    But if you're main goal was site traffic, and you wanted to grow that business, you wouldn't want a bunch of other sites taking your content.

    Yes, that would mean we made a bad business model choice. At that point, our choices would be to choose a better business model or to whine. We chose a better business model. NBC chose to whine.

    NBC is wanting to make their online business (which could like by their only form of entertainment in the future) a legitimate, profitable business.

    And they chose a bad business model to do so. Why are you defending them choosing a bad business model?

     

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  25.  
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    bob, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 3:40pm

    The olympics were this year?
    I thought they were every 4 years.
    We just had an olympics 2 years ago.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I think his point is that business models are not necessary going to be success across the board. It is foolish to think so.

    And you don't whine about your choices just about every other companies choices. That is a pretty elitist stance.

    How was it a bad business model? You just assume that you should be given everything. Why? That is entitlement and you are not entitled to everything. NBC made billions of dollars. How much have you made? Success is in the eye of the beholder.

     

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  27.  
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    Rekrul, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 3:53pm

    Rick Cotton is a blithering idiot. Not just because of this, I mean in general. He's repeatedly shown his ignorance of the way the net works. He mentions file sharing and then claims success because they kept the videos off sites like YouTube.

    He only keeps his job because he tells NBC what they want to hear.

     

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  28.  
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    Bob's Brain on Drugs, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 5:26pm

    Re:

    ahhh Bob........

    The last Olympics was the WINTER olympics. You know, the one where they ski, and bobsled, and skate.

    This was the SUMMER Olympics.

    In two years there will be a winter Olympics again.

    Get it now?

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 5:48pm

    There is no reasonable method to deliver video content to desktops without relying on "proprietary technology"
    Delivery in flash still relies on proprietary technology it just so happens that it currently has a much more substantial market share than Silverlight.
    Using SL for a massive event encourages greater adoption of an alternative proprietary technology. That being said there likely are components to that choice of SL over flash that we, the general internet ravaging public, are not aware of.
    The restrictions placed on the content are simply a result of an archaic structure still in place around broadcast. If instead of suggesting this is a massive failure, we look at it as a small step forward in the shift from traditional broadcast media there is some good to be found in the Olympics broadcast this year. Sure there is a long way to go, but the more high quality content that makes it to the web the more useful data points broadcasters and content creators have to figure out how to actually make money doing it.
    I'm not trying to be an NBC apologist here, but it's not a fair conversation if you don't recognize that NBC is working within the boundaries of the broadcast industry.
    Now, is there *spin* in the claims, of course... But seriously aren't we all really savvy enough at this point to recognize that for what it is without having to make absurd statements like I'll never watch NBC again because they used a MS plug in and didn't broadcast outside the only market they were allowed to broadcast in...

     

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  30.  
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    Mike (profile), Sep 17th, 2008 @ 3:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I think his point is that business models are not necessary going to be success across the board. It is foolish to think so.

    Whoever claimed that business models would be successful across the board?!?

    And you don't whine about your choices just about every other companies choices. That is a pretty elitist stance.

    Huh? We're provide insight and analysis -- why wouldn't we provide our views on other businesses? That's a part of our business model. How is that *elitist*?

    You're saying we shouldn't express our opinion? How is it possibly elitist to make suggestions that help other businesses?

    You gotta help me out here...

    How was it a bad business model? You just assume that you should be given everything. Why? That is entitlement and you are not entitled to everything.

    We've gone through great detail on the economics that explain why it's a bad business model. It's got nothing to do with wanting to be "given everything." It has to do with basic economics. You can ignore it if you want, but that's life.

    NBC made billions of dollars. How much have you made? Success is in the eye of the beholder.

    And who's being elitist now? In the meantime, watch the directional delta of the businesses. We're growing like crazy. NBC?

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 3:52am

    Rick Cotton is the Legal arm of MSNBC, as in Microsoft-NBC

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 4:04am

    If Cotton can be linked to Microsoft, just know MS isn't too kind on platform ambiguity. Their goal is in pushing a DRM product suite to content owners.

    Silverlight having big troubles on Mac? Installation issues with Firefox? Linux left completely out?

    Why am I not surprised?

     

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  33.  
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    whowhat, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 5:11am

    Oh wow

    NBC... Are they still around? I thought they went out of business... Olympics? Whats that? Something to do with Greek Mythology?

     

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  34.  
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    rec9140, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 6:03am

    Re: Um... What?

    Was it because you needed silver light?

    Yes. I use Linux, and I don't use ms crap products additionaly even if I wanted to the mono/moonlight on linux is a dud as well.

    No thanks.... I don't need more crap to screw up systems be they Linux or winslop. I don't allow this kind of crud onto the systems I manage and won't any time in the future.

    The online streams didn't include the audio, sadly. Which I think helped to encourage TV watching. That, and for events people were able to catch on TV, it makes sense to do so. Who wants to watch Michael Phelps win 8 gold medals on a 22" monitor, when you can step into your living room and watch him do it on much bigger (and likely higher quality) television - with commentary! Again, for those who can watch on a TV, it makes sense.

    Well I can output my PC(s) to anything from dual 17" to a 26" to a 42" LCD. Thats irreleveant.

    As for mr. phelps,,,yawn...boring.

    As for the commentary....DONT NEED IT! They could flush the commentary. I have interest in only two olympic events, total between summer and winter, and BOTH would do quite well MINUS THE COMMENTARY. They have music with some or all portions of the two events, and thats all I need audio wise. I don't need some washed up hasbin, never was spouting off about the event. I am pretty sure that most feel that the commentary could be dropped for just standard audio of the event regardless of what ever event it is.

     

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  35.  
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    Norm, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 7:54am

    Re: Re: Its pretty simple . . .

    Amen to that Sehlat. Doesn't it make you SICK

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 1:05pm

    Re: Re: Um... What?

    So you use Linux, and that is wonderful. Linux accounts for a very small percentage of computing. Again, I fail to see how the *average viewer* would have any difficulty watching the Olympics. If you cared that much, you could always run VMWare on your Linux box and do it anyway. If you don't like Silver Light, that is totally fine, that isn't my argument. My argument is that, like it or not, Silver Light was the best medium to use for these broadcasts - due to the compression and flexibility it offers. It scales much better than flash, so I'm sorry if you it left you in the dark.

    Why would you make this about not liking Microsoft? If you don't like them, then that's fine, lots of people don't like them. Just know that you're making yourself a minority, and when you're a minority you're not going to get the same level of support from the rest of the world when it comes to your computer. By support, I mean support software to help you stream mainstream events such as the Olympics.

    You're right, some people don't like the commentary. Some people don't need it. However, there are times when I'm watching new sports that I find interesting, that the commentary is helpful. It helps me understand the rules and scoring and the players. I fail to see how people not liking commentary has anything to do with this article? You're on the verge of flaming...

    Yes, you can output to a TV or a larger monitor. That is great. How many people in the world do this? The average home user does not. Half of America is still on dial-up, and I suspect the average size screen in the home right now is 17" - 19", with many not having the same capability to output as you. More people own big TVs than big monitors. That is all I was getting at. So again, I can't see how you being able to output your video to a big monitor or TV from your PC makes it harder for the average person to watch the Olympics.

    So in conclusion, a small percentage of people (Linux users) could not easily watch the Olympics online. They could however VMWare themselves a solution, or still watch on TV. Even then though, as you pointed out, you watch a whopping two events.

    Wow... You sure put me in my place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 1:27pm

    Re:

    Thank you. You're exactly right.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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