Watching the Olympics online

By | August 17, 2008

The Olympic Games is the only time when the world actually sits down to watch sports together. And as one of the millions who have been following the Games (although not as frequently as I wanted), Beijing 2008 is turning to be the most memorable Olympics so far (with a week to go).

Apart from Micheal Phelps, this is actually turning out to be pretty interesting for me, both for the records, twists, tantrums, scandals, controversies and all. The men’s 100m sprint was a good one, but regretfully, I didn’t catch it live. Neither did I catch the opening ceremony.

Which brings me to the state of Internet broadcasting, with this Olympics being a test. In fact, this Olympics hasn’t changed much for net broadcasts despite the fact it’s 2008, 4 years after the Athens Olympics, when online broadcasting was strictly limited to paid users with credit cards. This time around, has anything much changed?

Beijing 2008I don’t think so, although there are some improvements. The most widely available service where you can watch the Games for free is the NBC Olympics site. This is however only limited to US based viewership, and with a whole set of rules to boot.

Outside of the US, other Olympics sites to catch the Olympics are:

Yahoo7 (mainly Australian biased) site – There are a number of videos here, but many of them only focus on sports where Australian athletes are competing.

BBC Sports Olympics – Only for UK residents, but with better coverage of most of the sports.

TVTonic – You need to be in the US, and running Windows Vista, in order to watch their videos.

YouTube Olympics Channel – Nothing more than Opening ceremony and limited sports clips, hence the relatively low viewership. No live coverage either, and only if you belong to one of the approved 77 countries (which the IOC didn’t deal exclusive rights to).

What about proxies? Proxies may be a little useful for accessing geo-blockaded sites, but being slow, you have to put up with icky video quality most of the time.

For me, the Olympics is a gauge of how ready the Web is in streaming live video on a satisfactory and available basis. This appears not to be the case yet, even for this year’s Games. I’ll still be sticking with the TV set of mine, because at least I still get interruption free coverage, and not having to worry about my bandwidth clogging up, being located in an unapproved country, or low image quality.

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