Video replay transforms Winter Games coverage

Thanks to online video player with 24/7 PVR function

TORONTO -- Canadians are watching and re-watching the 2010 Vancouver Games as never before, thanks to an online video player launched by Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium with a popular 24/7 PVR function.

Besides watching the 2010 Olympics on 11 local networks, Canadians can also go online to view the Games live or on-demand in HD, and replay key sporting moments embedded in the online video player powered by Microsoft's Silverlight system.

Alon Marcovici, vp of digital media and research at the Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium, which holds the domestic rights for the Vancouver Games, said the online review and replay feature heralds a turning point for Olympic coverage for Canadians.

"That to me is the eureka moment of these Games from an online perspective, the notion of choice and the notion of being able to stop time," he argued.

In an Olympic hockey game, for example, online users can go directly to goals, hits or the beginning of periods in games already in progress.

The Vancouver Games are effectively being recorded online for possible replay by Canadians, much as they might set their PVR at home.

The result has consortium on-air hosts appearing less like TV anchors telling viewers what's happening at the Games as directing them like flight controllers to where live sporting events can be found on the TV dial and online. On the second day of Olympic competition coverage, around 190,000 hours of video was streamed from the Canadian consortium video-based websites, with more than 500,000 live video views.

The online PVR application is also timely. Home soil advantage has made the Vancouver Games the ultimate TV experience for Canadians.

The opening ceremony for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games Friday night became the most watched Canadian TV show ever (HR, Feb. 13).

And the ladies moguls final Saturday night averaged 6.6 million viewers, according to BBM Canada, as American rival Hannah Kearney edged out Canadian skier Jenn Heil for the gold medal.

That event delivered more viewers to CTV than the Canadian broadcaster's recent Super Bowl XLIV telecast.

The men's mogul competition Sunday night, won by Canadian skier Alexandre Bilodeau to earn Canada's first-ever gold medal at home promised an ever larger nationwide audience.

To reflect growing cross-media usage during the Vancouver Games, the CTV-led consortium is gathering a combined CUME rating -- TV plus online, radio and print reach -- which reached 27.7 million Canadians on Saturday.

That cumulative viewership is drawn from five major consortium feeds -- CTV, Rogers Sportsnet, The Sports Channel, and the French language channels V and RDS -- that Marcovici insists has all bases covered.

Each of the five major online channels streams a different block of Olympic sporting event coverage at differing times of the day to ensure an entire 12-hour block of Olympics is streamed online for Canadians each day.

The 24/7 PVR function is crucial to the CTV-led consortium because anytime a user comes online, they can rewind and see all key Olympic sporting moments they might have otherwise missed.

In addition, Canadians have online access to world feed broadcasts of Olympic sporting events shown at different times to those available on the CTV-led consortium channels.

The 360 online push by the Canadian consortium is timely.

Unlike the U.S. where the summer Olympics is the bigger draw for NBC, a colder climate makes Canadians winter sport fanatics.

And that makes the Winter Games a magnet for TV and online viewing every four years. Head-to-head winter sports like speed skating, curling and ice hockey give Canadian athletes their best opportunities for Olympic medals, and so draw huge TV audiences.

That's reflected in what the CTV-led Canadian broadcast consortium paid the IOC for the domestic Olympic broadcast rights.

"We pay roughly 60% of our rights payment for winter sports, and the rest for the summer games," Marcovici said.

That ratio is reversed for the U.S. market, where a warmer climate puts a premium for NBC on the summer games.

The CTV-led consortium is measuring cross-usage of media by Canadians during the Olympics, and so far has found predictable results.

Where possible, Canadians gravitate to the biggest screen in their homes, especially with the Olympic TV coverage now on HD.

So the peak online viewership by Canadians on the opening day of the Olympics was well before the opening night ceremony, as anticipation for the Vancouver Games built nationwide.

And online viewership spiked yet again an hour after the opening night ceremony ended as Canadians looked to relive key moments, Marcovici recalls.

Another spike in online traffic: Canadians, as elsewhere worldwide, last Friday flocked online to view the graphic video footage of the horrific luge crash that claimed the life of 21-year-old Georgian slider Nodar Kumaritashvili's on Friday (HR, Feb. 12).

The consortium websites were bombarded with emails critical of the decision to post the crash footage, even with a graphic warning.

But Marcovici defends the posting decision, arguing online users did not have to view the fatal luge crash video.

"We're all about choice. It's a wonderful example," he said.