Like many of you, I’ve been hooked by the Olympic Games. I’ve consumed an extraordinary diet of gymnastics, swimming and beach volleyball on TV this past week. Now I’m looking forward to the track and field part of the games, which begins today.
But while the Olympic Games has dazzled us with amazing feats, it’s also historic because it’s the first games where the Internet has played a pivotal role in how we experience the event. In the States, the NBC Olympics website has been featuring live coverage throughout the tournament using Microsoft’s Silverlight technology instead of Flash or Quicktime.
The picture quality has been fantastic, but the best part of the technology is that it gives you freedom of choice. Freedom to decide which of the events you want to watch instead of being forced to watch what ever event the NBC affiliate is showing.
The success of the NBC Olympics website gives me a lot of hope for the future of the Premier League online. Imagine a situation where you were able to select from any of the five matches that are being played at the same time tomorrow during the traditional 3-5pm GMT timeframe. Maybe you would start out by watching Middlesbrough against Spurs, but then switch to Everton versus Blackburn and so on.
The NBC Olympics website is seeing 4,000 new video plays per second and approximately seven million unique visitors per day. Despite the huge amount of traffic, the video quality is excellent with little to no buffering.
The success of the site gives us a sample of what’s possible. In the eyes of the Premier League, the first question they’ll ask is how can they monetize something like this if it was available for viewers around the world. Sure, there’s advertising opportunities and possibilities of strategic partnerships. For example, the success of the NBC Olympics website has introduced Microsoft’s Silverlight to millions of people around the States who had never downloaded the plugin before. Imagine how many installs Microsoft would get if they did something similar in conjunction with the Premier League.
At the end of the day, the business decision that the Premier League would have to make is whether they can make more revenue by selling the Internet rights individually to each country around the world, or by offering it universally through an online website similar in structure to the NBC Olympics one.
Instead of spending time and money policing the Internet to shut down websites and P2P bandits who are showing live EPL matches and recorded highlights illegally, it’s time for the Premier League to embrace technology and put its money into a better experience online that will be profitable for them and will help grow the brand worldwide.
Let’s hope the Premier League evaluates the possibility of a similar website venture in the near future. It could enhance the way we experience the league altogether.