Twitter-verse Disrupting TV Coverage of Olympics

Social media peaked at new levels during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Twitter, blogging and facebook coverage gave us an inside look at how local fans, athletes and visitors took in the games from behind scenes, inside the various events and even party sites.  Social media helped intensify Olympic fever from the opening ceremonies to the big Gold wins by both Team Canada hockey teams.
Fast foward to now and the Olympics in London are being covered by everyone who has a smart phone.  Every media outlet to every fan is capturing and sharing images and videos at alarming rates.
So fast and so intense that Twitter is now being blamed for disrupting television coverage of the games.
Perhaps those U.S. carriers that have instituted data tiers and limits have it right after all. Apparently, Olympics coverage is being affected by data use in the local area, with Tweets, Instagram uploads, and Facebook posts hammering data networks.

For example, during Saturday’s men’s cycling road race, commentators were unable to tell viewers how far the leaders were ahead of the chasing pack because the GPS satellite navigation systems “riding” with the cyclists were unable to report their information; data simply could not get through.

To make matters worse, viewers made things worse when the posted angry Tweets about the lack of information on Twitter, using still more bandwidth. The International Olympic Committee took a soft approach to the approach, while still basically begging fans to hold off on Tweeting:

“Of course, if you want to send something, we are not going to say ‘Don’t, you can’t do it’, and we would certainly never prevent people. It’s just – if it’s not an urgent, urgent one, please kind of take it easy.”

The 2012 London Summer Olympics have been dubbed the first “social media Games” because they are the first Games since the explosion of smartphone use with social media networks such as Twitter. Local cellular data networks have not proven to be up to the task.

According to some news services, the IOC has also asked for minimal texting as well. That doesn’t make any sense, of course, since text messages don’t use up data.

Unfortunately, text messages can’t take the place of Twitter and other sharing services, as text messages are strictly a 1-1 conversation (there are some clients that allow text messages to multiple people at once, but it’s not a “group message” per se, like a Tweet). Text messages ride for free on top of the cellular carrier and don’t use bandwidth.

Of course, it’s not just cellular data that’s been an issue with this Olympics. NBC promised live streaming coverage of every sporting event at these Games, but on its first real test showed NBC had issues with its player (memory leakage) and server load.

NBC was also taken to task for not live streaming the Opening Ceremonies, but that’s not related to technical issues. The network has also said it will not stream the Closing Ceremonies.

It will be interesting to see if the network can handle the load during the work week, as employees at companies will use their work broadband to stream video that they otherwise couldn’t watch.


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