If you were up late in the U.S. watching the live online coverage via NBC’s Live Extra service, you could also see a window with “experts” Twitter feeds to the right of the video screen. As the super-G progressed, and as racers challenged Miller’s once-leading time, you could see race results being tweeted before they were shown via the “live” video. The spoiler effect got some Twitter users and live-stream watchers angry, and they took out their frustrations on the reporters whose tweets were being shown in NBC’s official window.
Uh, no RT @ops1994 you'r tweets are coming in faster then the video feed just wait 1 min to tweet
— Alan Abrahamson (@alanabrahamson) February 16, 2014
In a very unofficial review yours truly has noticed that NBC is jamming a lot more commercial breaks into the online streams than they did at the start of the games — the first night of action I watched online (men’s DH) had very few commercials breaks. The super-G coverage on Sunday/Saturday, however, had numerous commercial inserts, many right before racers were about to ski. There were also some buffering and streaming hiccups, which may be a result of my own connection and not NBC’s fault. Maybe it’s hard to blame NBC for the lure of trying to pump more advertising in; according to NBC press releases that come along almost daily now, the live streams are extremely popular and will probably become more so as the big-ticket events like men’s hockey and women’s figure skating get seriously underway.
But at some point during the super-G, because of the ads or because of physics, the Twitter feed on NBC’s page got well ahead of the event, and I had to resort to the full-screen option to keep the Twitter feed from playing spoiler. While we have messages and emails out to the reporters/tweeters and NBC to try and figure out the particulars, we can pretty much guess what happened — NBC probably had no buffer or filter in place at all, and the speed of 140 characters is going to beat video bits (which need encoding to traverse the interwebs) every time.
It is most likely an early-days problem of trying to do something ambitious like live stream every event, an undertaking NBC should be commended for. But with all the resources at its disposal and all its social media savvy, NBC should have forseen this kind of glitch. In this age of reporters tweeting from events there is always the problem of Twitter moving faster than even official broadcasts — but you rarely see a network spoil its own show with official Tweets that move faster than its own “live” video.
For us here at MSR it’s a glitch we can live with, since efforts to stymie the speed of Twitter are as futile as they are worthless. The easy solution will be to restrict or delay the Twitter feed, which will cripple the instant-feedback usefulness of Twitter. More live Twitter and more live video is what we say. But the glitch is also evidence that the desire to blend video and social media on the same viewing page may not always produce the results you are looking for. Maybe better design is the answer?
And sorry if we are playing spoiler for NBC’s prime time show later Sunday but hey, two medals in one race is pretty big news for the U.S. Ski Team, and what a killer effort from the old man Bode. And tying for a bronze — well that’s just a pretty Bode result too. And here’s an Instagram to show the proud teammates posing with the flag after their second- and third-place finishes.