NBC’s own Twitter feed ‘spoils’ its live online video stream during Sochi super-G

Screen shot of NBC live stream video with Twitter window to right.

Screen shot of NBC live stream video with Twitter window to right (click for larger image).

Even though American skiers Andrew Weibrecht and Bode Miller were fast enough to win medals in the super-G Sunday in Russia, it was Twitter outpacing NBC to the finish line during the broadcaster’s live streaming coverage from the Sochi Olympics.

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.

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.

Viewers expressing frustration at Twitter feed outpacing video

Viewers expressing frustration at Twitter feed outpacing video

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.

Comments

  1. Just checked, Twitter feed is still ahead of live video during ice dancing. Scores reported on Twitter while the American pair were still waiting on the screen. So if you are watching events online, bewarned… the NBC Twitter feed next to the screen will apparently be a mild spoiler.

  2. I noticed it without tweets. The first days had no commentary. Now they have commentary, replays, super slow mo (“don’t ever look at your skis”) tele-strater, etc. No way to do all that with the fixed start-intervals. I think they caught up by showing the late guys start, then skipping almost 40 seconds of their run. It’s nice to see more athletes, but it’s less “live” than it once was

    • Good call. The run-skipping was strange and certainly made it feel less live. Why can’t they just show it… live? Like a football game… or a baseball game. No idea why U.S. networks always feel they can jack with the Olympics.

      • And, why, when so much is spent on the Olympics… can’t they find decent announcers? Hockey has Doc… the consumate pro. Coop was a decent skier, but she’s the Tony Siragusa of ski voices. And Dan Hicks is great… at golf.

        I suggest a competition for announcers before the next games… or maybe an ESPN BCS Megacast, where we could choose from several teams. Skiing deserves better.

  3. Who is the girl voice-over for skiing who seems to moan “ooh. there’s a good turn, or there’s a 10th he’ll never get back?” Her voice sounds too smooth to be Coop. Then the guy who reminds me of Phil Ligget starts with a high-energy call for the next section of gates, then the girl goes back to oohing and worrying?
    I was thinking during the ladies GS that I miss Bob Beattie!
    I enjoyed it when Todd Booker & Steve Porino were calling skiing for one channel who had skiing for a while several years ago.

  4. During the Ladies SL, run 1, the NBC results page was posting the result when the skier was only about 5 seconds into the run. It is GREAT to be able to see the athletes, but it’s not exactly “live” video.

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