Variety of apps to support the Sochi Olympics


NBC’s broadcast of the Olympics should be boon to its online and streaming viewership, even though this is something that the network has made available for some time. As with many apps and capabilities users often only discover them when looking for specific tool or event.

There are a surprising number of apps available for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics that will be held in Sochi starting later this week. They range from simple calendars to one that will be showing live events.

Actually this is probably not surprising but then it’s hard to say why you would want something aside from the one that is available from NBC Sports, the official broadcaster of the games. Aside from the fact that the app, NBC Sports Live Extra, is from the broadcaster it was hardly just conceived for the Olympics.

The app also provides live sports events that air on NBC, NBC Sports Network and the Golf Channel so that over the course there will be IndyCar, the PGA Tour, Premier League Soccer and the NHL to name just a few.

We have already mentioned most of the features of the app as it pertains to the Olympics but it’s good to mention that there will be 1,000 hours of live streaming video with some replay on demand capabilities. It is free to use with select caveats.

However if you are looking for different functionality there are plenty of options starting with the U.S. Olympic team’s official app. It details who has made the team, links to athletes’ social media and an up-to-date following of how they do.

Another general purpose sports app, this one with a more international flavor, which will have a special focus on the Winter Olympics, is BBC Sports. It will have live coverage of events at the games and can be used to follow a wide range of International sports.


An interested app is the Sochi 2014 WOW (Wireless Olympics Works) that comes from Samsung Electronics, one of the major sponsors. The app is customizable so that a user can have it focus on their specific interests. Not too surprising is that it is also optimized for Samsung devices.

NFL signs promoted tweet deal with Twitter


In a deal that will likely make its rivals sit up and notice Twitter has signed a deal with the NFL that will feature hosted Tweets that include embedded video, highlights and analysis from NFL games and programs.

The NFL will create a dedicated team to produce content for Twitter not just on game days but seven days a week including in-game video from the Thursday Night games and will feature reports and video from all of a week’s games after they have aired, regardless of which network is showing the game.

The deal’s timing is interesting as it comes just before the expected IPO for Twitter, which was already top of mind for investors prior to this news.


The deal is interesting for a number of reasons. Twitter already has a partner that has an Amplify deal in Verizon, but apparently that only pertains to the Super Bowl. ESPN is also a partner, but it cannot broadcast NFL video in its tweets, even from its NFL broadcasts, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The agreement is part of Twitter’s Amplify service that enables broadcasters to show video clips and other programming, and ads, which is synchronized with programs that are currently airing, giving users a second screen experience that shows content that might not be available on the broadcast. The two share ad revenue that is generated from the tweets.

You may not be familiar with the Amplify service by name but if you watch sports, or other outlets for that matter, you have most likely witnessed it in action. Twitter already has deals with a number of major players including Turner Sports, the NCAA, ESPN, BBC America, Fox and the Weather Channel.

Hopefully this is a trend that other sports leagues will follow so that when fans are not in front of their screens that can still get more than just a taunting text message from their friends about the state of their favorite team.

(Editor’s note: Interestingly, the video doesn’t work in embedded tweets but redirects you to a Twitter page. Sample video tweet below. Follow @NFL for sponsored video tweets.)

Friday Grab Bag: FIFA World Cup Tiff and will Loon Fly?

Microsoft is looking at educational institutions in an effort to jump start sales, or at least adoption, of its Surface RT tablets. According to the company has started a policy of steep discounts to schools in an effort to push that platform’s acceptance.

How steep you ask? The tablet is available to schools and universities from now until August 31st starting at $199 for the 32GB model. Or you can go to the Microsoft store and buy the same model for $499. Such a deal.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 cheap in bundle deal
If you are in the market for both the LTE-capable version of the tablet and a smartphone then Samsung might have just what you need. It has teamed with AT&T to bundle its Galaxy Note 8 tablet for $199 when coupled with a new activation of select Samsung smartphones.

The tablet, normally $399, has Samsung technology designed to ensure its safe adoption in the business as well as the more traditional consumer friendly apps that are more commonly associated with tablets.

It is World Cup disqualifier time
At this time of year nations are putting their best foot forward in an attempt to qualify for next year’s World Cup, which will be held in Brazil. Along the qualifying route there are always a few feel good stories about nations that qualify — this is not one of them.

FIFA has just launched an investigation into player eligibility regarding athletes on both the Ethiopian and Tunisian teams, both of which had just advanced to the final round of the African World Cup according to the BBC. Sanctions will be forfeiting the match that the players participated in, if found guilty.

Google up in the air with Loon
Google is seeking to deliver Wi-Fi connectivity to the large portion of the world that is currently without by using a series of high altitude balloons that will have the ability to bounce Internet signals to each other and support users on the ground.

The company will be releasing 30 balloons in all, all over New Zealand’s South Island in an effort called Project Loon. Each balloon will rise to the stratosphere and be controlled to stay in the same spot. The initial effort will only provide Internet access with speeds that approximate 3G to roughly 60 people.

Sony Xperia Z finds a home
Sony released the Xperia Z a few months ago but if you rushed down to the local consumer electronics store to sign up for the smartphone and start enjoying all that it has to give you would have come home upset because it was not initially supported by any of the carriers. Well that has all changed.

According to Slashgear, you will now be able to get your hands on one courtesy of your friends at T-Mobile. However before you head on down, no delivery date has yet been announced.

FCC provides peek at next-gen Nexus 7
The FCC, via TechRadar, has published what looks like the features of the next generation Google Nexus 7 tablet, which appears to be manufactured by Asus, with a 1080p display.

Other features will include 2GB of memory, a switch from an Nvidia processor to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro as well as a move to a 5 megapixel camera rather than the 1.5MP in the older edition. Also included will be NFC, LTE and wireless charging.

ESPN Mobile and British Open App Fail at Live Video, Audio Coverage for Some Platforms

Sunday Update: After deleting and re-installing the British Open app things seem to be working better. We can get a live commentary show and a live link to WatchESPN (which we can’t watch because we are on Android — see below). The Open’s own radio is working, with the great BBC commentators, but the Open app’s link to ESPNRadio isn’t working. The ESPNRadio app, however, is working today so if we need to we can go native for the final round. Original Saturday post follows.

Before the British Open started we were impressed by the online and mobile options for viewing and listening to live coverage of the year’s third golf major. But after trying and failing to connect in several fashions Saturday, we’re less than impressed with the mobile performance from both ESPN and the Open’s own app.

On the ESPN side, the online live version of the TV broadcast worked fine, as long as you can remember to enable pop-ups for your browser (we spent a frustrating minute clicking on the screen to no avail before we saw the little pop-up warning in our Chrome browser and enabled the WatchESPN window). As a paying Comcast subscriber I expected to also be able to watch the coverage live on my Android smartphone, but when I loaded WatchESPN there was no Comcast option for authentication.

After a couple frustrating auto-replies from ESPN help I finally got an answer from “Jack” in customer support that says Comcast Android users are still second-class citizens. As in, no mobile video for you!

For Comcast XFINITY subscribers, WatchESPN is available for use on the following mobile devices: iPhone, iPod and iPad (must have OS 4.0 or later).

The WatchESPN application is not yet available in Android devices for Comcast subscribers, but we will be launching the service soon.

Maybe I’m a harsh judge but this is kind of unacceptable for a company like the WorldWide Leader, which presumably has lots of programming assets at its beck and call. I thought I might be able to do an end-around by using the Open’s own app, but even as the third round leaders were early on the back nine, the app’s audio and video coverage were “off the air,” with no explanation. From what I can tell it might be a problem in that the app has live coverage via the BBC for viewers in the UK, but if there is some way to switch to US-available coverage here, I can’t find it in the app. On the good side, the app has great archived video, which works superbly like a well-edited midday highlights package.

ESPNRadio worked well in my car, but the Open broadcast also didn’t work on the Samsung Stratosphere Android handset from Verizon that I have. Again, I suspect there was some issue with the Android handset not being supported by the necessary Comcast authentication. We are emailing ESPN folks now and will relay a better answer if we get one.

The bottom line is, out of the three majors so far this year the folks behind the British Open online coverage, namely ESPN, are in third place. The Masters is far ahead of all tournaments, with its solid multiple-camera options, and its good performance in online and mobile platforms. While the U.S. Open had fewer choices, its delivery and access were also far superior to the muddle that was the ESPN/Open app arrangement for the British Open. Plus, ESPN’s online menu of British Open options was mixed in with all the other things the WWL was showing on its online menu. I get it, ESPN’s got a lot going on. But is it so hard to wall off the British Open selections on a separate page? And maybe include all the other golf-related stuff there? Too many times it seems like ESPN doesn’t get it right when they are covering individual events, and the British Open is one of those times.

While I understand and respect ESPN’s decision to base online access on whether or not customers have a valid cable contract, the whole what-is and what-isn’t online for ESPN is still muddled, and the point failures for the Open are proof that ESPN still needs to figure out what its priorities are in the online/mobile space, and how it can make it less confusing for people to figure out how to get access. The fact that I, as a paying Comcast subscriber, couldn’t get access on an Android phone, should have been something ESPN called out beforehand, not buried in a support email after the fact. And I think event organizers should take a harder look at who they sell coverage rights to, if the digital access is going to be so constrained. Just seems like it’s harder than it needs to or should be.

Miss the round? Here are the highlights courtesy of the Mothership:

Adobe, NBC Team Up for Real-Time Olympic Action Apps

When NBC announced plans to stream every single bit of Olympic action from London this summer, you knew eventually there would be an app for that. Today, NBC and Adobe announced they’ve been working together to create apps for iPhones, iPads, and Android phones and tablets. Here’s a short video blurb to explain:

What is confusing (and will no doubt frustrate many folks) is that there is not one, but TWO apps — one is called NBC Olympics, and one is called NBC Olympics Live Extra. The latter one is the one that’s most interesting. Read here to see what NBC says it does:

The NBC Olympics Live Extra app will live stream every athletic competition for the first time ever. In all, the app will live stream more than 3,500 total programming hours, including every athletic competition, all 32 sports, the awarding of all 302 medals as well as event rewinds. NBC Olympics Live Extra will also live stream the Olympic content that airs on the four NBCU cable channels – NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC and Bravo.

In another first, NBC Olympics Live Extra will provide multiple concurrent streams for select sports, such as gymnastics (each apparatus), track and field (each event), and tennis (up to five courts). For example, during a session of track and field, instead of viewing only a single feed that moves from event to event, a user can choose to watch a stream dedicated to a specific event, such as the long jump or javelin.

Compared to that, the second app sounds like a forgotten orphan:

The second app, simply titled NBC Olympics, will provide short-form highlights, TV and online schedules, live results, columns and the new Primetime Companion feature – the ultimate complementary, second-screen experience for NBC’s nightly primetime Olympic broadcasts.

Well, OK. Maybe it was too hard to put two apps together? But we’re just glad to have the opportunity to watch online, so no more kvetching.

Of course, nothing this good could possibly be free but if you are already a paying customer for a cable contract that includes CNBC and MSNBC, you’re covered. How do you verify mobile devices so that you can watch? Here is a quick list from NBC:

— Download the NBC Olympics Live Extra app
— Open the app
— Tap the “Touch Here & Get Ready” callout
— Select your cable, satellite or telco provider
— Enter the username and password that corresponds with your account
You are signed in throughout the Games on that device!

Plus, NBC has also created an entire Live Extra Help Site page, complete with a video featuring Carson Daly. Why Carson Daly, we are not sure. But he does a very professional teleprompter-reading job of explaining how to set it up.

The Euro 2012 Tournament Starts this Weekend-ESPN Will be there for all of the Matches

The 2012 UEFA European Football Championship aka the Euro 2012 starts today to see which national soccer team will emerge victorious in the 14th European Championship which sees 16 nations vying for the title. In the next championship, in 2016, the field will expand to 24 teams.

Aside from bragging rights the winner gets something much more substantial, an automatic entry into the 2013 FIFA Confederation Cup that will be held next year in Brazil. The event, which will carry on for the next month will see matches held in eight cities sprawled across two nations-Poland and the Ukraine.

While I enjoy a good match I am really in no position to predict who is a favorite or which teams are the top ones to follow. I would suggest heading over to The Big Lead and look at Ty Duffy’s body of work on the subject.

The tournament has had a touch of scandal currently, with the continued growth of the match fixing scandal in Italy, something that initially helped kill that nation’s bid for the tournament and now sounds like it might have killed the national team’s chance of participating.

A few days ago the Italian team captain, Cesare Prandelli said it would not bother him if the team was withdraws from the event due to the scandal, which has been ongoing since 2006 in one form or another. There were 14 arrests last month and a player was dropped from the squad. As of this writing it has not happened.

In addition the BBC has reported that racism and neo-Nazis could be a problem and that former England team captain Sol Campbell is advising English fans to watch the matches from the safety of their home. And last but not least there are reports from Fox Sports that the jerseys sold at the matches contain toxic chemicals.

The Finalists
Group A
Czech Republic

Group B

Group C

Group D

The official site for the tournament is well laid out and carries a lot of current and past information, including how the teams did in the recent batch of friendlies, videos, photos, past history of the event, updates from team camps and general news.

There is the usual data on teams and when the event starts statistics will start to fill in on each game. What I like is that there is a number of games in the fan section where you can make prediction on who wins their group, who will win the Golden Boot, and other events

ESPN has taken the soccer broadcasting bull by the horns and will be broadcasting all of the matches, spread out across the ever growing network of channels and outlets that it owns. It has been working to make itself a much stronger player in the soccer broadcast world and so far it seems to be paying off.

This will be a real test to its commitment and I am looking forward to watching as many of the matches as possible. I will also be interested if I hear anything about this event from a number of friends who suddenly became soccer fans when the US Women advanced in the World Cup but had never mentioned the sport prior or after to me.