Comcast mobile app provides free live streams of Sochi Olympics

Comcast mobile app provides free live streams of Sochi Olympics

February 5th, 2014 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Screenshot of Comcast's proposed 2014 Winter Olympic coverage on a mobile application.

Photo by

BROADCAST OLYMPICS CHANNELS

• WRCB Channel 3 (NBC): 85 hours

• NBC Sports: 230 hours

• USA: 43 hours

• MSNBC: 45 hours

• CNBC: 36 hours

• NBCOlympics.com: 1,000 hours

• NBC SPorts Live Extra App: 25 streams, 24 hours per day

Source: NBCUniversal

HOW TO WATCH THE OLYMPICS

Without a cable subscription

• Over-the-air on WRCB without a cable subscription

With a cable subscription

• On one of five cable channels, including NBC

• Using the NBC Sports Live Extra App on a mobile device or on Comcast's X1 platform

• Through one of Comcast's 300 mobile hotspots in Chattanooga, which are free for everyone during the Olympics

TIME DIFFERENCES

• Socci is nine hours ahead of Chattanooga. Most events will be broadcast live between 3 a.m. and 3 p.m. EST. Prime time programming on NBC will replay the day's top events.

At one time, watching the Olympics meant tuning into a single over-the-air channel and depending on media companies to choose which events were fit to broadcast.

Then cable came along. Suddenly, there were five channels instead of one, showing five times as many sports - including obscure fan favorites like curling and bandy.

This year, the staggering amount of Olympics content available to viewers blows previous efforts out of the water, doubling the amount of content available from the last two Winter Games combined.

For the first time ever, fans of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics will be able to watch 98 events on 25 simultaneous live streams, thanks to advances in online technology that allow Comcast to broadcast the Olympics through the Internet to a specially-designed app that's available for free on mobile devices.

To watch it all around the clock, four viewers would have to work together for the entirety of the Sochi games with almost no sleep.

"Of the 1,500 hours of content we're broadcasting - and you couldn't watch it all if you wanted to - you've got 85 hours per day that's going to be delivered," said Doug Guthrie, senior vice president of Comcast.

Because of the nine-hour time zone difference between Sochi and the U.S. East Coast, prime time events with highlights from the day will still be tape-delayed. But from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m., events will stream live as they occur, for anyone with the time and endurance to watch them.

"Except for the opening ceremonies, every one of the events will be live, and at night you'll be seeing those replayed again," Guthrie said.

Taking a page from the NFL, NBC will debut the so-called "Gold Zone" online and on the NBC Sports Live Extra app, which will offer non-stop highlights of gold medal events and medal ceremonies during the games. And there's even more content available to subscribers of video on demand services, with more than 200 hours of personal stories, highlights and recaps from the prior day.

Then there's NBCOlympics.com, which will offer even more streaming in line with what's available on the NBC Sports Live Extra app to authenticated cable customers.

Olympic fans need only validate their cable subscription by providing their login and password for their provider - which in the Chattanooga area can include Comcast, Charter, AT&T or EPB - to stream live Olympic content, which they can view for free for a limited time from the road using Comcast's more than 300 WiFi hotspots across the Chattanooga area.

But to get the big screen streaming experience, customers will need to be signed up with Comcast and have an upgraded X1 platform, said Russell Byrd, senior director of government and public affairs.

"This is a game changer, something we have that none of our competitors have," Byrd said.

Other cable providors, such as EPB, offer the full suite of Olympics video on demand as well as a specialized viewing experience that will group together the Olympic TV channels for easy channel flipping. EPB customers can also enjoy the same access to mobile apps and NBCOlympics.com content as Comcast and others.

"SmartView is always available, that's where you can put up the four screens, with one primary screen being larger," said EPB spokesman John Pless. "We're getting all the coverage that NBC provides."

But only Comcast will make available all 25 streams through the set-top box on the big screen, Byrd said.

Cord cutters and those without a cable providor aren't totally left out in the cold this winter. They can still watch 185 hours of over-the-air primetime coverage on NBC, if they can get the bunny ears to work.

And there'a always Twitter, through which NBC has set up its SEEiT program to link Twitter users directly to streaming Olympic content. Still, with more than 2,300 NBC employees on the ground in Sochi and more than 200 million viewers tuning in from the U.S., this could be the year that cable providers hope will bring cord cutters back home.

"What we found is rather than hide from people, people who streamed it during the London Olympics during the day were actually coming home and watching it at night," Guthrie said. "We think with X1 and with the advances in technology we offer, we're going to start winning customer back to this mix."

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6315.