It’s been a rocky start to the Sochi Olympics. I am not talking about the inability to flush toilet paper, the euthanized dogs and cats or even the poor quality of the hotels. No, I am talking about the bitter disappointment I feel in regards to NBCOlympics.com. When I initially read about NBC’s declaration that they would be stream every event live on their website, I was thrilled. Finally, I can watch random sports in their entirety without a TV producer deciding what was exciting and what wasn’t. Unfortunately, reality has proven to be far less than I was expecting.
On the first day of the Olympics, February 6, I eagerly logged onto NBCOlympics.com first thing in the morning, logged in with my Time Warner Cable information and looked for live streaming of the Women’s Mogul Qualifications. All I could find was a single video about Hannah Kearney, which included her gold medal run from 2010. Um, I don’t care. I want to see the Sochi qualifications. Okay, maybe NBC is having some trouble with their website. Perhaps the live streaming isn’t working and I can watch videos of events that have already completed. I immediately clicked on the Snowboarding link on the top of the website and looked for a video on the Men’s Snowboarding Slopestyle Qualifications, which took place at 10 am in Sochi. All they had were some pictures and a video of Shaun White explaining what the new Slopestyle event was less than mellow. I clicked on the other events on their menus at the top of the screen and came up with past medal totals, clips on what athletes do in their spare time and more, but nothing in regards to the actual events that took place on February 6 before I woke up halfway around the world.
After a few frustrating minutes attempting to navigate the NBC Olympics website, I exited to Google and tried to search for NBC Olympics Live Extra. I was immediately to taken to a video of the Men’s USA vs. Canada gold medal hockey game – in its entirety – from 2010. I clicked on Watch Video on the menu on the top of the screen and was taken to – gasp! – a video that promised me that I could watch the full replay of the Alpine Skiing: Men’s Downhill Training 1. I quickly clicked on play and waited impatiently through the commercial only to end up watching a clip about Ted Ligety cooking in his kitchen. WHAT?! Don’t get me wrong, I like Ted Ligety. He seems like a nice guy and he is the Olympic flag bearer, but I want to watch an actual Olympic event! I exited out of the cooking video and clicked randomly on everything I could on the website, results, schedule, individual sports and the enticing Watch Video menu. Finally, I was able to come up with a Live Stream of the Ice Skating Team Event featuring the pairs competition (I missed the men’s portion and could not go back and watch it from the beginning). Don’t ask me how I found this as I am confident that I could not replicate my success.
Once I finally located a video, I was pleasantly surprised to hear some knowledgeable commentators come on and offer some insights as to what exactly the new team event is and how well the skaters were doing in the pairs event. Commercial breaks were inserted randomly and distractingly in the middle of comments, replays and, most frustratingly, during the results. Most commercial breaks were brief and only involved 1 or 2 ads, but NBC went all out during the warm ups and re-icing and played solid 5+ minutes of ads. Fortunately, I located a mute button handily displayed on the bottom of the video and clicked that whenever I saw an ad come on.
Fast forward to February 7 and my second attempt on NBCOlympics.com. I happily watched the Full Replay of the Alpine Skiing: Men’s Downhill Training 1 and the Full Replay of the Team Figure Skating including the Men and the Pairs by using the Top Highlights and Replays menu on the left of the screen. Unfortunately, I was unable to determine if there was anything to watch live on the Schedule as the screen featuring the schedule is all messed up and keeps showing me February 8 regardless of which date I click on.
So far, I am underwhelmed with NBC’s online presence. I don’t know if it was the fact that I set my expectations too high or if I misunderstood their press release, but I am not satisfied. I find NBCOlympics.com difficult to navigate, frustratingly light on videos of actual events, and a huge memory/space/bandwidth sucker. Be careful if you leave this website open as it will refresh itself constantly without any intervention on your part. Accept the fact that you will have to watch a commercial before you can see the length of the video or even know if you selected the correct video. Be prepared to wait for videos to buffer and for commercials to come up randomly without any timing rhyme or reason. If you are fortunate enough to find an event that you can stream live, make sure you go to the bathroom before it begins as there is no way to pause the action.
Bottom Line – It is 2014 and I know that we can do better. NBCOlympics.com may look pretty, but all of its bells and whistles can’t disguise the facts that the videos of the actual Olympics events are nowhere to be found. The pretty pictures and pop up ads ensure that you will have delays in loading the page, some spacing issues with menus compressing and disappearing off the screen, buffering delays, stop script messages, crash notifications and other random error message I am unfamiliar with. Everyone is spending their time complaining about the Sochi amenities, but I would give just about anything to be there to actually get to SEE the events when they happen!