From a sportswriter’s notebook | Comcast customers are in for an Olympic treat

X1 Olympics image 1
Courtesy of ComcastTwinCities

notebookViewers of past Olympic Games pretty much depended on live and tape-delay single-network coverage, but NBC and Comcast officials say their upcoming Rio Olympics coverage is designed to reach “a new generation of Olympic viewers.”

Over 6,000 hours of live, on-demand and online streaming content is expected to be available through 11 broadcast and cable networks: NBC, NBC Sports Network, Bravo, CNBC, Golf Channel, MSNBC, Telemondo, USA Network, NBC Universo, NBC Soccer and NBC Basketball, as well as Comcast Xfinity’s “X1 Olympics experience” available on mobile devices.

This “unmatched…first comprehensive and integrated” Olympic coverage begins later this week, and the MSR last week was invited to an individual private screening of the new bells and whistles — if the 30-minute demo was any indication of the real thing, Comcast customers are in for an Olympic treat.

For starters there’s the “Front Row to Rio” that’s designed to access all Olympic programming in one place simply by going to the main menu.

— Its “Gold Zone” is similar to the NFL Red Zone channel where viewers can get “wrap-around” live coverage in real time.  And viewers can set up their favorite Olympic athlete or athletes, teams and nations by “bookmarking” them through Favorites. “It’s all right there,” proclaimed Jill Hornbacher, the cable company’s external communications director as we watched the demo on an HD wall-hung screen.

X1 Olympics screen grab
Courtesy of ComcastTwinCities

Watching it on something much bigger and better than my old classic reminded me of why I don’t like shopping for TVs — nothing I see in the demonstration room will replicate what it’s like in my little abode.

“It really put the viewer in the driver’s seat. [We] want to make the experience as seamless as possible,” Hornbacher continued. Then Product Deployment Manager, Tom Henchal, handed me the new Comcast X1 remote, which he quickly pointed out “is extremely fast” for viewers searching for content. But he also noted that it has a voice feature which enables users to find it quickly. He also made mention of the “4,500 hours of content” available through streaming after you download the NBC Sports App. Olympic viewers could virtually sequester themselves anywhere and binge their hearts out watching this year’s Summer Olympic games, if they so desired.

“There is so much that surrounds the Olympics. No matter what sport, what athlete or what nation you follow, the streaming capacity is [there] for the user. It’s a beautiful experience,” noted Henchal.

For sure, it’s a far cry from my growing up days when only two channels, one American and one Canadian, existed (if you live in areas where this was possible) to watch the Olympics for a few prime time hours and weekends.

Not anymore, says both Hornbacher and Henchal. “It gives you a lot of flexibility,” especially when you now can get NBC’s Olympic coverage on tablets and smart phones along with your favorite television at home or away, added Henchal. “We continue to evolve and innovate,” stated Hornbacher.

Finally, there is a catch – you must be a Comcast customer or become one to get all this good Olympic stuff beyond the traditional peacock network or upgrade if you’re an existing Comcast customer.

The two company officials stated that the content will be available for at least a month after everyone leaves Rio to return to their respective country.

“This technology is only going to get better and better,” said Henchal. “There are more things coming after the Olympics,”


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