Apps, platforms, other tools add to the live Olympics experience

By MARIA SCIULLO | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Published: February 5, 2014

The summer Olympic Games in London heralded two huge advancements for fans across the globe keeping track. First, the sheer number of viewers watching through conventional TV (217 million), via the NBCOlympics.com website and NBC and Comcast apps (82.1 unique users), plus accessed video streams viewed online or through apps (159.3 million), were unprecedented in scope.

And then there was the wide variety of apps: shortcuts to follow your favorite sport or athletes in real time, apps to outline marathon routes or describe the history of dirt bikes in the games.

Smart tourist bureaus created apps for visitors that tracked myriad helpful suggestions, including traffic and bus routes, restaurants, weather and, of course, places to go and see when you weren’t at the sports venues.

In the two years since, there doesn’t appear to have been a giant leap on Sochi’s tourism front, but Comcast — which owns NBCUniversal — is pushing a tempting menu of watch-it-now choices for the sporting events.

Its Xfinity X1 and X2 platforms offer more than 500 hours of live viewing through the five NBCU networks and the Live Extra Site app available onscreen for subscribers but also workable on mobile devices. Four years ago in Vancouver, a similar setup broadcast 90 hours.

More than 1,000 hours of live streaming across the 98 events is planned. A feature similar to the NFL’s “Red Zone” is the “Gold Zone,” where the day’s highlights across venues can be accessed with a click of the remote.

Every gold medal final will be available across platforms, and if you’re a big curling fan, you can see that, too.

New this time around: Home users of the NBC app need to authenticate only once to watch live. And NBC, with its other networks (such as NBCSN, MSNBC, USA Network, CNBC) will allow X1 and X2 subscribers to restart some events that are just finishing up live broadcasts.

A stroll through app stores for iOS and Android yields the expected lot: among them, the Team USA Pinsanity app for the pin-collection obsessed, AT&T’s #ItsOurTime app that allows users to follow favorite sports or teams via social media, as well as the 2014 Team USA Road to Sochi App.

Some sports sites, such as Bleacherreport.com, have come up with games-centric apps.

Of course, there is an official Sochi.ru 2014 app, promising streamlined information on results, getting tickets, locating the Olympic or ParaOlympic torch relay.

Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on perceived social aberrations has not gone unnoticed: Several people on the Apple site wrote biting reviews. “With the added homophobia feature!” wrote “LaPaloma.”

However and wherever you watch the Olympics, the games begin Thursday with a few skiing and skating events. Opening ceremonies are Friday.


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