More. Live. Here. Now.
Throw in "free," and that's apparently what people want from NBC's Olympics coverage. And it's almost what you get from the network's streams to computers, tablets and smartphones — as long as you don't count the cost of the devices and their data connections, or of fulfilling the NBC London Live Extra app's requirement that you be signed up with a cable or satellite provider.
Get past those barriers, and you can have an entertaining viewing experience, one that's even better now that NBC seems to have worked out some of the app's kinks. You still have to wait for it to buffer, and you have to adjust to the seemingly random cuts it makes to ads and infographics.
But as long as you're not expecting an HD/3-D experience, watching on a tablet or smartphone can be oddly satisfying, in a tech-forward sort of way. And the truth is, if the event is absorbing enough, you lose yourself in it and the viewing device disappears.
As for finding what you want to watch on the Live Extra App, it's not difficult, but it's not as easy as it might be. Rather than using a standard TV grid, the main page simply tells you which events are available live at that moment, without telling you when they started or when they'll end. While that information is a few clicks away, it would be nicer to have it where you're most likely to want it.
The app also won't tell you if the event you're about to watch comes complete with a British announcer or is streaming with natural sound only — and there doesn't seem to be an intuitive way to find that out. Yesterday, for example, you had announcers for the gymnasts, cycling and beach volleyball, but not for handball, synchronized swimming, springboard diving or the USA men's volleyball match against Tunisia.
The talk/no talk distinction can lead to compromises. The live streaming feed of the men's preliminary 3-meter springboard diving allowed you to see divers you know would never make it into prime time on NBC — which basically shows Americans, medal contenders and anyone with a good (meaning, usually, sob) story. Yet for all we may complain sometimes about excess analyst chatter, I found I wanted someone to explain the difference between a good and a mediocre dive (a lousy dive, we can all recognize), and I missed that fabulous multi-still-photo effect NBC adds.
On the other hand, it was a blessing to watch synchronized swimming pairs with music only. True, I could not tell you why the Australian team scored so much lower than the Brazilians, unless the judges were particularly captivated by the Brazilians' outfits, which featured a map of the circulatory system done in sequins. (I admit that could have used some explaining.) But I also didn't much care.
Still, just as the streams aren't available to everyone, they're also not for everyone. We all like to think we're Olympics purists, longing to see the Games run wild in their natural state. But it doesn't take many shots of empty venues or much time spent wondering when the athletes will arrive, who they are, or whether you've already missed them, to see the value of network curation.
Because sometimes, more is just more.