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Olympics Proved Streaming Web and TV do not Mix

As I go about my daily routine, my iPhone buzzes with updates on events at the 2012 Summer Olympics that flows in through push updates.  The U.S. women gymnastics team won gold.  Good for them, that makes me proud!  Michael Phelps wins his 19th medal, that’s damn cool!  U.S. women soccer held a determined North Korean team at bay by winning 1-0.  These ladies rock!  As I see highlights on my phone and read my twitter feed, I turn to my laptop to watch events live if there are any.  All this is not new.  It is the same for any news updates.  What is new is the sad reality that when I finally sit and turn on the tele, it feels like summer reruns.  The drama is gone.

A week ago, I was in northern Colorado at a Boyscout camp with my son.  The camp was isolated enough that my phone went dead.  I felt lost without my stream of updates, well until I looked up at the night sky devoid of light pollution.  The point is television, much like newspapers, is inherently a delayed medium.  That has always been true and the life before the web 2.0, invasive social media and streaming online events, we as a society was content with the delay.  However today’s necessity on immediacy makes the delay unbearable.  We still need television right?  It feeds our imagination, plays on our emotions and cause us to think (well maybe not that much).  But for breaking news-worthy events, the television, much like its dying cousin the newspaper, is a source that makes no sense.  With the streaming web, I get immediate breaking news, personal opinions and in depth analysis from trusted sources all before I sit for dinner with the television evening news running in the background.  I am not bragging, it is just a fact of life for many of us and it works well for many things except for sporting events.

The Olympics are special in that you can feel the tension as the athletes prep for their event.  You can see the drama develop between two rivals as they slowly line up.  You yell and holler as they explode at the start of the event.  You feel the angst as the athlete fades and realize the dream will not end well or the euphoria of the years of sacrifice paying off.  The visual medium is critical.  This is where at times you wish the streaming web would work like television.

Of course you can watch live events streaming from the web such as the Olympics but compromises must be made.  You have to clear pre-check such as logging in with your cable or satellite subscription, something this cord-cutter does not have.  You have to deal with buffering and syncing issues.  And of course you have to bring your laptop and TV together if you wish to share the stream with an audience.  None of this is that big of an issue, it just an intrusive approach.  My mantra has always been if you have to fiddle with a technology constantly than it is no longer transparent.  Streaming web updates are transparent, reading on the web is transparent, watching television is transparent.  Streaming the web on television is not.

One day I will look back at this post and giggle at how primitive we must have been, much like the days of fiddling with rabbit ears to bring in the new UHF channel on black and white CRT screens.  Until then, like oil and water, I will fiddle with my web/tv.

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