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How will you watch the Olympics?

Claire Stocks | 13:31 UK time, Wednesday, 8 August 2007

London - So, a year from now we will be licking our lips at the prospect of the start of the Olympics (or worrying how few athletics medals Britain are going to win, depending on your point of view).

In fact, the Games will already be under way as the Olympic football tournament always starts a few days ahead of the opening ceremony.

Brits have not had a team to cheer since 1960 (thanks to the petty politics of the home nations’ football associations) but that will hopefully change by 2012 – and earlier if the England women’s team do well at this year’s World Cup.

Next year however, I am predicting a lot more people in this country will be watching the football – mainly because of the fantastic rights portfolio we have, coupled with the time difference.

There will be the overall Olympic coverage you would expect on terrestrial TV – but this time we will have six further streams on the interactive channels (less if you have Freeview) and I'd envisage one largely dedicated to football.

And they will all be available on the web (UK only) too.

Beijing's Olympic stadium is flooded with light as the one year countdown to the Games begins

With most of the action taking place between 2am and midday UK time – and a lot of the finals in the 9am-10am slot - we’re anticipating high demand for video on the web in particular.

Especially as the event will follow football’s European Championships – for which we also have web rights (as we did for some World Cup games last year) which will drive up usage and knowledge of the service.

We did it for the 2004 Olympics but video on the web was in a different place then - broadband figures were a fraction of what they are now and You Tube did not even exist.

These days the majority of households have broadband (60%) and high enough connection rates to make viewing video a pleasure not a trial - and that will only grow.

Of course the time difference means many people are likely to be in the office and some companies’ firewalls may prevent access - not that we would encourage people to get distracted from their work anyway…

The “new” thing about next year is that we will also have some rights to show some video on mobile phones as well.

And we are really interested to see what the demand is here.

There are more than 2bn phones in the world and they are now ubiquitous especially among the under 30s.

I was recently quoted a survey which claimed the majority of young people would rather lose access to TV than their phone – and that if we lose a wallet we report it in 26 hours; but if we lose our mobile phone we report it in 68 minutes!

However, most people still use their phone for one of only four (comparatively) basic things (text, phone call, photos and as an alarm clock – I pity the world's alarm clock manufacturers who must be suffering a similar fate inflicted by the internet on Encyclopaedia Britannica).

Internet access and watching video remain unchartered waters for the majority, even though the functionality is there.

Our media consumption will be radically different from the 1948 Olympics - held in London

For instance, the 2006 Olswang convergence survey found that whilst 66% of the 1500 people questioned listened to music whilst commuting, and 45% listened to radio, respondents said that they would rather sleep or do nothing than watch music videos, TV programmes or films.

But despite all this confusing and contradictory information, the projection that mobile phones will eventually overtake computers as the prime way of accessing the internet does seem pretty convincing.

The commonly cited mantra is that the mobile phone market is about where the internet was 10 years ago – so while so much of the detail is unclear, one can be pretty certain of the overall trends.

The fact most people do not use the full array of their phone's functionality yet is not because they won’t – but because of a combination of confusing charges and misguided approach from the service providers - as well as lack of ease of use.

The latter is definitely changing fast – with the turnover of new phones incredibly high the latest models can penetrate very quickly (unlike bulky hardware devices such as TVs or computers which we change far less frequently).

It will be interesting to see how Apple's iPhone – with its touch-pad screen and sexy look (and hefty price tag) – raises the bar when it launches in the UK later this year.

It will also be interesting to see when the phone operators are forced to start changing their pricing models in the way ISPs have so that we now all regard the internet as free (even though we do invariably pay for it via our cable or phone packages).

One thing we do know – is that the appetite for sport on mobiles is very high. The BBC Sport WAP site is the most popular BBC WAP service by far.

Our live text commentary of the Federer v Nadal game topped 100,000 page impressions on mobile (aided by a rare sunny day and a five-set thriller) – which would have put it among the top-hitting web pages on when we launched it in 2000.

Anyway – we think all this means that the real moment for mobiles will be the 2012 Games. But I would like to hear what kind of service you’d like us to offer next year. Let me know.

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