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BBC gives itself a gold in 700Gbit-a-second Olympic vid sprint

Athletes did OK too

Almost three million people watched the Olympics on a mobile phone while half a million ogled and fondled their slabs on Sunday, 5 August - the day Andrew Murray won gold, Usain Bolt ran 100m in 9.63 seconds and the BBC recorded peak video streaming to handheld gadgets.

Overall, 51.9 million people watched Olympic broadcasts from the Beeb. It took over a couple of broadcast channels on Freeview, and more than twenty on Sky's satellite platform, enabling viewers to select the sport they'd like to watch rather than the channel they'd like to watch it on. The internet service also allowed selection by time and sport, enabling viewers to skip instantly to the end of the 100m dash.

The first week of the games, unsurprisingly, broke online records, with 29 million video requests and 17 million people hitting their Red Button to get additional broadcast channels. A week later the Red-Button total was up to 23.8 million, while the online traffic was up to 34.6 million, but it's worth noting the Red-Button users only count if they watch for more than 15 minutes.

In total the corporation shifted 2.8 petabytes of data, and as Bradley Wiggins peddled his way to a gold medal men's individual time trial the flow peaked at 700Gb/sec.

Alternative viewing platforms shifted throughout the day: visits from PCs peaked around lunchtime while mobile phones took off at 6pm as workers travelled home. They switched to tablets during the evening as viewers took advantage of having a second screen. TV remains the media-consumption vehicle of choice: the alternatives combined never hit more than 20 per cent and some of that is second-screen, but the change is certainly in the air and even TV isn't what it used to be.

The Freeview experience, controlled using the Red Button then the Blue Button, showed live streams of the most popular sports. The additional bandwidth available on the Sky platform gave the impression of being able to switch between venues with its Gantt chart of sports, even if one sometimes found the venue to be deserted as empty platforms were broadcast, silently, while athletes and the audience arranged themselves.

The live internet streams were similar, but the BBC also made recordings available almost instantly along with bookmarks so one could skip the preamble and get right down to the action. The 100m dash outcome bookmark attracted 13,000 clicks, but the facility also encouraged one to explore some of the more esoteric sports, such as trampolining or BMX, in the knowledge that one could jump straight in.

The BBC is justifiably proud of its coverage, which shows its route towards being a provider of content rather than a broadcaster of channels, but opposition to the licence fee seems ever increasing and, by the time of the next Olympics, the end of the BBC's royal charter will be in sight. Then decisions about its future will probably already have been made. ®

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