As a boy, growing up, one of my first memories of the Olympic movement was traveling with my family to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada. Seeing the athletic feats first hand in alpine skiing and luge particularly struck a cord with me. Learning of the personal struggles athletes make in order to rise to the top of their game as competitors, let alone medal winning Olympians, is truly inspiring. And so when my role at Comcast allowed me, starting in 2014, to help shape the at-home experience of the Olympics I jumped at the chance.
This week in sharing our latest experience we’ve crafted for PyeongChang with the public I had the chance to spend time with two very special Olympians.
- Sasha Cohen: In Atlanta this week she shared with a crowd, filled with young girls from the Georgia Figure Skating Association just starting their own journeys, what she most cherishes about becoming an Olympian. She recounted the sense of accomplishment in medaling, however its not what she most cherishes about her skating career. Her advice to those starting out is to appreciate the journey… the preparation thru training, scripting the programs, designing her costumes, etc. For those of us who build products for a living I think this also can hold true. Not that driving your KPIs isn’t gratifying (it is) but it really is the craft, the team effort and the process that I believe provides lasting joy. Sage advice from a 33-year-old Olympian.
- Scott Hamilton: One of the all time greats in figure skating, he not only made his mark as a gold medalist himself but in helping many of us at home experience the routines of countless others over the years as a broadcast announcer. In gaining a peak into who he is as a man I can say this… the journey of becoming an Olympian really forged his medal and shaped who he is to the core. Nothing came easy to him in life — from battling major health issues as young boy to facing the world without the support of his mom when she died battling cancer while he was just 19. Thru it all he had to actively choose the path he took and no one would have blamed him for succumbing to the obstacles he faced. He said a big reason for his success was “making the easy decisions” like choosing to not to party the night before a big early morning workout — decisions he saw others, who were more physically gifted than he was, not make. I can’t wait to read his new book coming out next week.
As I reflect on what our product development team has put together for Comcast customers I can proudly say its the best way to experience the Olympics short of (or maybe including) going to PyeongChang yourself.
My personal favorites from the experience we’ve built this year:
- Voice Remote: We’ve leaned into what we know from the Rio Olympics were the most popular phrases people say (mining the now 500 million commands processed each month). For example focusing in on the names of sports and the top athletes over the ability to search by nation. We’ll have live results and always connect you with something interesting to watch.
- Olympic Channels: While previous Olympics had areas by sport, there wasn’t an easy way to enjoy a lot of video without picking and playing each one. For PyeongChang we’ll offer 50 virtual Olympic Channels powered as dynamic playlists… allowing you to both lean back and enjoy or lean forward to skip to a segment that looks interesting. We’ll apply to all the sports as well as curated topics like biggest upsets and funniest moments. In a waywe’ve tried to combine the simplicity of live with the control of OnDemand.
- XFINITY Stream App: In the past if you wanted to stream live the Olympics on your mobile phone or laptop you had to go install or signin to the NBC Sports App. For PyeongChang while you can still do that, we’re making it easy for those already used to the Stream App to make that video just a tap away whether you’re home or not. No muss, no fuss.
- X1 Sports App: For over half the X1 households that use this feature every month, it needs no introduction. For the Winter Olympics it’s sporting its own tab right alongside the other major sports in season right now. You’ll find it complete with everything you’d expect: all the events live at that time, background info, current results, related videos, and of course the ability to tune right in. Just press the “C” key on your remote to pull it up.
Creating this multi-platform experience that brings you the events in the way that you want was only possible given the previous technology investments we’ve made over the years. It does feel like this Olympics experience is a glimpse into the future of TV where the viewer has the choice of when, where, and how they want to watch. I can’t wait for you to try it and hope you take a moment to root for TeamUSA. It all starts on Feb 8th.