The BBC's Olympic Coverage Was a Gold Medal-Deserving Triumph

By Jon Partridge on at

The BBC did a cracking job covering the London Olympics -- too right, we last had it in 1948, so of course Auntie was going to go all-out with her coverage! Spanning 24 different live channels, online and on mobile, the coverage left absolutely nothing in the dark so you could follow your favourite sport right from the get-go. And follow it you did, according to stats the Beeb released this week.

While the medals were pouring in for Team GB, records were being broken not just on the track and field, but with regards to traffic figures too. 55m global visitors logged on to the BBC Sport website to check out what was going on during the games, alongside 35m UK visitors across the whole games. Daily, an average of 9.5m global users and 7.1m British users took a peek to see what was going on, smashing all previous records for online traffic, which peaked on a single day at 7.4m global and 5.7m British visitors.

Peak audiences for Team GB's medal moments were bigger than anything the BBC has ever shown before, as over a 24 hour period on the busiest Olympic days, traffic exceeded that for the entire BBC coverage of the 2010 World Cup. Woah. On the busiest day, the BBC transferred over 2.8 petabytes of data, with the peak traffic of 700Gb/s taking place when Bradley Wiggins crossed the line for Gold. Heavy traffic indeed.

Video content requests were also heavy hitting, with 106m requests for Olympic video content across all online platforms, which is more than double for any other previous event covered by the BBC. 9.2m UK mobile browsers checked in to the coverage too, and made up 34 per cent of all daily browsers, while there were 12m requests for video on mobile devices as well. I'm guessing those on the commute home didn't want to miss a single medal -- did that include you?

The Tennis Singles Finals, featuring Serena Williams and Andy Murray, was the most requested live video, garnering a total of 820,000 requests, with Bradley Wiggins' Gold-medal winning Time-Trial receiving a pretty large 729,000 requests. Of course, with 24 different streams available, audiences were savvy enough to flick between them to catch a bevy of different sports, with a lot of switching occurring to catch Team GB medal moments.

The BBC's biggest ambition was to ensure audiences could grab coverage wherever they were, and whenever they wanted, and they largely succeeded in this. For the most part, the TV was the main hub of accessing coverage, and it reached a total of 51.9m people. Of course, the TV was not the only way to access the Olympics, as it really was a multi-platform Games with access from all sorts of digital devices. Computers, mobiles, tablets and connected TVs were all taking part in checking out the streams, as people continued to follow the Games on their mobiles as they got out the office, with tablet usage then continuing the sporting festival as people watched in bed.

On the other hand though, 3D didn't quite pick up the same momentum as some of the successful athletes. Less than 0.5 per cent of BBC viewers clocked in to watch the opening ceremony in 3D. And there was no sign of any improvement in 3D watching, as only 66,000 out of more than 20 million viewers checked out Usain Bolt scream his way to 100m victory. To be honest, it was probably over before people could adjust their set and get their glasses on! Regardless, the Beeb didn't really advertise the 3D coverage too much, so it is only their own fault that more people did not tune in, not to mention the fact that 3D set penetration in the UK is still pretty low.

Still, the BBC had the goal of delivering a fantastic digital Olympics to ensure that viewers could check out what they wanted, when they wanted, and by all signs above, it was a successful triumph. Let's hope it's just as good next time around. [BBC, BBC Blog, HDTVtest]