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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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July 1, 2008 9:55 AM

UPDATE: You say ET, I say PT -- let's call the whole thing off

Posted by Ron Judd

So I've been having this ongoing e-mail dialogue for three days with a person from NBC, who shall remain unnamed because ... well, because I'm such a nice person. He is in London on a Blackberry, I'm here on the marginally relevant West Coast. The gist of the debate: How is it possible that after four days, NBC has been unable to give me accurate programming info for when and where Olympic Trials coverage will run on local television?

He keeps sending me schedules. I keep tuning in and finding them, amazingly, wrong.

Well, last night an explanation finally came about. Much of NBC's trials coverage, especially midweek, is on its USA Network feed. Mr. NBC has been insisting that trials coverage on that channel should run at the same local time on both coasts. IE, last night's swimming coverage should be at 8 p.m. on USA, whether you're in Ballard or Boston. The glitch: It was not, in fact, on USA at 8 p.m. for DirecTV satellite customers, who probably tuned in at 8 p.m. to find track and field coverage, scheduled for 11 p.m. on the NBC schedule.

Here's why: USA is a "two-feed" network, one for the East Coast, one delayed three hours (like everything else in the world) for the West Coast. This allows the network to plug a show, say, "Tuesdays at 8," on both coasts. Most (I didn't say ALL) cable systems, including Comcast in the Puget Sound area, broadcast the West Coast USA net feed. DirecTV -- and other satellite systems, including Dish Network , a reader reports -- goes with the East Coast feed for all its customers, everywhere.

Result: If you have DirecTV, you need to subtract three hours from the advertised times for all Olympic Trials coverage. This is a mixed blessing. It makes it tough for poor scribes like us to tell you, simply, when something's on TV, without resorting to the proverbial -- and, it appears, necessary -- "check your local listings." On the other hand, local DirecTV customers this week are getting Olympic Trials coverage in real time -- concurrent with East Coast viewers. That means some of the swimming and track coverage truly IS live here -- but only if you're watching on satellite, or tuned in to the East Coast-timeslot Internet simulcast on nbcolympics.com. An unexpected, and pleasant, surprise.

So, there you have it. I stand by everything I said below about the need for West Coast live feeds of Olympic Trials -- and of the Olympics themselves. But it's nice to know that some of us, at least, are getting that this week. (Remember, however, that the coverage on NBC itself is still time-delayed three hours, even for satellite customers.) Depending on how much stuff NBC chooses to broadcast on USA (which incidentally, arrives in stunning HD via DirecTV at our house), this could be a major TV-watching factor when the Games themselves begin Aug. 8. Stay tuned for more on that. Again, the network's full coverage schedule is supposed to be announced sometime this week.

And before we forget: Several readers have informed us that they're unable to get the nbcolympics.com broadcasts, delivered via Microsoft "Silverlight" technology, whatever that means, on Macs. Anyone able to confirm this, or report a workaround?

Happy watching. And don't go looking for track coverage tonight or tomorrow. They're taking two days off in Eugene.

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Just to further confuse things: We've now learned that some Seattle-area Comcast customers actually can get the East Coast (earlier) version of Trials coverage -- if they have USA Network's HD feed, which is broadcast live on East Coast time. The SD, low-def channel still carries the USA coverage on West Coast time, ie, three hours delayed. People at KING TV, the local NBC affiliate, say the best way to find your own coverage is to do what they do: Just consult your cable-TV scheduling grid, which is accurate and scheduled at least a week in advance.

Also: A network spokesman says Microsoft's Silverllight media player, a plug-in installed from the nbcolympics.com Web site when you first load video there, should be fully compatible with Macs or PCs. A separate service being set up to download streaming games coverage will be MS Vista-compatible only. But live, streaming coverage on nbcolympics should be open to all users.


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Blogroll and links

www.olympic.org: The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information.
www.nbcolympics.com: Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog
www.usolympicteam.com: U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site.
www.aroundtherings.com: Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription).
www.wcsn.com: News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions.
www.beijing2008.com: Beijing Organizing Committee Web site.
www.vancouver2010.com: Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site.
www.london2012.com: London 2012 Summer Games site.
www.sochi2014.com: Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site.
www.chicago2016.org: Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.