The Olympics is going to be a giant case study in digital entertainment distribution in more ways than one. The latest example? Chris Albrecht over at GigaOM points to a warning notice posted next to the download instructions for NBC Olympics on the Go. The application flags Olympic events you want to watch and downloads them to your computer for later viewing. However, NBC is not recommending the software for people with metered broadband plans. In other words, NBC is worried that automatic downloading of massive video files could put some people over their bandwidth limit, and add up to additional fees from some ISPs.
Just to inject a note of reality here, the NBC warning is probably overstated and certainly only applicable to a tiny portion of viewers today. The NBC Olympics software is only available to US residents, and most (if not all) metered broadband here is happening solely on a trial basis.
That said, the warning from NBC is an important signpost for consumers. Should we start measuring our own broadband use? Do we start planning for the day when we need to pick and choose what we do online? Should 2200 hours of Olympic coverage really be free?
Whatever the answers, and there’s a long continuum of thought on these subjects, it’s abundantly clear that bandwidth demand is only going to continue to grow. Today it’s the Olympics online. Tomorrow it’s 3D concerts on the Web. Good thing operators continue to work on ways to expand bandwidth capacity. Clearly we’re going to need it.