I don't ask for much in life, but I do insist on being able to watch the Olympics live , for free, on my cell phone, while moving around New York City doing other things, some of which require using my phone for talking, navigating and publishing tweets.
So I was elated when NBC vowed last year to make every event available on one platform or another live.
PHOTOS: LONDON OLYMPICS DAY 5
At the time, the network had just spent $4.38 billion for exclusive broadcast rights, and its sports chief Mark Lazarus promised a smart plan that will allow the super fan to watch events live.
On Wednesday I tested that claim, downloading NBC s free mobile application and using it to watch Olympic events like weightlifting and basketball on my iPhone while walking to the pharmacy to buy diapers and driving around Brooklyn and Queens in a Subaru.
My experience started at my Brooklyn apartment at 9:45, when I logged onto Wi-Fi to check the Olympic schedule online, noting the start times for various events. London is five hours ahead, and badminton was already over. At 10:01, I picked up my iPhone, went to the app center, and downloaded the app, noting that it averaged two of five stars with more than 3,000 viewers rating it.
In two minutes I had the app installed and at 10:04 I headed to CVS on foot. On the way there, I had five bars of Verizon 3G service, so I launched the app and encountered a reasonably intuitive layout. I was ready.
When I came out of the store 15 minutes later, it was raining, and I ran to a coffee shop for shelter. There, at 10:26, I logged onto the coffee shop s Wi-Fi and relaunched the app. This time a screen came up asking me to simply choose my television provider from a list showing Comcast, DirectTV, Dish and many others. I don t own a television, so I selected Time Warner. The app thought about this for a minute, then asked me to sign in using my email address.
Outraged at this intrusion, I hit the back button twice, and the app froze up. I turned off the phone, drank my coffee, restarted my phone, retraced my steps, and entered a false email address too vulgar to reprint here securing my temporary pass to Olympic spectactorship.
Suddenly crisp footage of a blue swimming pool filled my screen, an overhead image so sharp that I could see the little wavelets rippling across the surface of the still water. The footage was quiet and unhurried. The camera panned over the scene without any babbling commentator or pushy graphics. I had arrived at sports viewership nirvana: the live feed. It was 11:30, and Lazarus had fulfilled his promise.
Next I tried watching while driving. I chose Atlantic Avenue and men s gymnastics. The app relaunched fine, and I discovered that this event came with commentary from NBC s announcers. The images were blurry, but I wasn t watching the screen anyway. Keeping the phone on the passenger seat, I listened to uninterrupted commentary no breaks in coverage even when I got on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and drove at every speed between 65 mph and standstill.
From the beginning, I felt NBC s mobile presentation would be a success as long as I paid nothing and wasn t forced to give anyone my email address or other information. So the app passed my test. If it hadn t, fault might lie with Apple, Verizon and municipal agencies responsible for phone lines, but I would have blamed NBC the most. They spent the money and are custodians of something more than just a commodity.
On Thursday I plan to test just how live the images really are, using the NBC app and simultaneously calling the Daily News guys in London and ask them to describe what they re seeing in person. If there is more than a 10 second delay, it will be an #NBCfail.
Back at home in the afternoon, I used the app to watch basketball. There were minimal ads and few delays. In weightlifting, I saw burly women from Egypt and Belarus stride out onto a stage, chalk their hands ritualistically, clean and jerk massive weights. I also saw the live feed of men s weightlifting. A guy from Poland muttered at his coach for awhile in the backstage area, went out and tried to lift a lot of weight, failed, muttered at his coach again and stomped off into a dark tunnel.
Then my battery died.