Tag Archives: devices

While viewing numbers are down, streaming is up for Olympics

While NBC’s prime-time television ratings are down, fans are streaming the Olympics on other devices.

The network said it had surpassed 2 billion minutes of live streamed action from the Rio de Janeiro Games.

Not only does that comfortably surpass the 818 million streamed minutes for the London Games, it beats by 500 million the number for all previous Olympics combined.

Within the first three days of the Olympics, 80 percent of people who watched the games said they used at least one other device to follow what was going on. That was up from 61 percent for the Sochi Winter Olympics two years ago, NBC said.

An estimated 24.3 million people watched Monday night’s prime-time telecast on NBC, the level rising by 5 percent to 25.5 million when streaming and cable coverage is added in. For the same Monday night in London four years ago, there were 26.6 million viewers.

And the Olympics appear to be big in Utah this year. NBC said that for nine of the 11 prime-time nights of Olympics action, Salt Lake City was the market with the best ratings in the country.

 

VIRTUAL REALITY

NBC and Samsung have been touting their virtual-reality coverage, but the quality of the video has been such that Olympians look like video-game characters on Samsung’s Gear VR headset.

Meanwhile, 360-degree still images from Getty Images haven’t gotten as much attention, but have been stunning. NBC’s VR video relies on cameras at fixed locations off to the sides of the fields of play. With no camera operator, there’s no control over the shots. Getty gave a 360-degree camera to each of its photographers, and they’ve been able to capture the flexibility and strength of Simone Biles on the vault, and Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro diving into the crowd after winning his tennis gold medal. The images are available for free on the 360 Photos app on the Gear VR and Oculus Rift headsets.

A Closer Look: Stream-box gaming is a mixed bag

As gaming consoles such as the Xbox and the PlayStation diversify into video, social media and other non-gaming apps, it seems only fair that streaming TV devices start nudging into gaming territory.

Amazon’s Fire TV and the Roku 3 both offer a multitude of games, alongside apps to stream video on the big television screen from services such as Netflix and Hulu. The game offerings — some free, some for a fee — are a mixed bag thus far, ranging from solid to silly.

Here’s a look at the experience for both:

• Amazon Fire TV ($99; optional game controller $40):

The Fire TV is an ideal type of multimedia streaming box to bring gaming to the living room. It has a quad-core processor and a dedicated graphics chip to speed up gaming visuals. It pumps all that out in high definition at 1080p.

Games such as “Riptide GP2” and “The Walking Dead” are graphically pleasing, with engaging action and fast-responding controls. These aren’t merely dumbed-down versions of games for other systems, such as personal computers and Microsoft’s Xbox One. The top-tier titles on Fire TV play as smoothly as they do elsewhere.

The games are affordably priced, too, starting at 99 cents and going as high as $10 for such games as “Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.” Most of the paid games are $3. You can usually use the regular controller that comes with the Fire TV, but the $40 game controller, with thumb sticks and trigger buttons, is a necessity for the best action games.

Because the Fire TV uses a version of Google’s Android system, you’re also getting a slew of casual games. Game developers, however, tweak their apps and make them available through Amazon’s app store, so you’re not getting everything available on Android phones.

The game categories to choose from include action, adventure, board games and kids, but not all of them have a substantial library. For instance, the kids category has only five titles. That’s pretty paltry. It’s something Amazon might want to address if it wants Fire TV gaming to take off.

Duds such as a Dracula-themed video pinball game are a waste of space. The initial download is free, but the game will try to nibble you to spend 99 cents apiece for pinball theme add-ons. Most importantly, the game play has an awful amount of lag. The flippers don’t flip the instant you press the buttons on the remote, making it frustrating to time your shots at all.

In all, the Fire TV is a great choice for streaming video. The gaming component doesn’t embarrass itself, but it doesn’t excel either. If Amazon can lure a few more top-flight game developers, Fire TV could become more appealing to enthusiastic part-time gamers.

• Roku 3 ($99):

The Roku 3 device offers a ton of games, but they range from very good to downright awful. It leans heavily toward casual gaming, meaning puzzle and word games with an occasional faster action title thrown in.

For instance, I had a great time playing “Angry Birds” on the Roku 3 using its Wii-like motion-sensing remote, which is included. I’ve played “Angry Birds” on many phones, tablets and traditional computers, and this beats them all. I simply held down the “OK” button on the remote and stretched the bird back on the slingshot by pointing the remote to the left. It’s intuitive and beautifully displayed in 1080p high definition.

I went to the games channel on the Roku 3 to see the available titles and found most of them priced at $1.99. I’m willing to experiment at that price, enduring a few bad games to find a couple of winners. But some of those puzzle and word games look, feel and play awfully dated. I do praise Roku for stocking a 99-cent version of the old-school classic “Rogue.”

I settled in for a demo session of “Pathogen 2.” Level One started with me flying a little spaceship inside the patient’s femoral artery and trying to shoot down green gobs of pathogens. It’s like “Asteroids” but with molecules. I quickly finished the first two levels and then got the nag screen asking me to pony up cash for additional levels. It blatantly asks, “Why would you deprive yourself for less than a buck?”

And that really is the key with much of the game selection on the Roku 3. Pricing something at 99 cents — or even $1.99 — often made me think, “Why not?”

All of this makes Roku 3 at best a delivery system for casual games. Roku has only 86 games available and needs more heavy-hitter titles alongside “Angry Birds” to truly compete against the Fire TV’s 365 titles, or for that matter my Android smartphone.