The Charter Communications, NBCOlympics.com, Samsung Smart Hub Chronicles #fail

NBC Olympics I don't know what you thought about the opening ceremony of the "Games Of The 30th Olympiad Of The Modern Era," but I watched it from seat 5D on JetBlue Flt 676 from LAX to JFK and, for me, it lacked some of the grandeur I was expecting.

Not to worry. Once they passed torch, lit the cauldron and sealed it with Sir Paul's awesome version of Hey Jude, I was psyched to immerse myself in the hundreds of hours of cross-platform coverage offered by the Networks of NBC. (By the way, can you name the networks of NBC? Scroll down to the bottom of the article for the answer.)

On the first official day of the Olympics, MSNBC, NBC, NBC Sports, Bravo and Telemundo all carried fully produced, linear feeds. CNBC had a some coverage, then a combination of unrelated regular and paid programming. There was fencing, swimming, handball, archery, badminton, tennis and soccer. It was more than enough Olympic coverage for all but the most dedicated fans – but – NBC made us a promise – 3,500 hours of live, streaming coverage powered by YouTube. Awesome!!! Being a rabid fan of international table tennis, I was dying to see Szu-Yo Chen (TPE) vs. Krisztina Toth (HUN) go at it in the 2nd Round of Women's Singles. Luckily for me, this very match was going to be streamed live.

Now, as you can imagine, I have a fair amount of technology at my disposal. Watching YouTube is so easy a child can do it, and I even have a few kids around. So, second round of the Women's Table Tennis Singles here I come ... well, not exactly.

I got an idea. I have a 60" Samsung 7000 series connected in the living room and it has Samsung Smart Hub. The TV has a web browser so, instead of streaming to my MacBook Air, I could stream to the big screen TV and share the experience with everyone ... well, not exactly.

First, I had to spend a while getting the URL into Samsung's Smart Hub browser. When the browser is open, you need to move the cursor with arrow buttons around a virtual keyboard to type in alphanumeric characters. http://www.nbcolympics.com took 10 seconds per letter. Then, I was taken to a splash page that told me that I had to register to get the service. The Olympics streaming service must be authenticated through your cable provider. OK, 10 minutes more and I realized that I did not have proper login credentials to authenticate the stream.

If you're a Charter Communications customer, you know just how bad Charter's customer service is. After about 30 minutes of phone calls and online chats, I was able to get my MacBook Air authenticated. It was painful, but I was on a mission.

Next step, get the Samsung 7000 set up to stream. I don't have a QWERTY remote, so typing credentials into the authentication dialog box was excruciating, but again, I was on a mission.

After I hit "Log In," the dialog box went blank and nothing happened. The United States badminton team had just pulled within one point of the Koreans and everyone in the living room wanted me to make the picture full screen, so I had to abandon my dreams of streaming in favor of watching the American hit the shuttlecock long giving the match to Korea. Ugh!

With time running out, I asked the question, "Is there an App for that?" Of course there is. Samsung has an awesome remote control app for the iPhone and it solved the Samsung text input problem handily ... well, not exactly. It took me far less time to get back to the authentication screen, but the results were the same. No joy.

OK, I get it. There will be no authenticated streaming on Charter using Samsung Smart Hub to view www.NBCOlympics.com on my big screen. At least not today, so ... I'll just logon with my MacBook Air and watch table tennis at my kitchen table.

On a positive note, it took only seconds to connect via my MacBook Air, but then, the first thing I was treated to was a 30 second commercial. I paid no attention to it, so I have no idea what product it was for. It had a bunch of images of athletes – pretty undifferentiated, but that's for another column.

After an hour of failed attempts to authenticate and logon, and after a 30 second commercial, I expected to see Table Tennis. I got a video player window, but the only thing playing was color bars and a test tone. (A screen shot of what I saw is on the right.)NBC Table Tennis

To be fair, other sports were working fine and the image quality was great. My MacBook Air was the perfect personal consumption device for this content. But, I would really have loved to get the 60" Samsung into the game. That would really have been fun.

What failed? Was it NBC, Charter, Samsung or YouTube? I have some ideas, but I really don't know. What I do know is that an average consumer would blame everyone in this ad hoc ecosystem. Which makes me want to rhetorically ask, "How much better will this experience be on the yet to be released, hypothetical, Apple Connected TV?" The bar is set so low, Apple almost can't mess this up.  For now, even with the best connected TV and the Networks of NBC powered by YouTube, the only way was using a Thunderbolt to HDMI cable -- problem solved ... well, not exactly.

(Answer to the question, "What are the Networks of NBC?": NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, CNBC World, CNBC Asia, NBC Sports, Bravo, Mun2, SciFi, Trio, Universal HD, USA Network, A&E, Chiller, cloo, Comcast SportsNet, E!, G4, Golf Channel, International Television, Oxygen, Sprout, Style Media, The Weather Channel, Telemundo, and a bunch of digital properties.)