Search Olympics: Google and Bing Battle It Out Despite NBC Withholding Content

Only 2 out of 300 events will stream live on the Internet.

It’s no secret that people are increasingly multi-tasking their entertainment, firing up the laptop to access the Internet while watching TV. This is not lost on search engines and who would very much like your split attention to be spent with them.

Bing and Google in particular are going head to head when it comes to mapping Vancouver and nearby Whistler, where many events will be held. Both Bing and Google have already announced enhanced mapping elements for both cities. Now, Google stepped it up a notch by grabbing “Street View” images of ski slopes via snowmobile.

Of course, Google needs all the style points it can get to impress the judges. Bing is fueling the search at NBCOlympics, thanks to Microsoft’s partnership with NBC, the exclusive provider of broadcast coverage in the U.S. for the Winter Games.

But what hurts Internet access to the Winter Olympics the most isn’t a lack of effort on Google or Bing’s part. It’s NBC. Fresh off the late night debacle ending in Conan O’Brian’s departure from the Late Night Show, NBC will apparently only be streaming two – out of 300 – events live on the Internet.

Contrast that to a recent streaming event – President Obama’s State of the Union address. The White House provided a feed that could then be streamed across any website. Many sites – including NBC-funded Hulu – took advantage of that.

But with the Olympics, NBC is trying to resist the future – while many wait for technology that is available now to become their present. With innovation such as Hulu and media players like Sling and Apple TV, combined with frustration at increasingly archaic cable and broadcast business models, consumers are sick of the games (no pun intended) networks like NBC are trying to play. The result is NBC’s own admission that they will lose over $200 million with the Olympics.

How much a site like Bing can gain in search when the content is so restricted remains to be seen. The great thing about Google v. Bing in the Search Olympics is that it demonstrates consumer demand to spur innovation in broadcast sporting events. To borrow from the most interesting man in the world featured in Dos Equis commercials, “Be searchy, my friends.”

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