How Will You Be Watching the Rio Olympic Games in 2016?

06/09/2012 12:06 BST | Updated 05/11/2012 10:12 GMT

How did you watch the London Olympic and Paralympic games? Did you follow the coverage on TV offered by the BBC and Channel 4 or were you watching on a phone or iPad, catching video clips offered up from various social networks?

London 2012 was the first Olympic games where social media and mobile devices played a big part in the experience. Don't forget that the iPhone was only launched in 2007, just a year before Beijing 2008, and the growth in people using tools such as Facebook and Twitter has been enormous in the last four years. In 2008 Facebook had 100m users - now they are nudging close to their first billion.

The traditional broadcasters acknowledged this to a degree. Channel 4 is covering the Paralympic games in the UK and all their presenters seem to be broadcasting as much information on Twitter as they are presenting on TV. The BBC were talking about hashtags and athletes worth following - stimulating a backchannel of live discussion online, where those on the social networks were also following the TV broadcast. And the BBC Olympics app was widely praised as an innovative way for a traditional broadcaster to be feeding sports news to fans.

But out of the almost 200 international broadcasters who covered the Olympic games, just one was broadcasting content to the Internet alone. Terra from Brazil was at the games, with a studio in the Olympic park allowing them to interview athletes from across the Latin America region in Portuguese and Spanish. No single broadcaster can have enough cameras to cover all of the games so live coverage is pooled and distributed by the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), allowing broadcasters access to everything that is happening live. Terra were taking their OBS feeds and pumping them straight out to their website - allowing the viewer to be the editor because everything was available all the time.

This was the first time a digital-only broadcaster had undertaken such a major broadcasting challenge. Terra did cover the games in Beijing, but their application to broadcast only on the Internet was considered a bit strange back in 2004 and they were only accredited a few weeks before the games, not leaving enough time to mount a serious broadcast operation.

Let's spin forward four more years and consider how we will be consuming the action from Rio 2016. It won't be unusual to be consuming mobile video content from the Internet by then and it's unlikely that Terra will be the only Internet-only broadcaster in 2016.

There will be a lot more smart phones in the world by 2016 - even in Brazil sales of smart phones with Internet connectivity are doubling each year. More people are going to want more information pumped direct to their handset rather than waiting for the evening roundup on TV.

I believe it is likely that a majority of fans will be consuming the Rio Olympic coverage on their phones. If you remember how the BBC Olympic app worked, allowing sports fans to select news about their team only or even a particular athlete - now overlay this with the ability to get a live feed from all sports all the time and that is probably what normal will look like in 2016.

Of course some of the more traditional broadcast methods will survive. The BBC picked some great presenters for London 2012 and created a friendly collegiate atmosphere - tuning in to the late-night summary of the day with Gabby Logan was part of my whole 2012 experience - but by 2016 people will expect to be able to edit the show themselves.

Dinosaurs of the industry like NBC showed just how badly wrong broadcasters can get the coverage of major international events - even with decades of experience. When they chose to record the opening ceremony and play it back later, editing out all the bits that might not be understood in the USA, they just took another step on the road to irrelevance.

It will be innovators like Terra - and their future rivals in digital-only broadcast - who succeed at Rio 2016. And being on their home turf in Brazil I know whose app I'll have on my phone four years from now.