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BBC Launches Localized iOS, Android Olympics Apps (Video Not Included Internationally)

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The two-week countdown to the Olympics is on, and the big broadcasters are getting their ducks in line for how they will be streaming, tweeting, sharing, and generally filling your digital life with their own twists on the global sporting event. The latest development comes from the BBC, which today released the iOS and Android versions of its Olympics apps featuring text commentaries, news updates and “medal moments.” There will be separate editions for the UK and the rest of the world: because the BBC only has rights to stream content in the UK, it will only be the UK version that will include streamed video; the international version, the BBC tells me, will only have links to clips on its website. But it will have localized content, using GEO IP targeting to deliver headlines for teams from whatever region you are in above all others.

The move comes days after NBC spelled out its own plans to leverage Facebook to enhance its own “digital Olympics” experience. It also follows news of BBC inking a deal with Facebook to develop a multi-channeled, live event streamed experience that will live on Facebook — again, restricted only to those accessing FB out of the UK.

The release of the apps is part of a bigger initiative at the BBC to ramp up significantly its digital touchpoints with users. As we have written before, especially internationally the BBC gets a lot of its revenues from legacy services like DVD sales and TV channels. This is about laying groundwork for people to think of and use BBC properties beyond that, with options for monetizing in the form of ads coming alongside it.

“We want to ensure we offer our users the most entertaining, immersive and relevant experience,” said James Montgomery, Controller of Digital & Technology for BBC Global News, in a statement. “We believe these latest updates to the site, along with the creation of a version for mobile users, and the bespoke app ensure sporting fans across the globe can enjoy the games whenever and wherever they choose.”

The BBC tells me that the apps’ free usage will be ad-supported. There will be “adhesion” banner ads, which will be fixed to the bottom of the screen (similar to how they are in the BBC’s News apps). “These will support rich media or standard banner ads,” the spokesperson says.

The BBC is also going one step deeper on the regional approach: the international edition of the app, as well as the BBC’s main Olympics website, has GEO IP targeting built into it so that users in different parts of the world will actually get headlines about national teams from wherever they are accessing the app.

That’s a nice touch, and very in keeping with the BBC and its regional-first approach. Except the only problem is that sometimes you may — shock — actually want news about other places as well. For example, I’m Russian/American, and I live in the UK. That’s three countries I want to keep tabs on, BBC. And that’s before I begin to obsess about China’s gymnastics team.

(Yes, you will still be able to access all of the BBC’s Olympics coverage, which will include analysis, reporting of all events, the medals table and fixtures list, as well as video and audio content. But if optimizing the mobile experience is largely about making things easier to access on small devices, that means it will be a lot easier to see region-specific-content first.)

On its website, the BBC is also incorporating the ability to personalize content even further: users can choose “five favorites” from sports, teams or individual athletes, which they can follow throughout the Olympics, getting updates specifically about these five topics.

As is standard with most app developments today, the BBC is putting in some social features and options for offline consumption. Downloading the free international app, you get offline access to the more general international homepage, and you can also share stories, video clips and event results through sites like Twitter and Facebook, as well as by email.