For the next 16 days, people all over the world will watch the Winter Games on television. Increasingly, they’ll be tuning in online as the world’s top athletes compete for gold and glory.
NBC will once again use Silverlight, Microsoft’s fast-growing, smooth-streaming video and animation plug-in for browsers, to bring full coverage and highlights to NBCOlympics.com. In 2008 for Beijing, the NBC-Silverlight partnership yielded not only revolutionary Web coverage of a sporting event, but a record number of viewers: 52.1 million people logged on to watch 9.9 million hours of video.
At that time the Silverlight platform was so new that NBC also offered Windows Media Player alongside it. After the success of Beijing and with nearly 50 percent of Internet-connected devices running Silverlight, NBC decided to consolidate on Silverlight for the Vancouver Games. In addition, NBC and Silverlight teams are working together on other major sporting events such as Wimbledon and NFL Sunday Night Football.
“It’s really been amazing to see that partnership and friendship with NBC grow over the last year and a half,” says Jason Suess, principal technical evangelist for Silverlight. “I expect many more events as our partnership gets tighter and tighter.”
With Silverlight, viewers can rewind and fast forward the action, or use pause and slow-motion. The player also scales the quality of the video to whatever a user’s machine can handle, delivering up to 720p – the highest resolution possible under current digital television standards.
“After Beijing, what we heard loud and clear was if you can provide a higher quality experience, users will definitely spend more time in that experience,” Suess says.
The Silverlight team also worked with NBC to provide special behind-the-scenes tools for the network, including the ability to insert mid-stream advertising, and a rough cut editor that allows NBC personnel to quickly edit and post highlights on the Web.
“With Michael Phelps going for eight gold medals in Beijing, every time he’d win there would be a massive rush to the site to see him winning the latest gold,” Suess says. “The challenge there was for NBC to have the content on the site in time to meet the demand. Now editors can go in literally while a (video) stream is happening and cut a highlight.”
Suess said the Winter Games are at a different scale from the massive Summer Games, with far fewer events and more niche sports. Still, Microsoft has worked hard to provide the most engaging photo and video experience possible, he says.
Log on to http://www.nbcolympics.com/