NBC Olympics gears up for digital games

By

Ken Kerschbaumer

When NBC Sports delivered a live stream of the 2006 Winter
Olympics gold medal men’s ice hockey game over the Internet it was the network
dipping a toe into live streaming of Olympic competition. But the network’s
efforts next summer, for the 2008 Summer Games in

Beijing, will be a dive into the truly deep
part of the pool as it plans to stream more than 2,200 live hours of Olympic
competition.

“Fans of cycling, soccer and other events will be able to
watch their events live and when they want as we will have VOD online,” says
Perkins Miller, NBC Sports SVP, Digital Media, NBC Sports and Olympics. Fans
can also expect to see highlights packages courtesy of a “highlights factory”
that will ingest all of the HD content and assemble clips via proxy video. And
Miller expects it to be a hit.

“Households with children in their teens have 5 to 6 laptop
computers for every TV,’ says Miller. “That is a radical shift.”

The NBCOlympics.com Web site is already up and running,
serving as a test bed to find out what kind of content and technologies fans
want to experience. Miller says the next phase begins in May, 2008, when
lessons learned in the first phase are incorporated into the site and workflows.

One of the challenges will be not just ingesting all of the
content but also making it searchable. “If we have an aggregate of 3,400 hours
of content online and there is now way to search for an athlete by name,
school, state or market no one will be able to find what they want.”

That’s where metadata comes in. NBC Olympics will take the
IOC’s host baseline feed and Internet Data Feed of all scores and results and
marry that data with unilateral NBC data. By bringing the data together and
attaching it to the video content users will then be able to find what they
want, when they want it.

All content will be available at HD resolution, with streams
being encoded at 1.5 Gbps. “We think that’s enough to deliver HD to the PC,”
says Miller. And there will be a
LOT of data.
While only three transmission circuits were required to get content back to

New York from Athens
Olympics in 2004 this year the network will have 28 circuits lit.

“The bandwidth is enormous and the heating and cooling
challenge in the

International

Broadcasting
Center
is enormous as well,” adds Miller.

But so is the opportunity. And NBC Sports is bullish on the
notion that online streaming will help drive TV ratings.

“The level of engagement is 30-40 higher for those who watch
the TV and are on the Web at the same time,” says Miller. “And we’ve found that
greater ratings on air result when more content is online. It justifies the
investment and shores up multiple points of distribution.”