Moderator: Peter Cervieri, Director, ScribeLabs
Darren Feher, President, CEO, Conviva
Jason Suess, Principle Technical Evangelist, Microsoft
Hayle Chun, Director, Digital Media, NBC Sports & Olympics
Hear a panel of NBC Universal executives and industry experts discuss the execution of the network’s cross-platform Olympic strategy. What were the final audience numbers across devices for the Winter 2010 games? What worked and what didn’t? Who were the technology partners that helped make it all happen? How did sponsors assess the cross-platform experience?
Enjoy a lively conversation around one of the largest cross-platform initiatives of 2010.
Below are my notes for the session. They give a good sense of the business, technology and workflow topics covered.
– cable company verification process
– piracy (China)
– consumer expectations: TV-like experience – high quality, no buffering
– what happens if the experience doesn’t meet consumer expectations
Sponsors / Advertisers
* had to buy cross-platform package
– what was the pitch? i.e., the benefits they should expect from a cross platform buy with NBC around a major international event?
* do they value an online or mobile viewer (less than / as much as / more than) a TV viewer?
– from Beijing
– from Vancouver
* Twitter, Facebook, Blogs
– did you have a strategy to tap into Social Media
– were you monitoring Social Media (e.g. tweets, positive or negative sentiment)
– did you have a strategy to interact with fans via social media?
– decision to not allow journalists, fans, bloggers to grab and embed on-demand videos / highlights.
Jason managed development of video player, live encoding of video
NBC does encoding themselves to necessary formats
– lessons learned from Beijing
– complexities of building a multi-platform experience
* what was the business case around Beijing?
* versus vancouver?
time zone issues / push and pull
– intelligent streaming platform. protect audiences from rebuffering, stuttering or audio out of synch. quality issues that interrupt consumer experience. multi-bit rate policy control that works on top of adobe and silverlight. prevent what interrupts viewers. vieweres who get interrupted watch 30% to 80% less video.
– for Olympics
* real time analytics
* drive predictive algorythms to make switching decisions.
* know what every viewer is watching every second
* preventative actions to increase quality
* real time audience engagement. ad completion, etc.
* real time access to information and decision making.
video internet is different than non-video internet. Olympics and World Cup – large scale, live, complicated, high quality video events. you need sophistication and real time control to guarantee quality. video viewing is growing @ 45% per year. and people are watching about 4 hours per viewer per month.
how ready is the internet for high quality video experience to multiple devices??
instrumentation and measurement
3,500 hours of content in 17 days.
built a highlights factory in the Saturday night live studio. 40 interns. routing feeds for shot selection, rough cutting, routing to craft edit…..
at work audience. stream lots of stuff.
less content. only two sports were pre-cleared for live streaming. primary ad sales for air was lagging.
more mature technologies.
first time that NBC put a registration wall in front of content for people to tell who their ISP or cable provider was.
difference in traffic between semifinal
10 times more people (300,000 concurrent) for semifinal, which didn’t have a registration wall vs. 30,000 for finals, which did have a registration wall.
– it was an experiment.
– cable authentication and sign-on. need better usability. Comcast wanted the registrant to be sent to their system for verification and then sent back to NBC. need to give people better experience and incentive to go through the verification process
cable says “we’re not going to pay you as much for cable distribution because you’re showing the content online. we won’t pay premium carriage fees.”. content companies were starting to do direct to consumer deals. this was cables response.
Mobile was done by NBC
feedback on technology from customers that are putting on big events.
NBC gets a multilateral feed from the IOC. editors in Vancouver were cutting up the footage. NBC took care of VOD workflow. MSFT built the player. Akamai was the CDN.
MSFT primarily on the live side.
MSFT built the player (Vertigo did the design and development on the player)
Worked with iStreamPlanet to do the live workflow (encoding and origin)
– web-based video editor (rough cut editor – open source). while hockey game is going on you can cut a highlight against that without requiring any transcoding. no storage needed. no transcoding needed.
Silverlight Media Framework
– also open source (similar to rough cut editor)
* ask why they decided to open source these tools. enabling tools for the MSFT platform
Post-mortem lessons learned
– HD engagement levels were high
In Canada, CTV viewers were watching 74 minutes online per day (live and on-demand video)
– when people got home they still watched online, which goes against what you would expect. you’d expect that they’d move to the TV once they get home.
Fraud detection. Anti-piracy
835 hours across its broadcast, cable and digital platforms, compared to 419 hours from Torino, Italy, in 2006 and 375.5 from Salt Lake City in 2002. It will also be the first Winter Games to be produced and broadcast completely in high-definition with multichannel surround sound. But the coverage will actually be generated by a significantly smaller staff and a leaner technical operation, a reflection of current economic realities, technology advances and NBCU’s growing expertise in pulling off these massive events.
NBCU’s Olympics staff in Vancouver will number 2,168, compared to 2,768 in Torino and 3,260 in Salt Lake City.
NBC Olympics will stream around 400 hours live from Vancouver. The live streams will for the first time be restricted to subscribers of cable, satellite or IPTV services
NBC also once again decided to show some key competitions on TV only, where its family of broadcast and cable channels will air 435 hours of live programming.
Silverlight player developed for the Winter Olympics will offer slow-motion, fast forward and information overlays, as well as a live-blogging play-by-play of the event. Users will also be able to share select moments of the games on third-party web sites. However, don’t expect blogs to share hockey game highlights. Sharing will be restricted to non-competition content
Mobile.Nbcolympics.com will feature daily highlights of the events for mobile phone users.
AT&T Mobile TV and Mobi TV will carry the NBC Olympics 2Go channel with live video coverage from the games.
During the two weeks of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, NBCOlympics.com served a total of 75.5 million streams and 9.9 million hours of online video coverage.
“I have Comcast cable and internet, and I still can’t see the premium content. Their authentication software doesn’t work. I go through their one-time sign up screens and login to my account, but it just says that I’m not a subscriber.”
“I am a Mediacom cable subscriber. Turns out that isn’t enough to see the nbcolympics “special” videos. With Mediacom, you also have to be a broadband internet subscriber.”
Ultimately, the quality of the player isn’t enough to make up for poorly-designed site navigation and lackluster content [and laborious verification process].
iStreamPlanet is taking the live video feeds from NBC in New York and feeding them through the stream preparation process. Inlet Technologies‘ Spinnaker will encode each stream into six different bitrates for Microsoft’s IIS Live Smooth Streaming and send them to Microsoft’s Windows Servers. Akamai will deliver and cache the content around its network. Viewers will tune into a version of the Silverlight player customized by Vertigo, which brings in a data feed from Deltatre for play-by-play and stats. Conviva contributes monitoring software to immediately report any issues with the streams to NBC and Microsoft.
adaptive bitrate streaming, a technique of detecting a watcher’s bandwidth and CPU capabilities in real time and then adjusting the quality of a video stream. That requires encoding a single video at multiple bitrates and switching to the most appropriate one on a moment-by-moment basis. The result: very little buffering, fast start time and a good experience for both high-end and low-end connections.
Canada: Canadian TV is obviously all over the games, and sports fans north of the border can watch simulcasts of ten TV stations online. Canada’s CTV is also featuring a number of online-only live streams on its site CTVOlympics.ca. The declared goal of Canada’s broadcasters is to have “every single moment” of the games available online.
The U.K.: The BBC is covering the Olympics with four live interactive streams through its BBC Sport website. The Beeb’s iPlayer makes it possible to catch up on highlights of the game. The broadcaster wants to make a total of 2000 hours of Olympic coverage available online.
Europe and the Middle East: In addition to local broadcasters like the BBC and Germany’s ARD, the Olympics are also streamed by Eurovisionsports. Access is restricted to residents in some 50-plus countries, including Denmark, Israel, Turkey and Serbia via IP address localization. Eurovisionsports is aggregating coverage from 30 European broadcasters. The site also features six dedicated live channels, as well as a 24-hour Olympic news channel airing more than 3,000 hours of live event coverage
In Beijing, NBC provided 2,200 hours of live streaming, 61 percent of its 3,600 total hours of event coverage across 10 TV networks. In Vancouver, NBC is allowing 400 hours of live streaming, 48 percent of its 830 total hours of coverage. (It has the broadcast rights to live-stream every hour of Olympic action on the Internet, if it chooses.)
NBC’s Web site for the games, NBCOlympics.com, does provide every Olympic event on demand in full after it has been shown on TV, though Web users must be subscribers to participating cable or satellite providers.
NBC lost $223 million on the Winter Olympics
In a decision that might surprise some viewers who have become frustrated by NBC Universal’s handling of online video content, it streamed the entirety of the quarterfinal Men’s Hockey matchup between the USA and Switzerland live at 3:00 pm EST, the same time that it was broadcasting the match on NBC. And it did so without requiring users to log in to the site, making the video open to anyone who tried to access it.
NBC has restricted access online to only those fans who prove that they are paying cable subscribers.
That approach to the Olympics has not only frustrated fans, but it could have driven some potential viewers to look for coverage elsewhere. Despite being the go-to outlet for the 2010 Winter Games, NBCOlympics.com was ranked third among sports sites featuring Olympics coverage during the first week of the games. With 6.5 million unique visitors during the week of Feb. 8-14, NBCOlympics.com lagged Yahoo (9.3 million unique visitors) and ESPN (8.4 million uniques), neither of which has rights to Olympics video content.
NBCOlympics.com clocked 710 million page views and 46 million unique visits during the games, and the site served up 45 million streams. That’s obviously more than during the last Winter Games, when it saw 310 million page views, 13.3 million uniques and only 8.4 million streams. However, it’s a far cry from the Beijing Olympics, during which NBC served 1.24 billion page views.
Granted, Summer Olympics tend to be much more popular, but NBC’s numbers also indicate that the network didn’t make video work as well this time around: In 2008, it served 9.9 million video hours while clocking 51.0 million unique visits. This year, the network’s Olympics site served only 3.5 million hours, despite having only slightly fewer uniques (46 million).
Yahoo continues to celebrate the fact that it had a larger audience despite not having access to any of the content NBC exclusively licensed. The company told us today that its coverage of the Olympics brought in 18,189,052 unique users during the second week of the games, compared to 9,779,440 uniques for NBCOlympics.com and 10,265,008 uniques for ESPN, according to comScore data.
In addition, NBC Olympics Mobile served up 82 million page views and 1.9 million mobile video streams. But those numbers were a small part of the overall picture.
Akamai delivered more than 5,000 hours of live and on-demand video over 17 days and at peak, served more than 30 concurrent live-streaming events.
At its peak, Akamai was streaming close to 374 Gbps of video.
The company delivered more than 12 Petabytes (12,000 TBs) across its Olympics customers. To put that in perspective, the Internet archive has over 3 petabytes of data.
On Feb. 28, at its peak, Akamai served up about 2.4 million pages per second, with the majority of traffic coming from North America, followed by Europe. This could be explained by the USA v. Canada ice hockey finals and the closing ceremony.
Other continents had a passing interest in the events of the day.