NBCU Prepares for Online Olympics Coverage

Online viewership is expected to be high for the Games of the XXIXth Olympiad. Each Games since the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the International Olympic Committee has incrementally increased the ability of rights-holders to stream live programming online.

For 2008, rights-holders are making the greatest use of their Internet platforms thus far.

NBC Universal plans to offer more than 5,000 hours of Olympics programming through its NBCOlympics.com site; around 2,200 hours of that programming will be live, including 25 sports that will receive little to no coverage on air. And that doesn“t include the Spanish-language coverage being streamed by the Telemundo division of NBCU.

NBCU is powering its online coverage with Microsoft Silverlight 2, Redmond's answer to Adobe Flash. Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for media and Web applications.

For the Olympics, the Sliverlight platform allows NBCU to offer users a variety of playback customizations, including picture-in-picture and several layers of text and metadata overlays, such as statistics, athlete biographies and analysis. It is also implementing a social networking aspect that allows viewers to see what other people are watching.

In China itself, CCTV.com, the Internet division of the state-run China Central Television, is partnering with Sohu.com and PPS.TV to deliver on-demand and live streaming of the Games.

Throughout the Games, PPS.TV will simulcast CCTV broadcasts of Olympic matches to an estimated 100 million viewers via its proprietary media player software network.

Since late 2005, Sohu.com has been the Official Internet Content Service Sponsor of the Beijing Games, but it was recently that the inked an agreement with CCTV to offer live Webcasts of the Games.

Like NBCU, Sohu.com is using Silverlight to power its video coverage.

According to a press release announcing the agreement, Sohu.com plans to have a staff of more than 700 experts organizing pictures, videos, blogs, forums, etc., working during the Olympics.