Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Live On Web | How Is NBC Delivering Streaming Coverage?

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Beijing 2008NBC is planning on streaming 2,200 hours of coverage from the Olympic Games live over the Web, but what sort of effort is required to make this a reality?

The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games start on August 8th, and for the first time ever, the full games will be available to watch on the Web via

One Giant Experiment

We’ve already heard about the plans to televise the Games online, with 2,200 hours of live footage to be made available via the official website, although some severe restrictions mean many Internet users won’t be made welcome.

We’ve also spoken about how the online video coverage of the Olympics is going to be used as a kind of testing ground to research how people are watching the Games, and whether offering the coverage for free is a viable business model.

But we didn’t look at how the footage was actually going to be delivered to homes all around the world live and streaming across the Net. Which with so much coverage being planned, is a tall order.

Content Delivery Process

CNet has done exactly that in an excellent article explaining every part of the process. It also talks about the advertising plans, and how big a risk this is for NBC and everyone involved at every stage.

Beijing 2008 Olympics Coverage On Web

The process starts with an International Broadcast Centre that has been set up in Beijing. High-definition video feeds are delivered over fibre-optic cables from al of the venues holding Olympic events.

Converted For The Internet

The video is then converted in to an Internet-ready format by encoders and Windows Media servers, before being sent via satellite to NBC’s headquarters in New York where Saturday Night Live‘s Stage 8H has been turned in to a data centre.

NBC then adds a one-minute delay allowing in-house live bloggers to prepare their text, and for the commentary and video footage to be synchronised.

Live To US Homes

NBC then sends it to Limelight Networks, a content delivery network that uses its 1,000 servers to deliver the content to various ISPs around the US. The ISPs then deliver it to individual viewers connected to their networks.

This is a huge test of the technology that is going to shape the future of television, and we need it to be a success if the networks are going to be persuaded of the logic of streaming events such as this over the Internet.

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