How NBC Is Revolutionizing Live Stream Video

JULY 22, 2016 • Blog Post • BY CHRIS NULL, WIRED BRAND LAB

IN THIS ARTICLE

  • NBC will stream 4,500 hours of content for the 2016 Games in Rio
  • As more people stream the events on mobile devices, NBC is preparing to meet increased live broadcasting demand

Find out how NBC Sports expects to shatter broadcasting records at the Rio games this summer

Despite early hurdles ahead of the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro (unfinished stadiums, Zika virus concerns, doping scandals), one thing is certain: people will certainly watch—and, more likely, stream—the Games around the world.

In preparation, NBC Sports recently created its own streaming media outfit, Playmaker Media, charged with pumping more than 15,000 hours of sports video content onto the web this year—including all of the action from Rio. NBC's bet that its viewers will be keeping up with the medal count on smartphones and tablets is a good one: according to research firm Deloitte, viewer preference tilted toward streaming services over pay TV in 2015, a trend that's sure to continue during the 31st Summer Games.

Eric Black, CTO of Digital for NBC Sports, says the network will stream 4,500 hours of content from the 16 days of competition—the most it has ever streamed at the Games. All told, the network will webcast more than 100 events per day, with the number of simultaneous streams peaking at “north of 35," Black says. Short races, such as the Men's 100-meter sprint final, are the most challenging because they get high consumption in a brief amount of time—roughly 10 seconds.

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So how, exactly, does the streaming work? It is a massive undertaking, but Black is seemingly unfazed. NBC has done this (or a version of this) before and has a good partner on the ground. While NBC's own cameras will be trained on the most popular events, the Summer Games has its own broadcasting arm that's responsible for capturing every event on video for NBC to stream to its viewers. Playmaker simply collects and repackages the feeds on its own website and then monitors the rebroadcasts to ensure quality remains high. Black says there is “a tremendous amount of redundancy" built into the system to ensure that any hiccups can be quickly remediated.

  • The real challenge is simply doing quite a bit more in a shorter amount of time.

“The real challenge is simply doing quite a bit more in a shorter amount of time," Black says. "We do this every day. We see the Summer Games as a great opportunity for us to shine in the industry."

Black is eager for the Rio Games to begin. “The Opening Ceremonies are my favorite," he says. Oddly enough, it's pretty much the only time during the Games that Playmaker will have a single stream to deal with.

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