By the close of the 2008 Olympic Games, NBC will have broadcast 2,900 hours of live coverage – more than the total number of US television hours for all previous summer Olympic Games combined.
In addition to the broadcasts on the primary NBC channel, video coverage will be virtually nonstop on NBC’s Spanish-language outlet, Telemundo, and on five of seven major NBC Universal-owned cable channels. Huge amounts of video covering every sport will be served up by streamed video on NBC’s Olympics Web site, NBCOlympics.com. Here’s a good article about the monolithic coverage and the accompanying promotional effort.
This article examines the technical challenge of handling that much video – 11 terabytes of high definition content alone. NBC has spent billions on storage (180TB of available space in Beijing), servers, and creative technology to make it possible for editors around the world to stitch together the coverage from the available shots and create a finished piece without choking up all the bandwidth moving the HD video around.
The NBC Olympics web site will be streaming video using Microsoft’s Silverlight technology – you’ll have to install “Silverlight v.2 (beta)” to see the video. Microsoft paid large amounts of money to get the opportunity to install Silverlight on computers around the world, and it’s putting on a very impressive show – the high quality 720×480 video is quite remarkable after the last couple of years spent enduring miserable low-quality streaming Flash video on YouTube. Check it out – watch the incredible men’s swimming 4×100 relay. (When the video starts, click the button to “Enlarge” in the lower right corner.)
You’ll get a quick screen to indicate who your television provider is – if you don’t claim to have service from one of NBC’s “partners” (like, say, Comcast Cable in zip code 95404), you don’t get to watch the online video. There’s no check on the information you put in. I’ve seen one unconfirmed report that if you put in Time Warner in zip code 10001, you can see some coverage three hours earlier than it’s turned on for the west coast.
Enjoy the Games!