Max Bloom has a great article at StreamingMedia.com, discussing aspects of video delivery for the Beijing Olympics this summer. I’ve been tracking this project, because of all the prior publicity about a “Flash Killer”. I found this article after reading of Akamai’s delivery of Olympics video (more), and the StreamingMedia.com piece has lots of detail I hadn’t seen before.
(The MLB.com deal achieved a lot of positive publicity for Microsoft in 2007, but the reception upon release was not as positive, and today MLB.com doesn’t even seem to appear in Microsoft marketing materials. All through this, MLB Gameday has continued innovating in Flash.)
Regional restrictions enable regional licensing, and so enable funding for the event itself. A YouTube-style model wouldn’t work for such a large, capital-intensive event. Adobe Media Player offers similar capabilities today, but the WMV architecture has been in trials for the past few Olympics. The entire deal makes more sense when seen in this light.
Other details include the hiring of Schematic and the business angles for UI design, how viewing varies across different regions, and this bit on the details of delivery: “As of press time, NBCOlympics.com had yet to make a number of important technical decisions. A slew of DRC-Stream software and encoder boards from Canada-based Digital Rapids are being deployed in Beijing to populate NBCOlympics.com’s encoding farm, but other than committing to VC-1, NBCOlympics.com has yet to confirm encoding bitrates, frame rates, or frame sizes. (Without offering more specifics, Miller says NBCOlympics.com will be streaming through a managed bitrate solution to optimize the user’s connection, with a target maximum bitrate of 650KB/sec.) Digital Rapids is also supplying software to enable transcoding from other digital media formats into VC-1.”
After reading the article and sleeping on it, I’m left with the impression that this is less “Microsoft buying audience share by subsidizing big events” than it is “existing Windows Media sites not defecting because there’s now an option for in-the-page viewing”. I’m guessing Silverlight will still receive a boost from the Olympics deal, but it doesn’t seem as dramatic as it did before the details became available.