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Olympics 10 days to go: Online video technologies put to the test by London Olympics

17 Jul 2012
London 2012 Olympic Games logo

With the London Olympics only 10 days away, sports enthusiasts will be considering how they intend to keep up to date with the Games. Online video technologies will be the first choice for many employees wanting to tap into the Olympics live from their desks and watch replays of the most exciting events.

In partnership with Cisco, V3 spoke to analysts about how this summer's Games has already boosted the maturity of video technologies on offer to both businesses and consumers. Although broadcast television will be responsible for the majority of event broadcasting, online video is set to see unprecedented use.

All of the Olympics' 302 events will be streamed live by the BBC in the UK, as a result of an overhaul to the broadcaster's Sports website. Viewers will be able to stream the video to their mobiles or tablets in HD over Wi-Fi and 3G after the BBC launched new mobile applications for the iOS and Android platforms.

Meanwhile in the US, NBC will be responsible for the online video coverage of the Games, and has undertaken similar updates to its live streaming capabilities and launched similar mobile applications.

In fact, according to AdExchanger, NBC has sold $60 million worth of digital ads compared to the $20 million in ads it sold in 2008 for the last summer Olympics in Beijing - a good indication of the pace with which video technology is developing.

"Every premium rights holder is looking at multi-streaming right now, like the BBC is investing huge amounts in iPhone and iPad applications. The same is happening in the US with NBC doing the same thing," said Ovum analyst Adrian Drury, in an interview with V3.adrian-drury-ovum

"This is great for the end user. It gives them absolute convenience about where they can watch premium content and makes it convenient for them to consume it in real time or on demand from any device."

Drury said the months leading up to the Olympics have seen a maturity of the content delivery network market.

"For example we have seen the maturing of bitrate streaming [the transfer of files in many different sizes so that the files buffer quickly]. This is not new, but now the technology has reached the point of real scale," he said.

"The Olympics will make people increasingly aware that premium video services are about being able to access live TV. Also, this is a big test for the BBC and NBC who will be able to tell whether the enormous investment in production and in all these multi-platform services allows them to break even."

Meanwhile, analyst at Strategy Analytics Ed Barton, said the amount of live streaming during the Olympics is likely to fundamentally change the way consumers view online video. Rather than using iPlayer services to catch up on the programmes they have missed, they increasingly use the service to watch television in real time, and expect other broadcasters to offer similar types of mature capabilities, said Barton.

However Barton raised the all-important question about what this massive amount of live video consumption will mean for IT networks.

Already a large percentage of corporate bandwidth is consumed by streaming video and this is before the Olympics is factored in. Not only will people be watching the event through official channels, but also through publicly generated content on YouTube, which will only add to the strains networks are placed under.


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Rosalie Marshall

Rosalie Marshall is the special projects editor and chief reporter at V3. Previously she was a reporter for IT Week and channel editor for online television site Rosalie covers government IT, business applications, IT skills, open source technology and social networks.

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