Print 56 comment(s) - last by Pirks.. on Aug 28 at 2:14 PM

  (Source: David Gray/Reuters)
Unprecedented traffic quelled doubts and set records

The Olympics finally ended on Sunday and with it an impressive display of athletics that showcased the talents of athletes like America's Michael Phelps and Jamaica's Usain Bolt.  While the Olympics and technology are not something everyone thinks of as mixing, the two are surprisingly intertwined.  From Michael Phelps’ high-tech swimsuit to the amazing architecture behind the various stadiums, the 2008 Beijing Olympics were a marriage of science and media.

Perhaps the greatest impact on the tech industry is thanks to the unprecedented response to the record amount of streaming coverage provided by NBC.  NBC gambled big, scheduling in excess of 2,200 hours of live stream coverage to be available free of charge on its website.  It bet that enough viewers would turn in to make its advertising recoup the losses.

The result was an epic success, in many ways.  As of Saturday, NBC reported that it had received 1.2 billion page views and 72 million video stream views.  These traffic totals blew away the totals for the 2004 Games in Athens and the 2006 Games in Turin combined.  To put NBC and the Olympics' accomplishment in another light, NBC was able to offer 45 minutes of video coverage a day in its 1964 Summer Olympics.  This year it offered 3,600 minutes daily of content -- almost three days worth in a single day -- spread across several networks.

One result of this success is that the television rights for the 2014 and 2016 Games are expected to earn much more in bidding next year.  ESPN, who owns the sports section of ABC, already has said it will make a major bid on the rights to these upcoming games.

For this year, the biggest winner in terms of money is perhaps NBC, who owned the rights to this year's Games.  NBC was the exclusive source of online video and the only network able to use the official Olympic logo.  As a result it reaped big advertising profits.

However, internet search engine and news aggregator Yahoo may have trumped even NBC in terms of audience and advertiser revenue.  Research firm Nielsen Online showed that Yahoo was getting 4.7 million unique visitors a day at the Olympics’ peak, versus 4.3 million at NBC.  Jimmy Pitaro, the head of sports and entertainment for Yahoo, stated, "The demand that we’re seeing has far exceeded even our wildest expectations."

According to Nielson, other big winners included AOL, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the Beijing Organizing Committee, The New York Times, and USA Today.  It said many people were drawn to these sites for their more diverse, entertaining coverage, compared to NBC's more straightforward coverage.

Regardless of whether it did the best or just very well, NBC learned a lot from the Olympic Games.  First, it claims that despite the record traffic, 93 percent of viewing was still done on television.  Secondly, it says online viewing was primarily used by viewers as a replay device.  Alan Wurtzel, the head of research for NBC states, "People want to catch up on events that they miss.  About half say that’s the main reason.  The second reason (about 40 percent) is that they want to resee and revisit the major events they had seen on TV earlier."

Also of interest, NBC found its internet traffic peaked at around noon, presumably when workers were on their lunch breaks.  Monday mornings also were strong performers, presumably due to office workers making up missed weekend coverage.

Exactly how much NBC made in its online endeavors is open to speculation.  NBC said that it could not be estimated as ads were sold across different platforms.  Research firm eMarketer, however, claims that the total revenue from NBC's online video ads amounted to $5.75M USD.  With NBC estimated to have made $1B USD in advertising for the games overall, this percentage seems remarkably tiny.

One way Yahoo won big was by cleverly circumventing NBC's rights.  NBC elected to not provide streaming coverage of the biggest events, such as Usain Bolt's record setting 200 m race, saving it to force viewers to tune in to its evening coverage to see video.  While some sites provided breaking news updates of the results early, Yahoo took it a step further, linking to video from out-of-country providers such as BBC.  This proved to be a major traffic generator for the site.  Compared to Turin, Yahoo says it tripled in traffic.

In years to come, coverage and advertising for the games, online and off will likely continue to grow, with over 80 percent of Americans on the internet.  However, the 2008 Beijing Olympics will likely hold a unique spot in the timeline of Olympics and the internet, as it will be the first year where online coverage started to really take off.

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By Pirks on 8/25/2008 12:56:53 PM , Rating: 2
Did NBC do it with Silverlight? Does anyone know any blog posts/news/metric about that? I heard MS was betting big on NBC's Olympics silverliighted site, so how did that work? Please share your stories, guys :-)

RE: Silverlight?
By Chapbass on 8/25/2008 1:11:27 PM , Rating: 3
You had the option of either using silverlight or not. I tried it without, and my connect couldnt keep up with the content.

Once i installed silverlight, however, the video quality looked better, i had the ability to pause, rewind, etc, and my connection was fine (i could start a video without having to pause it in the beginning to cache...which btw, you couldnt do without silverlight).

RE: Silverlight?
By Pirks on 8/25/2008 2:38:31 PM , Rating: 2
OK, so judging by what I've read on the net that was one smashing success. I'd be even more happy if MS code monkeys were not so freakin lazy and introduced support for x64 systems. Oh well, I bet Adobe will do this two-three years after MS anyway, so laziness here is definitely a relative thing ;)

P.S. Poor & forgotten (as usual) Linux fanatics can continue sucking their empty eggs (as usual), or maybe they should offer Mono team some much needed help 'cause Linux just can't keep up chasing Windows, so .Net on Linux is always too little too late

RE: Silverlight?
By Master Kenobi on 8/25/2008 3:00:40 PM , Rating: 2
Well, if you choose to use Linux, you also get all the neglect that comes with it. Deal with it.

RE: Silverlight?
By Pirks on 8/25/2008 3:31:36 PM , Rating: 1
Too bad Windows x64 is kinda the same at the moment. No Flash x64, no Silverlight x64. Total Linux-like disastro! :o)

RE: Silverlight?
By ChronoReverse on 8/25/2008 3:45:52 PM , Rating: 2
You can run 32bit software in x64 versions of Windows for a reason you know.

RE: Silverlight?
By idconstruct on 8/28/2008 4:51:31 AM , Rating: 2
yeah... exactly... I've been using vista x64 for almost a year now and i've NEVER had any problems with compatibility with the exception of maybe some crappy freeware here and there that probably could hardly run on x86 anyway

and yeah i actually loved watching vids on NBC's site... silverlight was awesome after the unfortunate manual install... no issues at all.

RE: Silverlight?
By anotherdude on 8/25/2008 3:52:19 PM , Rating: 2
Vista 64 runs silverlight and flash! You just use a 32 bit browser instead of the 64. The 32 bit version of IE is actually the default in Vista/XP 64. Works perferctly.

RE: Silverlight?
By Pirks on 8/25/2008 3:54:42 PM , Rating: 2
How does running 32-bit Flash and Silverlight help me if I want to use IE x64?

RE: Silverlight?
By anotherdude on 8/25/2008 7:37:40 PM , Rating: 2
IE x64? No, it won't help you. Why is 64 IE so important to you? Being able to use IE 64 is a nice luxury but since you can still use Windows 64 and just run the default browser in it to see flash or silverlight this is hardly much of a problem. I thought you were suggesting that viewing flash on Windows 64 was difficult or impossible, you did say "Too bad Windows x64 is kinda the same at the moment. No Flash x64, no Silverlight x64. Total Linux-like disastro! :o)"

RE: Silverlight?
By Pirks on 8/25/2008 8:28:26 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, it is a disastro for people who wanna run IE x64 because it is a bit more secure than IE x86.

RE: Silverlight?
By Shlong on 8/26/2008 11:55:22 AM , Rating: 2
Couldn't you have both installed? Just run IE x64 as default browser and IE x86 just for the applications that need it?

RE: Silverlight?
By Pirks on 8/26/2008 4:04:48 PM , Rating: 2
Couldn't you buy four cars too? Get a Smart for shopping errands, Civic for small family trips, Odissey for extended family and a big truck for hauling cargo loads. Good luck smarty :P

RE: Silverlight?
By anotherdude on 8/26/2008 4:53:07 PM , Rating: 2
IE 64 actually makes a very nice flash blocker. Flash is 99.9% ads anyway. But you do make a point here. If I wanna watch a youtube I don't want to have to break out another browser and thus I use IE 32 or FF 32 myself. If you could point me to something definitive about the substantial superiority of a 64 bit browser I might agree this is at least worth spending a few minutes thinking about.

RE: Silverlight?
By Pirks on 8/26/2008 7:55:46 PM , Rating: 2
IE64 as a Flash blocker is for losers who don't use Opera.

Substantial superiority? How about more resistance to web viruses/trojans because they tend to target IE x86 with their buffer overflow exploits and stuff? How about ASLR which according to Paul Thurrott is an x64-only feature?

RE: Silverlight?
By idconstruct on 8/28/2008 6:04:04 AM , Rating: 2
adblock plus ftw... haven't seen an ad in ages

RE: Silverlight?
By Pirks on 8/28/2008 2:14:59 PM , Rating: 2
Who needs adblock when you have Opera :)

RE: Silverlight?
By silversound on 8/26/2008 3:21:21 PM , Rating: 2
Its funny 2008 Beijing Olympics was #29 so XXIX, So 2012 London is going to be XXX Olympics!!!

what about London?
By dickeywang on 8/25/2008 12:58:14 PM , Rating: 2
I hope that they can draw the same amount of attention in 2012, but I guess it will be difficult. Everything related to China is hot and controversy and therefore draws a lot of attention (even this year's Olympic torch relay attracted so much coverage in the media).

RE: what about London?
By Spivonious on 8/25/2008 1:44:38 PM , Rating: 2
I don't see how London can even come close to topping this year's opening and closing ceremonies, or the crazy architecture of the venues.

RE: what about London?
By Indianapolis on 8/25/2008 1:54:59 PM , Rating: 4
Who cares if London tops the opening and closing ceremonies? For me the Olympics is about the athletes.

I enjoy the parade of countries, but otherwise I think the appeal of the opening ceremony is entirely overrated. I couldn't imagine actually sitting through the entire ceremony with all the over-contrived pageantry and gallivanting. Thank goodness for DVRs.

RE: what about London?
By Spivonious on 8/25/2008 2:24:40 PM , Rating: 2
I'd rather see pageantry than what Michael Phelps had for breakfast, stick women playing in the sand, and 12 year-olds jumping around on a balance beam.

RE: what about London?
By theapparition on 8/26/2008 9:42:48 AM , Rating: 2
Couldn't agree more.

The more overhyped any sporting event begins to become, the less interested I become. I hardly watched any olympic coverage, instead chosing my clips of the actual events.

And I can't tell you how I despise the Superbowl anymore. As a huge football fan, I find very little of the game. Rather, the spectacle that is the two week hype leading up to the game, 10 hours of pregame coverage, a rediculous and un-needed halftime show, and commericials (no matter how inovative some may be) that have eclipsed the actual game.

RE: what about London?
By Solandri on 8/25/2008 2:19:46 PM , Rating: 3
China spent over $40 billion on these Olympics. 2/3rds of the nations that attended don't even have a GDP of $40 billion. Adjusted for inflation:

Montreal 1976 was about US$20 billion
Los Angeles 1984 was about US$1.4 billion
Atlanta 1996 was about US$3.2 billion
Sydney 2000 was about US$4.9 billion
Athens 2004 was about US$14-16 billion
Beijing 2008 was about US$40-44 billion
London's 2012 budget is currently around US$17 billion

To be fair, a large part of the cost seems to depend on how many new venues and facilities need to be built. Los Angeles came in so low because it made extensive use of pre-existing dormitories and stadiums (they even pulled off a profit that year). Montreal, Athens, and Beijing did a lot of construction.

By dever on 8/25/2008 1:03:34 PM , Rating: 2
I used the NBCOlympics website for a good portion of my Olympics watching, but I must say I was under-impressed with the implementation.

Microsoft's beta version of Silverlight seemed to work flawlessly. However, NBC missed a couple of key factors when designing the site.

First of all, the the video screen could not be enlarged past about 800x600 or so when "enlarged." If you have a larger monitor (20 inches or more) this made up a very small percentage of the screen. There was the option of changing the screen resolution to it's lowest setting, but what a pain. Next time, full screen is imperitive.

Secondly, it was overly difficult to find videos. The search was awkward and the results were spotty.

RE: Under-impressed
By Diesel Donkey on 8/25/2008 2:18:25 PM , Rating: 2
Using IE7, I had good luck with zooming in. The resolution didn't improve, obviously, but the picture did nearly fill my 24" screen. The only problem was that for whatever reason the page would partially refresh or something every 8 minutes or so and the zoomed image would move over to the side of the screen. Clicking the horizontal slider once every 8 min or so alleviated that problem. Of course this is rather a contrived solution to the problem, but it did woerk.

RE: Under-impressed
By feelingshorter on 8/25/2008 5:22:47 PM , Rating: 2
They probably did that because silverlight took up such a large amount of CPU power. It had my AMD 3000+ running at almost 100% constantly. But if you play flash movies at you can see that flash isn't any faster.

The search function was simple once you figured it out. You click on the sport you want to watch on the left side. And then click video on the left side. Dont click on video on the top panel.

I was very impressed that NBC really didn't have any ads for it. I watched almost all of the sports online and not one showed any video ads. I wonder how they even make money from the streaming. That or my adblick blocked all the ads, but i sure didn't see any at all!

Did not watch
By The Boston Dangler on 8/25/2008 4:00:46 PM , Rating: 2
1. open in ie
2. register
3. install more software
4. goodbye

By JonnyDough on 8/26/2008 6:44:20 AM , Rating: 2
Am I the only one who could give a crap about the Olympics?

Am I the only one who thinks NBC and Yahoo should not be able to "own" the Olympics? I should be able to take a camera and share it with people however I want, and if that means broadcasting it so be it. They can own a CHANNEL or a WEBSITE, but they shouldn't be able to own an international competition EVENT.

By Cheapshot on 8/25/08, Rating: -1
RE: Date
By Brandon Hill on 8/25/2008 12:54:06 PM , Rating: 1
Actually, I think it should be 2012 and 2016.

Regardless, we all must be mixing up Summer and Winter Olympics ;)

RE: Date
By stephenfs on 8/25/2008 12:56:01 PM , Rating: 5
The television rights for 2012 are already owned by NBC (I think). The 2014 and 2016 are the next to be put up for sale.

RE: Date
By karielash on 8/25/2008 2:25:50 PM , Rating: 1

Considering the London Olympic Committee has not sold the rights yet I find it unlikely that NBC has it. I think it highly likely that there will be bidding from a large number of sources considering the success of the online distribution this time round and I would expect the bidding to go way beyond what was paid for this Olympics.

RE: Date
By JonnyDough on 8/26/2008 6:46:55 AM , Rating: 2
So wait, you mean some people are making big bucks off this stuff? They should be paying the athletes more and giving them more say in what goes on I think.

I need to get rich so I can hold events like the Olympics so that I can get rich.

RE: Date
By JasonMick on 8/25/2008 12:59:03 PM , Rating: 3
Nope. The upcoming bidding is indeed for the 2014 (Winter) and 2016 (summer) games.


By phatboye on 8/25/08, Rating: -1
By KhaoticAlien on 8/25/2008 1:21:23 PM , Rating: 2
Flash=fail, Linux has never had support for these kind of things, and there's no reason for companys to waste the money/time for the tiny amount of users.

By quickk on 8/25/2008 1:53:05 PM , Rating: 3
What are you talking about? Flash works fine in Linux, as well as OS X and Windows. Flash is platform independent and is installed on pretty much every computer that has a web browser. Why do you think that youtube and its ilk all use Flash to deploy their videos?

By Spivonious on 8/25/08, Rating: 0
By Spivonious on 8/26/2008 10:07:33 AM , Rating: 2
Why is this downrated? It's true. They just have versions for Win32, Mac, Linux, Solaris, and Unix. They're also on version 9. Silverlight version 2 is still in beta.

By HinderedHindsight on 8/25/2008 5:35:11 PM , Rating: 3
Actually, Flash is platform dependent, for example, the plugin for Firefox will work on any linux distro provided the distro isn't running on a 64 bit hardware platform. I discovered that when I tried to go with 64 bit Ubuntu on a laptop I just purchased.

With that said, Flash is only as platform independent and Adobe chooses to make it. In its current state, Flash is more cross-platform compatible than Silverlight, and is definitely much more mature.

By phatboye on 8/25/2008 10:53:29 PM , Rating: 2
I'm running 64-bit Gentoo and Flash runs fine. It runs on 32 bit opera and 64 bit Firefox flawlessly.

By johnsonx on 8/26/2008 3:20:16 PM , Rating: 2
Flash is only as platform independent and Adobe chooses to make it.

That's called Cross-Platform, not Platform Independent. HTML is Platform Independent. Flash is Cross-Platform.

By phatboye on 8/25/2008 10:54:08 PM , Rating: 2
Flash works fine on Linux wtf are you taking about.

By Spivonious on 8/25/2008 1:43:42 PM , Rating: 5
Silverlight is 1000x better than Flash, at least from a developer's perspective. Why don't you tell the Mono team to speed up their work?

By Kougar on 8/25/08, Rating: -1
By PWNettle on 8/25/2008 6:20:49 PM , Rating: 2
That might not have been a silverlight problem. The data could've been bad. You have to figure that out of all the tons of video they made available that some of it might be screwd up.

I watched a few of the basketball replays and most were fine, but one had no real audio (you could kinda hear crowd noise in the background).

I kinda doubt flash can manufacture sound for a video that wasn't made properly and lacked sound during recording either.

By phatboye on 8/25/2008 11:06:28 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe cause MS just released Silverlight 2.0 not too long ago. You can't expect something like this to be developed overnight. In the mean time flash works on most major OSes. MS had a few years head start with the specs in order to get working code. Not to mention MS's shady licensing terms.

By MrBlastman on 8/25/2008 2:09:42 PM , Rating: 2
Ya know, as much as I like to rip on Microsoft, I really liked the interface that they used for watching content. When watching Tae Kwon Do for instance, I was able to instantly fast-forward to various matchups and their individual point rounds per match by just clicking on the individual parts from a list. It was very convenient and easy to use.

Of course, the only reason I was forced to use their web interface is because NBC has horrible on-air coverage of the games. They never have shown Tae Kwon Do, Fencing or Judo on air. Ever.

It is really pitiful actually. I'd love for them to stop trying to decide what America wants and give some of the obscure sports like these airtime.

Either way, the online content is awesome and they have done I think a very good job of organizing it and making it accessible.

By DCstewieG on 8/25/2008 5:08:07 PM , Rating: 2
A couple things:

First off, I actually did see some fencing on NBC. It wasn't primetime, and I doubt it was live, but it was on...and not just highlights either.

Second, I don't think NBC is deciding what America wants to see...they've already decided! That's precisely why certain sports are obscure.

TV, especially primetime, needs eyeballs. You're not going to see those sports for the same reason [insert cult TV show] was canceled. Just be glad you were able to watch online, it's really the best you could hope for.

By Solandri on 8/25/2008 2:24:57 PM , Rating: 2
To hell with NBC they used ms silverlight which in turn kept linux users like me from watching the online content.

How's this for irony. The site runs on linux.

By FuzionMonkey on 8/25/2008 2:36:06 PM , Rating: 2
Uh, most servers run linux also. The NBC site is nothing special.

By Solandri on 8/25/2008 2:45:27 PM , Rating: 1
The irony is that they'll use Linux but won't support it. And Microsoft (the MS in MSNBC) has a history of replacing Unix with MS software. Like when they bought Hotmail and replaced the Sun (I think it was) servers with NT boxes (and promptly found out they needed 3x the hardware to handle the same mail volume).

By Oregonian2 on 8/25/2008 3:29:57 PM , Rating: 3
They do support Linux -- as a server where it's popular. They don't for the client where it's not (argue however much you like, but it's not a huge percentage of the family home PC's that would be their market for this).

But is it NBC that's not supporting Linux or is is the Linux developers who haven't provided the technology infrastructure required?

P.S. - Three NT boxes were probably still a lot cheaper than a Sun server. :-)

By Ringold on 8/26/2008 4:42:55 AM , Rating: 2
(argue however much you like, but it's not a huge percentage of the family home PC's that would be their market for this).

Thats the real bottom line. Guys like phatboye are the type of crybabies that don't give the linux crowd a very good public image. (I know there are many not like him, but they, not being babies, remain quiet.) The same is true with all product markets; get a niche product, and support will be limited. Life isn't "fair." Whats new.

By Clauzii on 8/25/2008 4:47:56 PM , Rating: 2
Even Microsoft Search is on Linux :D

Nice link, Solandri. Didn't know that one.

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