Last week NBC shared some details around their plans for streaming the Summer Olympics and while they are quick to highlight that NBCOlympics.com and their NBC Sports App will stream 4,500 hours via TV Everywhere, you have to be a subscriber to pay TV to be able to see it. Users who can’t authenticate via a cable subscription will only be able to stream 30 minutes of coverage prior to authentication on their first visit, and 5 minutes each subsequent day. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that the Olympics content is restricted to pay TV subs, but it would be nice if NBC allowed viewers to see more than just 30 minutes without needing to be a cable subscriber.
This year, NBC is using the newly launched technology service from NBC Sports called Playmaker Media to manage the Olympics workflow and they have pulled in partners Adobe, Akamai, Microsoft, iStreamPlanet, and Comcast Wholesale to make it all work. Every year we have an Olympics many in the streaming industry want to highlight how big of a deal the Olympics are for the technology space, but we have to keep things in perspective. It is a good way to show off the technology and what can be accomplished with video, it’s not a big revenue driver for the companies involved. For all of the content delivery Akamai will be doing for the event, the company is only expected to generate around $5M from the Olympics.
And the traffic to the event is never as big as some predict it will be. The 2014 Winter Olympics peaked at just under one million simultaneous users, which isn’t very big at all. I don’t expect we will see a huge traffic increase this year, even with all the additional devices and platforms NBC is making the content available on. The next World Cup will easily surpass the Olympics in terms of the number of simultaneous streams that are concurrent at any given time. But from a feature standpoint, the Olympics do get better each year and I’m glad to see that NBC is adding support for connected TVs and closed captioning in English.
What I care about most with large-scale live events like the Olympics, and what the industry is just starting to focus on, is measuring the quality of experience (QoE). Number of streams delivered is just one metric that should be used to determine the success of any event, but it should not be the only metric. I’m hoping that this year, NBC will share out QoE data on how the stream was delivered and what kind of user experience the viewer had so we can truly judge the success of the event. While it’s great that guys like Sandvine, Cedexis and others provide us with details on the infrastructure side of things, no data from any of these kind of large events is ever shared that shows how the stream really did, down to a user level. Having high-level data that shows a cloud provider or ISP had a problem is nice to know, but it doesn’t tell us what the problem was or the true impact to the viewer. So hopefully NBC can set the trend for the rest of the industry this year by putting out real QoE data during the Olympics, or give their partner Akamai the permission to do so.