Turner Partner, iStreamPlanet, Powers NBC's Olympic Streaming Coverage

EDITOR’S NOTE: iSteamPlanet is a key part of Turner’s innovation strategy as we continue to reimagine TV. For those of you who enjoyed the live streaming experience of the 2016 Summer Olympics you experienced because of the work of the iStreamPlanet team who provided the innovation behind NBC’s broadcast. The following post from Founder and CEO Mio Babic (which originally appeared on the iStreamPlanet blog) talks about how the team made it all happen.

Olympic Reflections Part Deux: From Sochi to Rio, What’s Changed?

If there is one thing we at iStreamPlanet take special pride in, it is rapid innovation. Given it’s Olympic season, our team is running at 100m dash speeds to create new technology and keep up with incredibly talented men and women competing at the Games.

A Partner Rich Ecosystem

With Sochi Olympics in the rearview, a dream of scalable cloud based media processing achieved, NBC Olympics wanted to push the boundaries to create an even better consumer experience and raise the bar higher. This meant working with their ecosystem of partners to add more content, at higher quality, on even more devices, giving consumers the ultimate choice on how and when they can enjoy their favorite Olympic sport or events. This also meant adding more workflow automation than ever, creating new enhanced monetization options, and operating the infrastructure using the cloud’s unparalleled scale and flexibility.

More Content & More Platforms

With over 100 sources coming from Rio, Brazil and the NBC Sports facility in Stamford, CT, compared to Sochi’s 41, we are helping NBC Olympics deliver over 4,500 hours of Olympic content, or four and half times the amount of content generated in Sochi, to Olympics fans in the United States. We’ve standardized on 1080 input across all channels — this lets NBC create a great viewing experience for devices capable of the highest quality playback, while also optimizing for all devices and platforms of varying capabilities. When it comes to a device and platform choice, the industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace giving consumers more choice than ever. To watch the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, consumers had only one platform choice: PC or Mac. The London Olympics in 2012 introduced choices of mobile phones and tablets, in addition to PC and Mac. For the Rio Olympics, an entirely new ecosystem of connected devices came to life giving consumers the ultimate choice. In addition to PC and Mac, mobile phones and tablets, consumers will find all Rio content available on Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Xbox ONE/Windows 10, Samsung Connected TVs, the Comcast X1 set-top-box, and Chromecast devices. Our video content management system (vCMS) and Aventus media processing platform have been enhanced to orchestrate all the source feeds, encoders, event transitions from scheduled to live to replay mode, metadata ingestion, video player experience, configure the origins, and manage ad insertion. To achieve this scale and quality, NBC operates across both private and public clouds with a multiple redundant topology.

Automation is Essential

When operating at scale in real time, automation is essential. Given the high profile of the Olympics and time critical nature of live sports, we needed to eliminate as many sources of error and human touch points as possible. Our vCMS and Aventus media processing platform allowed us to automate event setup, redundant encoding, and failover at speeds far faster than a typical operations center could achieve. No one wants to miss a ‘gold medal’ moment!
 

Under NBC Sports’ leadership, with partners like Adobe and others, NBC’s ad operations team uses vCMS to insert pre- and mid-rolls targeting both national and local ad placement opportunities on all Rio devices and platforms. For anything of the size and scale of Rio — over 200 live events alone on Aug 6, Day 1 of the Games — it was absolutely critical to plan for the expected and prepare for the unexpected. To achieve scale on-demand and high reliability of the media processing workloads we rely on NBC’s partner Microsoft and their Azure cloud. On the content delivery side, NBC’s long-term partner Akamai has been entrusted to deliver live and VOD content from Microsoft Azure to the millions of Olympic fans on their preferred devices.

“Over the years we enjoyed a tremendous partnership with iStreamPlanet to help us deliver some of the world’s largest and most complex live events.” noted Eric Black, CTO of Digital at NBC Sports. “We are delighted to be working again with iStreamPlanet to bring the Games to our consumers on devices and platforms of their choice.”

What’s Next?

Looking ahead once again I find myself contemplating how different will be the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and what intriguing innovations will come at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics? I foresee content in high definition range (HDR) and 4K raising the bar on video quality, machine learning and artificial intelligence delivering more personalized user experiences, and both of these innovations combining to drive even higher engagement times and consumer satisfaction.

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