• Get Ready for the "Broadband Olympics"

    At last, the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics are upon us. In addition to the many extraordinary athletic performances we can expect, I believe this year's Games will be considered the first "Broadband Olympics." This potentially seminal event for the broadband medium was on my list of "6 Broadband Predictions for 2008."

    Through NBC's massive investment in broadband coverage, consumers are going to enjoy a completely different Olympic experience, obsoleting many of our traditional responses around missing key Olympic moments: "I just couldn't stay up so late to see that one" or "Hopefully they'll replay that one, I'd really like to see it, or "My kids wanted to see that one but it was during school."

    It's hard to imagine a sporting event, or any other event for that matter, better suited to broadband coverage. The two key challenges of Olympic broadcast coverage have always been the limited shelf space that just one broadcast channel provides (leading to coverage of only the most popular sports, and even then mainly the final rounds) and the time zone differences, which have created an awkward scheduling mix for U.S. prime-time.

    NBC, which has been touting its broadband Olympics coverage for months, has addressed these by offering a package of 2,200 hours of live streaming and 3,000 hours of on-demand highlights. The scale of NBC's broadband undertaking is unprecedented, and will easily create a new case study for future broadband event producers.

    To get a little glimpse of how just the on-demand portion of coverage will work, yesterday I spoke with Anystream's CEO Fred Singer and COO Bill Holding. Anystream is a key media production and publishing partner of NBC's, essentially handling all of the work flows for the 10,000 video assets that will be available on-demand.

    Fred and Bill gave me a sense of the massive complexity involved in ingesting video from the other side of the planet, processing it in a fraction of the customary time allowed, and then distributing it within minutes - according to an elaborate set of rights and business rules - to 16 partners in multiple formats. Often I speak of the complexity involved in the Syndicated Video Economy; there is no better example than the distribution of Olympics' video.

    Meanwhile, the broadband Olympics will be a coming out party of sorts for Microsoft's Silverlight, the company's Flash-killer. Tens of millions of new downloads will be driven by the Olympics, and Silverlight's picture-in-picture, rewind and HD features will receive their initial real-world stress test.

    Lastly of course, there are all of us consumers. While unprecedented coverage is available at NBCOlympics.com and elsewhere, to actually enjoy it entails getting down the learning curve of what, where, when and how individual sports will be offered. In short, massive choice requires consumer involvement. Nevertheless, I expect we'll be hearing about some very impressive broadband stats from NBC over the next two weeks and thereafter.

    Let the Games begin!