The Norwegian Broadcasting Company (NRK), Norway's largest media organization, wanted to provide greatly enhanced online coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics, including live events. The company engaged with Microsoft and leading technology partners to take advantage of Microsoft Silverlight and Internet Information Services (IIS) Smooth Streaming to provide Web-based coverage of the Olympics, both live and on-demand. NRK met the challenge of Winter Olympics coverage with astonishing success, providing more than 1 million hours of streamed video in crystal clear, 720p HD. The combination of IIS Smooth Streaming and Silverlight provided a compelling, powerful experience for Norway’s sports fans.
||[The 77.94-minute average viewing time] is an amazing number that exceeds anything we have done before. We feel that the success is largely attributable to the video delivery made possible by IIS Smooth Streaming and the Silverlight-based video player.
||Bjarne Andre Myklebust, Head of IP Distribution, NRK
Eighty-two percent of Norway households enjoy broadband connectivity, placing the country in the top 20 worldwide with high broadband penetration (Akamai Report on “State of the Internet,” Q3 2009). Because more and more Norwegians access content via the Internet, it’s no surprise that the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s (NRK) mission, “Something for all. Always,” means delivering a high-quality, online viewing experience. This directive extended to coverage for the Winter Olympics as well.
“We must continue to be relevant to all of our viewers,” says Bjarne Andre Myklebust, Head of IP Distribution for NRK. “We find that more young people are using computers to view shows and events. With 82 percent of households enjoying broadband access, delivering high-quality video experiences online is essential.”
NRK.no currently receives more than half a million visits a day, making it the third most-trafficked site in Norway. Complementing its TV and radio presence, NRK.no already delivers up to 40,000 hours of video-on-demand (VOD), including television shows and events, which the network pushes online after the broadcast airs. In addition, the company has provided live streaming of events, including the Summer Olympics in Beijing and the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony. Previous experience showed that more people tune in to live action sports online while VOD is more popular for soap operas and reality television.
Even with the high availability of broadband, streaming technology is fairly new and viewing videos online is not always an ideal experience. Explains Myklebust, “Depending on network conditions, for instance, viewers may experience buffering delays or occasionally the video might not work at all.”
With the Winter Olympics in Vancouver on the horizon in 2010, NRK considered ways to improve the quality of such an important sporting event. NRK wanted to offer every moment of every sporting event live and in HD, provide video highlights of every event in HD, and show all statistics of every event and every athlete in real time and in sync with the video.
Says Myklebust, “Winter sports in general are very important to us in Norway, making the Winter Olympics all the more popular here. Our ability to provide excellent online coverage of the Winter Olympics was crucial.”Solution
NRK chose Microsoft Silverlight 3 and Internet Information Services (IIS) Smooth Streaming technology, a feature of IIS Media Services, to deliver the Winter Olympics in Vancouver to enthusiastic Norwegian fans. To help ensure a positive viewing experience, NRK took advantage of IIS Smooth Streaming to provide adaptive streaming of media to the Silverlight-based video player. IIS Smooth Streaming adjusts the resolution of outgoing video to accommodate changes in a viewer’s bandwidth, ultimately eliminating the need for buffering.
|Total number of unique visitors consuming video online
|Total number of events covered
||300 events, including 86 medal events|
|Amount of video streamed to visitors
||1.02 million hours|
|Peak concurrent active live streams
||16 (out of 19)|
|Peak concurrent online viewers
|Total amount of video delivered
||• 960 terabytes total|
• 800 terabytes live
• 160 terabytes VOD
|Peak minutes per unique view (per user/per day)
|Video streams delivered
||• 4.6 million total|
• 3.3 million live
• 1.3 million VOD
The company worked with Microsoft and leading technology vendors to create an innovative solution to deliver live and on-demand video coverage of the games.
Encoding and Provisioning
Six NRK encoders in Oslo, Norway, received feeds from the Olympic Broadcasting System (OBS) via Toronto for NRK’s two broadcast channels, NRK1 and NRK2, for the events. These channels delivered localized content with Norwegian commentary, and the focus was primarily on Norwegian athletes. From Oslo, content was streamed over the Akamai HD Network, a highly distributed, HTTP-based distribution network.
Meanwhile, iStreamPlanet handled the video workflow for OBS feeds only, including 19 HD video feeds. iStreamPlanet decoded the multicast feeds to HD-SDI, routed the feeds to assigned encoders, and provisioned the IIS Smooth Streaming publishing points.
Figure 1 illustrates the workflow for the video feeds. The multicast feeds were converted to HD-SDI and transported to Inlet Spinnaker HD Encoders, which have built-in support for adaptive-streaming protocols, such as IIS Smooth Streaming.
System Integration and Content Management
deltatre s.p.a. of Torino, Italy, provided overall system integration support and built the Silverlight-based video and results service for the NRK Olympics Web site, using its sports-specific content management system for the creation and operation of the service.
The NRK Winter Olympics Video Player
The video player featured full DVR-like functionality, as seen in Figure 2. The player provided Olympics coverage available from broadcast channels NRK1 and NRK2, including Norwegian commentary and coverage specific to the country’s athletes, plus coverage of events not covered by the broadcast channels.
Simplifying a Complex Event
|Figure 1. Workflow of the content delivery system for NRK’s online coverage |
of the Winter Olympics.
The Winter Olympics delivered large amounts of video coverage of events—up to 16 concurrent streams at its peak. One challenge, however, was dealing with changes in schedule. Weather conditions, for instance, sometimes required schedule changes for outdoor events, sometimes with very short notice. Recognizing that this could be confusing to fans who were more familiar with linear broadcasts, deltatre built a real-time scheduling service that helped viewers easily find the event, team, or athlete at any particular time and navigate directly to the video of that preferred event or athlete, either live or on-demand. This capability, combined with the no-buffer benefit of IIS Smooth Streaming, meant viewers spent more time experiencing the Olympic Games instead of spending time trying to find content.
deltatre also provided real-time results in the Norwegian language so that fans could know exactly what was happening in a sport at every moment. This included information not available to the TV viewer, such as current split times for each competitor. The ability to add this real-time data to the video through IIS Smooth Streaming meant that the online audience had a richer viewing experience than the TV audience had, and this undoubtedly contributed to the extremely lengthy, online viewing time.
Says Ciaran Quinn, Director of deltatre, “Even though we knew that Norway was the number one Winter Olympics medal winner of all time, we were incredibly impressed by the high numbers of online viewers and viewing hours by Norwegians. I’m sure NRK wouldn’t have such great success without the IIS Smooth Streaming and Silverlight technologies.”
Akamai Europe monitored audience characteristics and content consumption throughout the Games with Akamai Media Analytics. Benefits
NRK met the challenge of Winter Olympics coverage with astonishing success, providing more than 1 million hours of streamed video in crystal clear, 720p HD. The combination of IIS Smooth Streaming and Silverlight provided a compelling, powerful experience for Norway’s sports fans. Explains Myklebust, “This process has shown us what’s possible and that our viewers really want this type of programming.”
Drive Consumption Through High-Quality, Live Action
The presentation of the programming and high quality of video helped NRK achieve an impressive average viewing time of 77.94 minutes per unique viewer. “This is an amazing number that exceeds anything we have done before,” says Myklebust. “We feel that the success is largely attributable to the video delivery through IIS Smooth Streaming and the Silverlight-based video player.”
|Figure 2. NRK Olympics video player and Web site.|
By providing high-quality, live sports action, NRK was also able to drive more consumption and higher viewer engagement. NRK provided more than 3.3 million live video streams for these Winter Olympics and the majority of the video was live coverage (800 of the 960 terabytes of video delivered).
Increase Viewership by Complementing TV Coverage
In the end, NRK delivered well on its promise of “Something for all. Always” and drew an impressive 1.22 million unique visitors, which suggests that more than 1 in 4 Norwegians tuned in online to watch the games. “We know that many people in Norway were plugging PCs into plasma TV screens,” says Myklebust. “So, often, single ‘visitors’ actually represented more than one viewer.”
Myklebust notes that viewer feedback has been exceptional. “Our viewers are saying ‘The Winter Olympics streaming was super! I can follow anything, anytime; it’s great!’” Outperform Conventional Viewing Experiences
Although delivering video online is nothing new to NRK, this latest achievement has opened the company’s eyes to the sheer marketability of live online broadcasting for sports. “Presenting the Winter Olympics online with Silverlight exceeded our goals,” says Myklebust. “IIS Smooth Streaming provided high-quality video without buffering delays or stutters, and the Silverlight-based video player truly engaged our viewers while offering the ease of watching wherever they had a computer connected to broadband.”
In addition, NRK online viewers enjoyed up to 16 live streams in high-quality HD at once while easily navigating among channels and content with the EPG.
NRK looks forward to taking advantage of the knowledge gained from these exciting Games to present to its viewers a high-quality, online experience featuring the Ski World Cup.Additional Resources
Microsoft Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering the next generation of .NET-based media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web and mobile devices. Fully supported by Visual Studio and Expression Blend, Silverlight includes major media enhancements, out-of-browser support for Web applications on the desktop, smooth streaming capabilities, browser ubiquity, GPU acceleration, and support for 3D graphics and H.264 video.
For more information about Silverlight, visit www.microsoft.com/silverlight and for resources, visit silverlight.net.
The open-source Silverlight Media Framework from Microsoft enables developers to quickly deploy a robust, scalable, customizable media player for IIS Smooth Streaming delivery. The framework builds on the core functionality of the
IIS Smooth Streaming Player Development Kit.
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