Frenzy Over Olympic Streaming

Have you tried to watch any of the 2012 Olympic games online? If you have then you’re one of the many millions that have and will do so over the course of the games. Streaming video has become more accepted and mainstream, but not without issues. So how’s it working out for people in a frenzy to see the US take the Gold?

Actual numbers are hard to come by yet. But NBC’s streaming website, nbcolympics.com, lists the numbers of people concurrently streaming. For the final round of women’s gymnastics there were over 98,000 people watching. That’s a lot of demand.

For the most part, the streaming seems to be working well. Though not for everyone. The NY Times had an article entitled: “Tons of Live Coverage, If You Can See It”. Comments on the article berate NBC for blaming local ISPs or even people’s computer capabilities for any issues that they are having.

It couldn’t possibly be that NBC’s website briefly pauses or disrupts the video stream every time the banner and sidebar ads rotate. And it couldn’t be all the ads in the video that are hurting people’s experiences either, could it?

Of course they are in the business to make money. That’s why they’ve set it all up the way they have. But while people’s experiences watching the video may vary, the technology that makes it all work is really quite impressive.

It takes multiple providers to deliver all the content across the world, and even here in the US. The content delivery network Limelight is highlighted in an article on ZDnet. They discuss the only numbers we know about so far: the 2008 and 2010 viewing statistics.

They say in 2008 they delivered 3.4 petabytes of video. And they experienced a 600 percent increase in mobile viewership from 2008 to 2010 Olympics. Since there are literally millions more mobile devices available today compared to 2010, everyone is expecting a huge jump in the amount of demand. Just think, the iPad wasn’t around even in 2010. Today there are so many more ways to watch streaming video that the Limelight numbers are expected to be enormous. And that is only for one provider.

If you can’t stand to wait to see the games in primetime, or you just couldn’t stand Meredith Vieyra’s voice over of the opening ceremonies and don’t want a repeat, then putting up with some technical issues to watch the games could be worth the possible pain involved.

Have you watched any of the coverage online? Share your thoughts with us.