NBC caught a lot of flak for its live video streams during the London Olympics, but for Sochi, the network promises to stream every event live. Just like during the London Olympics, NBC’s partner for making these streams possible (and authenticating cable subscribers) is Adobe – and Adobe itself is partnering with Microsoft to power the streams.
Adobe’s Primetime platform will power the video delivery and video ads on the NBC Sports website and the NBC Sports Live Extra App for iOS and Android. All events will be available live and on demand.
Just like last year, users in the U.S. who want to watch these streams need to be cable subscribers and Adobe will use TV Everywhere to authenticate subscribers. For the first time, Comcast X1 subscribers will also get access to live streaming of all of these events on this platform.
Cord cutters, however, can only watch for 30 minutes (and five additional minutes per day) before they are asked to authenticate their accounts.
As Adobe’s VP of Primetime Jeremy Helfand told me, Comcast, Cablevision, Cox,
Verizon (Update: turns out Verizon’s auto-login won’t be ready in time for the Olympics) and Midcontinent subscribers will not have to authenticate their accounts. Instead, the system will automatically recognize their accounts based on their IPs and grant them access to the programming. Adobe first tested this system with a more limited number of cable providers during the London Olympics. As Helfand noted, the idea here is to make it as easy as possible for viewers to get access to this online content.
In total, Adobe and NBC expect to stream more than 1,000 hours of video for all 15 sports and 98 events that are part of the Sochi Olympics.
In the back-end, Adobe will use Microsoft’s Windows Azure Media Services to power all of the encoding and streaming. This partnership, Helfand said, will continue even after the Olympics. As the broadcasters move from experimentation to going live with their online video streams for big events, he argues, they also need to ensure that the streams live up to their audience’s exceptions.
Adobe plans to continue this partnership with Microsoft after the Olympics are over and to offer it to other broadcasters as well.
Helfand also stressed that if the networks learned one thing from London, it’s that online doesn’t cannibalize TV viewing. The networks are, however, increasingly interested in finding ways to more effectively monetize these video streams. NBC will use Adobe’s Primetime platform to deliver its video ads during the Olympics for both live and on-demand streaming. This will allow the networks to push personalized ads to online viewers, which should be significantly more effective than just streaming the regular broadcast ads.