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London 2012: The Biggest Online Video Event Ever
From the BBC to broadcasters in Germany, France, Spain, and across Europe, the online video coverage of the 2012 London Olympics will be unlike any other streaming event you've seen

“London 2012 will be the first truly digital Games. The BBC will ensure audiences never miss a moment, delivering unprecedented coverage across multiple platforms, so that audiences can stay up to date wherever they are, whenever they want to.”

With this bold battle cry, the BBC unveiled their ambitious London Olympics streaming media platform to the world on May 15, 2012. And make no mistake: The "Beeb" is deadly serious about bringing its Games coverage into the digital 21st century.               

“The London 2012 Olympic Games is likely to be the biggest sporting event in the UK in our lifetimes," explained Roger Mosey, BBC director, London 2012.  “We will be bringing live coverage of every Olympic sport from every venue," he says, "through a combination of BBC One and BBC Three and up to 24 simultaneous streams live online on PC, mobile, tablet, or connected TV. These services will be complemented by coverage on Radio 5 live, mobile, and tablet.”

London 2012 Online by the Numbers

The BBC’s 24 online live HD streams—available through www.bbc.co.uk/sport—represent a four-fold increase from the Beijing Olympics. (The website was created with technical support from deltatre of Torino, Italy, which also built this year’s www.NBCOlympics.com website.) The UK broadcaster will be serving up 2,500 hours of coverage for the London Games. That is 1,000 hours more content than it provided in 2008.      

The HD streams will be user-controlled. Viewers will be able to switch between feeds, rewind live video, and see live data, statistics, and information at the same time.

That’s not all: “The site also offers pages for every sport, athlete, country and venue and immersive coverage that includes live updates and comments from across social media,” according to the BBC’s Media Centre. “There will also be video and text guides to all the sports as well as an activity finder where those inspired to have a go at sport can find out about sessions near them.”      

All of these feeds will be available to cable/satellite TV subscribers to the Olympics on Sky, Virgin Media and Freesat via BBC’s "Big Red Button." These three carriers will provide an A-Z listing of events, to allow quick access to the sporting events they desire. Meanwhile, subscribers to Freeview and BT Vision will have access to a second 24 hour channel of BBC Olympics content.

The BBC is offering a free mobile app, and its BBC Olympics mobile browser site will be “accessible across all mobile devices. The mobile site “will mirror much of the desktop experience,” said the BBC Media Centre, “while audiences can also access coverage through tablets and connected TV [i.e. 2011 and 2012 Sony Smart TVs; Sony PlayStations 3s, and Virgin Media TiVos].”

BBC is also bringing the ‘digital games’ to digital radio, and in a very big way. First, the host broadcaster will use BBC Radio 5 to deliver ongoing Games coverage. As well, the Beeb is launching ‘Radio 5 live Olympics Extra’ on July 25, 2012. This is a temporary digital station dedicated to the Games.

“Our coverage of London 2012 will capture all the excitement of this historic sporting occasion,” said Adrian Van Klaveren, controller of BBC Radio 5 live. “We will be there 24 hours a day for our listeners with news of every medal as well as all the sporting drama as it unfolds. Wherever you are, there’s no better way to hear what’s happening in the company of some of the world’s greatest sports broadcasters.”

Overall, the advent of the digital age is allowing BBC to inundate Britons with wall-to-wall coverage on the web, mobile, TV, and radio. Coverage will even be available on a series of outdoor big screen TVs installed at London’s Hyde Park, Victoria Park, and Trafalgar Square.

"It's serving audiences in a way we've never been able to do before," said Dave Gordon, BBC Sport's head of major events. "From even more extensive coverage on TV, radio, and online to mobile phones and tablets there will be unlimited content available. The technology is now in place to offer the ultimate choice for our viewers and there will be times when we will have up to 24 screens of sport."

Other European Olympic Coverage

Details are still emerging about European broadcasters’ streaming media plans for the London Games. Here is what we know so far.

As mentioned above, deltatre is providing technical input for the BBC Sports Olympics digital services, plus the U.S. site www.NBCOlympics.com. deltatre is also providing support to France Televisions, RTVE Spain, and the Latin American digital media company Terra.

“For France Televisions, we are supplying our DIVA broadband video player to serve out multiple video streams and live sports data on sport.francetv.fr,” said Ciaran Quinn, deltatre’s director of Olympics & strategic business. “This system also allows users to comment on what they are seeing via Facebook and Twitter, and access picture-in-picture and quad view (four streams at once)."

France Television will also be using deltatre’s OVA mobile video applications to serve content to tablets and smartphones. All video will be hosted using Microsoft’s Windows Azure Media Services, and delivered using Microsoft Smooth Streaming technology.

RTVE Spain and Terra will be using the same and/or similar deltatre technology to serve their online and mobile audiences. “At RTVE.es, we are aware that fans expect to be able to access content from anywhere via any digital device,” said Ricardo Villa, director of RTVE.es. “The London 2012 Olympic Games will set a milestone in the way people enjoys sports content in multiple devices.”

“In the UK, France, Spain, and every country in the Americas the rights holders will be providing thousands of hours of content, live and on demand, through digital media channels,” said deltare’s Quinn. “This is far more than will be made available on broadcast television, giving fans a great way to experience Olympic moments that are important to them.”

According to industry sources, Elemental Technologies is playing a key role in helping the BBC deliver online OTT streaming. But like deltatre, its Olympic activities are not confined to the UK.

“In fact, broadcasters in Canada, Japan, and over a dozen countries in Latin America are using Elemental to stream content to Internet-connected devices such as set-top boxes, PCs, tablets and smartphones,” said Keith Wymbs, the company’s VP of Marketing.

Elemental Technologies is also supplying similar products and services to a “Pan-European sports programmer”. Based on a survey of the market, this client is Eurosport; the pan-European TV channel that broadcasts in 20 languages and reaches 125 million homes across 59 countries.

Lastly, in Germany, broadcasters ARD and ZDF have banded together to provide six channels of streaming media at www.sportschau.de/Olympia. The goal is to offer 50 hours a day of content, running from July 25 to August 12, 2012. This content will be available on the web, on smartphones and tablets, and ‘Smart TVs’. The feeds will come from the host broadcaster, be capable of being time-shifted, and allow direct user control. Details at http://olympia.ard.de/london2012/fragenundantworten101.html.      

All told, European’s broadcasters are embracing streaming media like never before for the 2012 London Games. Such is the apparent enthusiasm for providing online and mobile coverage—based on what StreamingMedia.com has even able to find to date—that the BBC is likely right to call this the “first truly digital Games”.

Related Articles
Deltatre, the company supplying data services to the BBC and NBCOlympics.com for the London games, says online viewership will almost certainly pass a half billion, and may approach one billion.
Contrary to what some scare-mongers predicted, the 2012 Olympic Games have not yet melted the internet.
Impressed with the success of the BBC's streaming of London 2012—and eager to raise more money by selling off radio spectrum—the UK House of Lords pushes for OTT to replace OTA entirely