Olympics streaming goes uptown as NBC Sports Digital launches Playmaker Media

NBC Sports Digital is scaling up its online video streaming effort ahead of the Summer Olympics with the launch of a new end-to-end streaming service, Playmaker Media. While its inaugural client, the International Olympic Committee, isn't surprising, the service is clearly intended to compete directly with established end-to-end streaming providers like MLB Advanced Media.

Akamai, Microsoft and iStreamPlanet are among Playmaker Media's initial partners, along with Comcast Wholesale and Adobe, all technology companies with components such as CDN, cloud services, and transport services that can support anticipated heavy OTT traffic.

The IOC's upcoming Olympic Channel will be supported by Playmaker Media when it launches later this year.

Because NBC has been the exclusive U.S. broadcast rights holder for the Summer Games for several years now, it's had time to develop its digital strategy. NBC Sports Digital live streamed its first Olympic event during the 2006 Winter Games, and amped up those efforts in Beijing in 2008 – streaming 25 sports and about 2,200 hours of competition. The first live streaming of all Olympic competition took place during the London 2012 Games.

While live streaming the Games may have been more of a novelty in 2012, those digital streams may very likely be the go-to viewing platform for U.S. viewers in 2016. They're also a potentially huge moneymaker in terms of digital advertising, making reliability, quality, and accurate measurement extremely important for NBC.

But Playmaker also will be an additional revenue generator for NBCUniversal.

"Over time, companies such as MLB Advanced Media and now Playmaker Media could be bidding on the rights to stream live sporting events, which would be beneficial to our OTT thesis," said Michael Bowen, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, in an investor note. "In addition, it appears as if NBC Sports Digital is taking its expertise in streaming events to be a systems integrator where it would be more of a 'middle-man' as streaming events has many moving parts that need to be considered."

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