Streaming the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics: The vendors and technologies making it happen online

By Samantha Bookman

NBC live extra app

Source: NBC Sports Group

How is NBC Sports getting its live coverage of the Winter Olympics to online video viewers? As the broadcaster completes the first week of its Winter Olympics coverage, we take a look at how viewers are getting their Games.

First, it's clear that this year's Olympics are a multi-device event. One would not be considered too strange to be sitting with a tablet propped atop a desk or coffee table, streaming a curling competition, while simultaneously using a smartphone to stream a speed skating heat. All while the television is replaying footage of a women's ski jump event on NBC Sports Network. Meantime, a viewer can have a playlist of athlete profiles from YouTube's Olympics channel streaming on their PC's monitor. Users can access a plethora of sports content riches, although the noise level could be a bit disturbing.

Of course, most Americans are streaming content over multiple devices throughout the day already, and it's not unusual to access various flavors of the same entertainment program on more than one device at the same time.

And it's this factor that explains why NBC Sports is continuing to invest in over-the-top streaming. During the 2012 Olympics in London, the broadcaster made most of the events at the Games available to either view live or download online through its Live Extra app or at its website, For the 2014 Sochi Games, all the events are available online, either live or to download, for authenticated users.

And it's no surprise NBC is bringing the Olympics online in a big way: The 2012 Olympics brought NBC the largest audience in the short history of online video. The broadcaster authenticated 9.9 million mobile devices, and approximately 17 percent of the viewers surveyed for a Pew Research report watched the Games online (73 percent watched coverage on television). Olympics streaming accounted for fully 34 percent of all Internet traffic during the opening ceremonies of the Summer Games for some providers, enough to shift Netflix's dominance for a very short while.

It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers the peacock network puts up for these Games for OTT viewing. On the television side, NBC reported Monday that its opening ceremonies telecast averaged 25.1 million TV viewers and was "the best Saturday primetime viewership of any broadcast network in February in four years." It was also the second most-watched non-live opening ceremony in Olympic history--Lillehammer holds first place.

More stats will likely be reported next week by various research firms and network monitoring services. But NBC's online video coverage isn't perfect. Just as in 2012, popular events tend to get hung up buffering, and many users still are uncomfortable using the Live Extra app.

In this FierceOnlineVideo feature on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, we'll look at how viewers are accessing the Games--not just where they're accessing online video but what they're most likely watching it on. It also sketches out some of the vast ecosystem that is bringing the Olympics to mobile devices live, with providers like EVS and Ericsson partnering with NBC to pull together broadcast and OTT elements.

Streaming the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics: The vendors and technologies making it happen online