NBC to set record coverage of Olympics

NBC Universal plans to break another Olympic record this year, with an expected 3,600 hours of broadcast coverage from Beijing. This will nearly triple the record NBC Universal networks set in August 2004 with 1,210 hours of Olympic game coverage in Athens.

The network’s official Olympics Web site, NBCOlympics.com, is no less ambitious. NBC intends to provide approximately 2,200 hours of live streaming broadband video coverage online, where site visitors will be able to choose from up to 20 concurrent streams encompassing 25 Olympic sports. More than 3,000 hours of on-demand access will also be available, including full-event replays, extensive highlights, daily recaps of key events, best-of montages, commentator analysis and athlete-specific clips.

Creating, transferring and processing recordings across 6,350 miles within a matter of seconds is no small feat. “NBC needs to capture every second of every competition at multiple venues in China, quickly turning them into dynamic programming for television and Internet broadcasting – nothing can fall through the cracks,” stated Seagate marketing director Bill Schilling in a company press release.

Sun Microsystems,Seagate and Omneon are providing the technology to make NBCOlympics.com a reality.

Sun Microsystems is responsible for the technology platform. The Web site will be supported by 160 Sun Fire X4450 and X4150 Intel Xeon processor-based x64 servers. Sun Services is providing installation, engineering expertise and support.

Omneon’s media servers and active storage systems will enable production with 20 MediaDeck servers in China to digitize and ingest HD feeds. The servers will contain both high- and low-resolution IMX or SDCAM HD files and low-resolution proxy files of all the recordings. The files will be actively transferred as they are recorded to a MediaGrid active storage system in Beijing. From there, Omneon’s ProCast CDN content distribution system will transfer the proxies to a second MediaGrid storage system in New York, where NBC producers will access the files for editing.

Seagate’s 7200-RPM Barracuda ES Series hard drives are powering Omneon’s system.

“This sort of solution that Omneon has developed using Seagate hard drives for NBC is basically a testimonial to other broadcasting companies…on the capabilities of digital storage and this sort of end-retainment medium,” said Mark Wojtasiak, global marketing manager at Seagate.

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“This project is a good example of what’s occurring in the storage industry,” Wojtasiak said. “For one, it’s this broad adoption and implementation of real-time digital video across the world, whether it’s distributed via traditional TV…via the Internet much like NBC is doing, utilizing Omneon’s solution with Seagate hard drives to deliver Olympic coverage over the Web.

“All of that is enabled, by and large, by digital storage.”

Online broadcast coverage begins Aug. 8, but several sections of the site are already up and running.

In addition to video, the site will feature blogs, live chat and social tools. Visitors can also play “mini games” in diving, weightlifting and archery to compete for high scores. Instructions for connecting mobile phones to Olympic news alerts, videos and live coverage are also provided.

NBC owns the exclusive U.S. media rights to the Olympic Games through 2012, which includes Beijing in 2008, Vancouver in 2010 and London in 2012.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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