Sports Flash

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, we spent time in articles and our podcast talking about NBCOlympics.com and its use of Silverlight. Several readers and interviewees commented on both the pros and cons of Silverlight, but Microsoft had a somewhat captive audience in the United States for its video and interactive content player.

Adobe, though, was not content to let Microsoft dominate its home turf during this global event. The company is striking back with several additional announcements of its own, including one that puts U.S. viewership of the Olympics in perspective.

In an attempt to show how popular Flash was during the Olympics, Adobe’s Ryan Stewart, blogged about how the world watched the Olympics online.

"I thought the app was solid," said Stewart, with a nod to Microsoft’s Silverlight, "The video quality was good, and all in all it was a win for Microsoft and RIAs [Rich Internet Applications].

"In that vein," Stewart continued, "I’m pretty impressed with how Adobe did across the rest of the world. The majority of online video for the Olympics was delivered in Flash."

Stewart went on to note that the BBC streamed nearly 40 million videos and delivered over 6.5 million hours of Flash Video, with China delivereing well over 100 million streams in Flash, for over 2,900 hours of on-demand Olympic content now in place.

"Compare that to 72 million videos in the United States," said Stewart, "and it shows how online the Olympics was a hit."

Adobe’s not willing to stop at pointing out it won the Olympic streaming event; it also announced a partnership with broadcaster NBC—the same company that used Silverlight for the Olympics—to host a new, live Flash streaming event called Sunday Night Football Extra. The new event, which is designed to allow live online video streaming of NBC Sunday Night Football games on NFL.com and NBCSports.com, debuted appropriately on a Thursday night.

The September 4 season opener between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins was the first event to use what Adobe bills as its immersive streaming environment.

"Throughout the 17-game, primetime season," Adobe announced, "NFL.com and NBCSports.com will deliver online video streams and feature the audio from the NBC Sunday Night Football team: Al Michaels (play-by-play), John Madden (analyst), and Andrea Kremer (sideline reporter)."

Adobe notes that the "immersive environment" of Flash streaming for these NFL games will allow users access to typical television details (picture-in-picture technology and in-game highlights) but also will introduce the viewer to features only available online (alternate camera angles, live statistics, and a live blog to interact with booth talent).

Speaking of talent, with the impressive booth talent from the live televised game also being used on the streaming version of the games, it will be interesting to see what kinds of potential issues latency creates.

All in all, though, the ability to watch games live and free of charge online is a positive sign in the trend toward television-streaming simulcasts.

"By the end of the Olympics," Stewart noted in his blog, "they were actually putting the live video stream on the front page of the BBC News homepage as the lead story. I think it’s a very good sign that rich media is creeping even more deeply into a role as a primary way to consume content. "

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