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Streaming Media East Keynote: NBC Sets Olympic Video Records

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“I’m sure we’re killing the GDP of America, but it’s great for our business,” said Rick Cordella, senior vice president and general manager for digital media at NBC Sports Group. Cordella delivered the second day keynote address at Streaming Media East, currently underway in New York City, and highlighted the significant accomplishments of NBC and its partners, including Akamai and Windows Azure, during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

NBC killed GPD when it set an Olympic streaming record during the men’s semifinal hockey match between USA and Canada, streaming live video to over 850,000 viewers concurrently. Two previous Sochi hockey matches also set records.

Along with other Olympic and non-Olympic sports events, NBC served 925,000 concurrent video streams that Friday, a test that Cordella was nervous about. While he and his team tried to manage public expectations ahead of time, the day went by without an issue. Turning to Twitter to measure viewer sentiment, he didn’t see many complaints – something he found “shocking.”

NBC streamed more than 1,000 hours of events from Sochi, with up to 40 streams at one time. It broadcast to 178 million TV viewers and 62 million online visitors (up 29 percent from the Vancouver Olympics). The broadcaster streamed digital video to 25 million people, up 160 percent from the Vancouver Olympics. In all, viewers watched 10.8 million hours of online video. Also, 4.8 million people authenticated TV Everywhere (TVE) service and NBC took in $50 million in digital revenue.

While time differences were a difficulty, NBC saw digital video consumption rise from the London Olympics (22.7 million video viewers for London and 24.6 million for Sochi). People are more comfortable with online video than they were even two year ago, Cordella said, and are more comfortable with authentication.

Success rates for TVE authentication are still low, but they’re rising. For Sochi, 54 percent of those who tried successfully authenticated their connection, compared to 36 percent for London and 15 percent for Sochi. Cordella added that 21 percent of viewers watched Olympics coverage on their TVs while accessing related digital information at the same time.

Looking ahead to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Cordella said NBC would deliver over 60 concurrent feeds and stream over 3,500 hours of coverage. Thanks to a more accessible time zone (Rio is one hour ahead of the Eastern time zone), NBC is expecting huge viewership. Also, golf and rugby sevens will debut as Olympic events.

“We couldn’t be more excited about it,” Cordella said.

During audience Q&A, Cordella deflected a question about young viewers not being able to authenticate because they often don’t have pay TV subscriptions by saying that he still thinks pay TV is a value. He also said there were internal discussions about streaming 4K video from Rio, but didn’t know if it would happen.

Rick Cordella

Watch the full keynote below and download Cordella's presentation


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