Microsoft is aiming to make Web viewing of the Winter Olympics a lot
more like watching the events on TV.
While Beijing brought the first
widespread use of the Internet to deliver live video of the Games,
the Vancouver Olympics. which starts February 12, will offer a range of
new options, including TiVo-like features like pausing, rewinding, and
replaying during a live broadcast. In addition, broadcaster NBC is using
the adaptive streaming capability of Silverlight (Microsoft’s rival to
Adobe’s Flash) to allow those with a good connection to get the Games in
up to 720p high-definition quality.
"At the end of the day that’s why people come, they want to see the
video," said Jason Seuss, a senior technical evangelist for Microsoft.
"They want it to be as big as possible and as high quality as possible.
The adaptive streaming technology also makes other new features
possible. To power the streams, which dynamically change bit rates based
on connection quality, the video is broken up into two-second segments.
That approach to video streams allows for things such as the Tivo-like
features, as well a new quarter-speed slow motion instant replay that is
especially well suited to the high-speed events that fill the Winter
On the revenue side, Microsoft is also helping NBC by allowing the
broadcaster to easily insert ads into the middle of video streams when
there is a break in the action, something that proved to technologically
challenging for Beijing, where only so-called "pre-roll" ads were used.