Rio 2016: Azure Media Services breaks World Record for Streaming

John DeutscherCloud, Media Services, Microsoft AzureLeave a Comment


Every two years, our team pushes the boundaries of delivering the best streaming experience in the world to customers of NBC Sports, CBC Canada, NHK Japan, France TV, TV2 Norway, Globo Brazil and more.   I couldn’t be prouder of the hard work done by our streaming team this year, delivering a flawless Olympic games and breaking several world records in streaming media.

Starting with our NBC Sports partnership, we were able to deliver over 45 million hours of produced content for NBC’s audience. That was nearly five times of we previously delivered for the Sochi Olympic games in 2014.  

NBC has provided their own details and numbers in a press release, where they claimed that “the Rio Olympics is the most successful media event in history.”

NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus commented, “Our presentation of the Rio games is the most impressive undertaking in the media world.”

In total, NBC Sports delivered 2.71 billion live minutes, which nearly doubled the combined live-streaming minutes of ALL of the prior Olympic games that have been streamed online since Beijing (1.48 Billion minutes combined).

Eric Black, CTO, digital, NBC Sports Group, said, “Rio 2016 shattered streaming records in the sports category, with over 3 billion minutes streamed. More than one-third of those who streamed the Games did so from connected TV devices. Our partnership with Microsoft Azure helped us extend our reach to more people and more devices via cloud streaming than ever before.”

An amazing 7,754 hours of events were streamed and recorded by Azure Media Services, representing four months of average user consumption squeezed into just 16 days.  

In total, NBC also saw a 29% jump in viewership online vs. the London Olympic games. Most viewers consumed the games live, with only 15% watching the full video-on-demand (VOD) event replays.  

To deliver on such a large scale event, our Azure Media Services team worked closely with a broad partner ecosystem that extended our capabilities in the cloud. To deliver authenticated streaming coverage live and on-demand, we worked closely with Akamai, iStreamPlanet, Deltatre, Apple and Adobe.  Adobe Primetime delivery support was integrated as part of Azure Media Services so that programmers could seamlessly deliver online video and ads to millions of viewers at scale.

Deltatre has been a close Microsoft partner for many Olympics, starting with Beijing in 2008.  They estimate that over 10 person-years effort went into delivering the Rio event, and there is a great write-up by our friend Stefano Rigat of deltatre on what it takes to deliver such an event.

IStreamPlanet also published a great infographic that shows the entire workflow used for the 2016 Olympics.

It’s always exciting when these project come off smoothly.  Without great teammates like Steven Goulet, and Vito Flavio Lorusso driving the daily execution we would never be able to pull off these events.  Congratulations to everyone involved, all across our team of partners.  for this world record breaking event. 

I can honestly say that nobody is currently looking forward to the next Olympics, but give us a year and we’ll likely get excited again at the challenge of doing it in 4K, HDR, or virtual reality or whatever innovation comes up next!

Finally, if you plan to visit the International Broadcasters Association (IBC) show in Amsterdam this year, stop by the Microsoft booth in Hall 13 and chat with us and our partners for more in depth discussions on how we pulled off the Rio Olympics.

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