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Silverlight won Olympic gold for NBC; online ads didn't place

Eric Lai | Sept. 10, 2008
According to Microsoft, NBCOlympics.com received 42 million unique visitors and delivered 56 million high-def video streams using Microsoft's Silverlight technology.

More recently, Silverlight was used to stream 350,000 hours of video from last month's Democratic National Convention to viewers through the Web, Guthrie said.

The DemConvention.com site overall received 3.2 million visits and 2.6 billion hits during the Convention week, according to the Democratic National Convention Committee Inc.

According to information released by Microsoft on Tuesday, NBCOlympics.com received 42 million unique visitors, delivered 56 million high-def video streams using Microsoft's Silverlight technology, and received 6 million visits from users of mobile phones and devices.

Microsoft built a special Silverlight-powered player for NBCOlympics.com that let viewers watch DVD-quality video, see up to 4 events simultaneously, and read and surf other related information. Despite occasionally-heavy usage during the two week event, there were no reports of outages, hiccupy video, or delays in the rest of the Internet.

The average viewing time at the site, which is still up, was 27 minutes, according to a PressPass interview with Scott Guthrie, corporate vice-president of Microsoft's Developer Division, published on Microsoft's Web site on Tuesday.

Also, NBCOlympics.com, by requiring viewers to download Silverlight, helped Microsoft add about 20 million new Silverlight users, reported Reuters.

Microsoft is trying hard to make inroads against the dominant Flash player from Adobe Systems Inc., which the vendor says is installed on 99% of PCs in developed countries.

NBCOlympics.com probably would have attracted many more visitors -- and helped Microsoft spread Silverlight -- if NBC had not delayed or limited the availability of Olympics footage online for popular events so as not to hurt viewership of its tape-delayed primetime broadcasts to U.S. audiences that were typically half a day after the events happened in Beijing.

Appeasing its TV advertisers likely hurt its online advertising revenue, too. Research firm eMarketer Inc. estimated that NBCOlympics.com only generated $5.75 million in online video ad revenue.

By contrast, CBS Corp. made $23 million in online ad revenue from streaming every one of the NCAA's March Madness basketball tournament games live earlier this year, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Some blogs also noted last week that NBC is still using Adobe Systems Inc. Flash for its new NFL live video streaming site rather than Silverlight.

The decision was the NFL's not NBC's, Chris Carper, a director on the Microsoft Silverlight team, pointed out in his blog late last week, citing an Adobe press release.

"To say, Silverlight was dumped by NBC, or forgotten by NBC is unfortunately an effort to drive more views and TBH, just poor journalism," Carper wrote.

Silicon Alley Insider's critique of the NFL site: the video was "pixelated and jumpy, and there's no full-screen mode. But there were some cool features, such as a 'star cam' trained on individual players."

 

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