Olympics like you’ve never seen them before!

This past week has been a lot of fun to watch some amazing athletes compete in the 2008 Olympics games. 


I’ve especially enjoyed watching Michael Phelps as he has become the most decorated Olympic athlete of all times.  Phelps has six gold medals in six races and if he wins his next two races, will have the record for the most golds in a single Summer Olympics!  It is awe inspiring to watch and good luck to Michael.




To enable the games to reach millions of people and enable hundreds of thousands of people to concurrently watch live events such as Michael’s swimming, NBC created an amazing site http://www.NBCOlympics.com that is powered by Silverlight 2 Beta 2. 


Just to put in context just how massive this site has become, in the first four days of the Olympic games, there were 13.5 million video streams, 16.9 million unique users, and 291.1 million page views.  In the entire Athens Olympic games four years ago, there were only 2.2 million video streams launched.  Amazing!


Here is a little background on how the technology is working in Bejing.  NBC has HD cameras in Beijing that capture each event from multiple cameras and angles.  There are NBC control rooms and producers in Beijing that then do real-time shot selection at the event.  The resulting video is then encoded in real-time and sent to NBC headquarters in NY.  There additional commentary and play by play annotations are added in real-time by dozens of analysts (who have taken over the Saturday Night Live set at NBC headquarters for the two weeks surrounding the games).  The video is then streamed out live over the web at both 350kbits and 650kbits using Windows Media Services 2008 servers.  There are two CDN (content delivery network) providers hosting the site throughout the Olympics. 


The video player for the Olympics site is built using Silverlight 2 Beta2 – which is a 4.6MB download.  It takes less than 10 seconds for a user who doesn’t have Silverlight installed to download and install it on their system.  The Olympics Silverlight application itself is written using managed code and on top of the .NET Framework subset included with Silverlight.


The Olympics application showcases a ton of unique Silverlight capabilities.  One of the most immediate is the quality and capability of the video delivered over the web.  This is testament to the great video codecs which ship with Silverlight, the excellent encoders and encoding frameworks, the great media server technology, as well as to the focused tuning that has been done to optimize the video display and graphics as much as possible. 


This is watching the Olympics like never before.



Comments (24)

  1. Martin says:

    Silverlight video spikes my 2.1 GHz dual-core intel mac processors to 180% and, pretty much, if I do anything else, is jumpy and unwatchable.  Has anyone else seen this behavior?

  2. jerriho says:

    Regarding the spike, I think it’s b/c at this point hardware acceleration is not implemented in SilverLight. It may change in future versions.

  3. I would enjoy to see that application but leaving in France I don’t have access! Too bad

  4. xun says:

    Nice usage and showcase of silverlight, though silverlight has a long way to go catching the fire in the development community.

    I kept reading about that YouTube is to stream the olympics, however, never see anything.

    I mostly just want to watch the opening ceremony, however, could not find it anywhere other than images after images.

  5. anonymous says:

    great video codecs which ship with Silverlight. lol. H.264 is even more great. why not use an industry standard like H.264? Today’s CPUs/GPUs can easily play H.264, servers can encode H.264 in real-time. Only Microsoft products like Windows Media Services 2008, Silverlight don’t support H.264.

  6. Jon Breen says:

    "Olympics like you’ve never seen them before!"…. well, that’s a bit sensational. It’s not like it’s 3d or Smellyvision. It’s just SIlverlight. It would have been better if they had used the Flash 9 beta with 264 support, but you stick with your sensationism! I know for a fact that MS pay companys to deploy Silverlight and WPF apps. All of them dismal… even if it’s a monopoly like the NBC Olympics.

    In other news…. "Olympics like you’ve never seen them before!" on the BBC in, er, Flash.

  7. Bill Reiss announced a SL Game contest, Matt Berseth with Custom DataGrid icons, Palard Julien provides

  8. Good Point says:

    "It takes less than 10 seconds for a user who doesn’t have Silverlight installed to download and install"

    … For those who don’t mind installing a "Beta 2" release on their systems.

  9. Sam says:

    For everyone who is ignorant and skeptic about silverlight, you can play and taunt with words but the numbers stated by soma deserve credit.

    "in the first four days of the Olympic games, there were 13.5 million video streams, 16.9 million unique users, and 291.1 million page views."

    That itself proves that Silverlight is a HUGE success and a slap in the face for skeptics. Mind you this is just a beta version – and an important event like olympics is being delivered using a beta product "successfully". Wait till the final version is released! I have downloaded and used silverlight beta 2 on my systems (XP, Vista running IE, Safari and Firefox 2) WITHOUT any issues whatsoever.

  10. wvaneck says:

    Although that I am disappointed  that Microsoft limited the use of Silverlight to the U.S. only and not took the opportunity to find other broadcasters in other countries to spread the install base of Silverlight even more, I enjoy creating SL applications.

    I have to put the numbers in perspective though. 291.1 million page views means nothing, it just means a lot of people visited the NBC Olympics web site. 16.9 million unique users doesn’t mean that those were SL ready visitors. The only number that means some thing is the 13.5 million video streams however it doesn’t state that those streams were from unique visitors which could mean that there were only 3.4 million unique SL users responsible for the 13.5 million streams 🙂

    And that my SL friends is my disappointment and scare for the future of SL. If MS would have found other broadcasters in other countries the uptake of SL would be tremendous. Now we have to wait and see if the rest of the world (the users that is) is willing to install a plugin to visit a web site hosting SL for "no reason".

    There will be allways cry-babies out there but that is what they are geeks in a basement, without the intellect to convince their IT manager / customer to go with alternate technology (if they are actually working). Most likely they don’t work and that’s why they have the time, besides playing video games in the middle of the night to create nameless open source projects immitating MS products. 🙂

    Anyways… SL works, it is still in BETA so you might run into undeveloped pieces or small bugs but in the end, use the appropriate technology to fit the need.

  11. Sam says:

    wvaneck, your post is purely based on assumptions. The bottomline is 13.5 million video streams in *first four* days of the olympics. That shows scalability and that silverlight works – even in beta as a technology solution. As for the user and world adoption part and the applications of Silverlight, we have to wait and see. If people (users and developers) like it, they WILL adopt it.

    Nevertheless, its a very promising product with main focus on creating visually appealing applications for the web and users. Lastly, developing applications using WPF or Silverlight is so much easier and interesting than Flash or any other competitor.

    Wishing Silverlight great success.

  12. Geoff says:

    Hi,  I am a coder and a weightlifter so from a weightlifting perspective I was very happy to be able to see what for me was good quality video of all the weightlifting events.

    From a coding/architectural perspective I am very interested in how the architecture was designed to handle the large volume of traffic and how the traffic volume was estimated.  Thanks!!

  13. Rich says:

    I for one, thought the SL content was awesome.  I thought the UI was perfectly designed.  The picture in picture content was a new one for me.  I’d like to congratulate the developers that came up with this, they did a terrific job.

    -Dont hate just to hate.  If you do your stupid.  

  14. Juegos Olímpicos como nunca se habían visto antes Publicación del inglés original : Viernes, 15 de agosto

  15. 原文地址: Olympics like you've never seen them before! 原文发表时间: Friday, August 15, 2008 1:11 PM 在过去的这个星期里

  16. Jack says:

    I find it hard to judge video quality in a small window without full-screen. It is when you have the video full screen that all the problems become evident. From what I saw, there was no way to make it full screen. Also, it seems youtube allowed full screen video but kept people from the USA from accessing the sight. Not being able to see full-screen videos really hurt the perception of Silverlight vs Flash

  17. gb says:

    I was forced to use Silver light because there is no other option. I donot like Silverlight and windows media player. Silverlight is disguised version of Windows media player. I do not want to load a beta product.

    So, like windows at work, we are just forced to use silverlight. Good job.

  18. Andrew Waters says:

    Soma, is there any update on the availability of Silverlight on the Nokia s60 platform. Following the superb demo at Mix I have not seen any updates or roadmap?

    As I live in the UK there is no access to the NBC coverage which is a pity as it would have been good to see Silverlight put through its paces.

  19. vattimo51 says:

    So folks are excited about client-side scalability of less than one stream per unique user:  13.5 million video streams, 16.9 million unique users….

    Of course, that’s the worst case scenario (but that’s all the info

    Soma provided).   wvaneck points out the ratio could be much better, but there’s not enough information to say.

    Soma/Microsoft needs to provide more information to excite us all about Silverlight — and to convince us it is ready to take on the world!

  20. WhatCanYouDoForIt says:

    vattimo51, you can keep bringing up negative speculations. Ask what you can do for Silverlight (get involved, try it out), not what it can do for you (wait for it to take off first and then you get involved).

    I am a very satisfied user of the nbcolympics website player in silverlight. In fact watched the entire Soccer and Basketball gold medal games without any glitches. Quality of the video was just amazing!

    There are plenty of websites out there that are already using silverlight in its beta form. Go check out WWE, nba.com (when season starts – to watch the game highlights), memorabilia.hardrock.com, uvntv, several microsoft websites and many more.

  21. Ashutosh says:


    3 cheers for Silverlight Player. I think it misses one big functionality which flash player has….view the video in full screen mode.

    I would love to see more websites using silverlight player.

    Cheer and Namaste!


  22. SB says:

    The democrats are using silverlight for their convention website and videos (along with move network). See: http://www.demconvention.com/

    This clearly shows how fast and quick silverlight is appealing to everyone. Imagine they are trying to convey to millions of americans their message using silverlight and not flash.

  23. Somasegar says:

    Hi Andrew,We are working on the S60 version of Silverlight, but don’t have any specifics to say now about delivery timelines.

    As we make some more progress, you can expect to hear more from us on this.