It will be a landmark in the development of online video and streaming media when Super Bowl XLVI is streamed online for free via NFL.com and NBCSports.com to computers, iPads and select Android tablets. As part of a separate deal with the NFL, Verizon Wireless will be streaming the game to subscribers of its Verizon NFL Mobile subscription package.
For the online portion, much of NBC’s attention has been on adding new content and offering a different viewing experience. “The big motto will be to enhance the broadcast experience,” says Eric Black, director of digital operations for NBC Sports & Olympics.
For example, the online viewer at NFL.com and NBCSports.com allows users to select two different feeds from a number of different options. So a user could have the broadcast simulcast in the main window and then select a “star camera” that follows New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the second picture-in-picture view.
“You could watch Brady throw a long bomb and see the simulcast pan down the field to the catch and at the same time watch the star camera sticking with Brady to see him get hit, or his reaction to the catch,” says Black.
The online player also offers variable bit rates of up to 720p at 3.5Mbps, aggregated Twitter feeds, social media interactivity and DVR functionality to pause, rewind and replay portions of the game. “We do extensive meta data at ingest,” notes Black, which allows NBC to mark sections of the feed by a number of criteria— touchdown drives, plays longer than 15 yards, turnovers and so forth.
As a result, users can easily find specific plays on a timeline and replay them.
The player also has an on-demand portion for viewers to watch the Super Bowl broadcast ads. And viewers of the online simulcast will actually see different ads.
Just how well NBC’s content delivery network or the Internet as a whole will stand up to the streaming of such a high-profile event remains an open question.
NBC does not discuss particular vendors or technologies that it is relying on to deliver its streaming offerings, but Black says that NBC and its technology partners have extensive experience streaming highprofile events and that their network is designed to handle heavy traffic.
“After four NFL seasons and two Olympics of online streaming, we are very very good at handling a lot of traffic,” Black notes. “We have spent a lot of time on this and have developed a very robust network that can deliver the highest quality to end users.”
Black also notes that NBC uses adapting bit rate technologies that respond to a user’s available bandwidth. “This allows us to deliver the best quality they can consume on their computer,” he explains.
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