Adobe Wins Gold in Online Olympics

By Josh Catone
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When the Games of the XXIX Olympiad begin at the end of this week in Beijing, it will be the most web tech heavy Olympic Games ever put on. 5,000 hours of streaming video coverage will be pushed out on the web from Beijing, so much that 95% of CIOs think that the Olympics may break the Internet. But while the individual media companies that won the contracts to stream Olympic video are certainly winners (including NBC Universal, Google, and Brightcove), the big winner on 08-08-08 will be Adobe.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics are supposed to be a coming out party for Microsoft’s Silverlight, a web animation and video technology that competes with Adobe’s ubiquitous Flash format. Microsoft signed their biggest third party partner for Silverlight in NBC, who will stream 2,200 hours of video content at its Olympics site using Microsoft’s technology. (Microsoft already has some big Silverlight deployments, such as its deal with Major League Baseball to power the MLB.TV site, but the Olympics is its highest profile deployment.)

But the NBC deal only covers the US territory. That may be one of the most lucrative markets right now, but most of the world will be getting their Olympic video via Adobe’s Flash., which owns the web broadcast rights for China and Macau, will use Adobe Flex and Flash to deliver streaming Internet video, while Brightcove KK in Japan has the Japanese rights. Their video technology of choice? Flash.

Just between China and Japan, that’s about 300 million potential Internet users — more than the 215 million or so getting the Silverlight treatment by NBC in the US.

Across the rest of the world, most users will be seeing Flash as well. Yahoo! 7, the official Olympics video provider in Australia, uses Flash, and 77 territories, including Korea, India, Indonesia, and parts of Africa will get Olympic video on YouTube, which of course uses Flash. In most of the world, if you’re watching the Olympics online, you’re probably doing it in Flash and not Silverlight.

Microsoft certainly still medals for sticking the landing on the huge NBC online deal, but the Olympics are a global competition, and in the race for online video technology ubiquity, Adobe is winning the gold.

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  • Phillip Ramsay

    FYI: Adobe Flash in CCTV is only being used with VOD, the actual live streaming is being done with Windows Media Player. So in a sense, they really haven’t proven scale yet.

    Why let the facts get in the way of a good headline though ;)

  • OlympicFan

    You graciously forget to point out that the coverage from CCTV in China is not STREAMED from Flash.

    One has to download a custom video player to get the streamed (i.e. live) content. FLash will only show the on-demand re-encoded video. And this is taking a long long time to be available (for example, the soccer games played 6 hours ago still haven’t shown up).

    Not sure how this adds up to a ‘gold’ for Flash.

  • pampado

    Why does it seem like there are a lot of MS bashers out there. Adobe flash is a monopoly and like all monopolies a bit of competition will not hurt. Silverlight for me is at least giving Adobe some welcome challenge in my opinion.

  • @OlympicFan and Phillip: Fair points. I think the BBC is also streaming coverage using Windows Media Player (though don’t quote me on that – I found their site difficult to navigate). Either way, though, WMP is not Silverlight and on a worldwide scale Flash will still see more use for Olympic video than Silverlight.

    @pampado: This wasn’t meant to be “bashing” Microsoft. I’m all for competition and parity.

  • Mio Babic

    Even with VOD only this is still very important to Adobe for several reasons. If competing technology is making a push, you still want to have your skin in the game to take away as much air as possible from your competitor’s story. More importantly, any time you have opportunity to reach out to 300M+ potential viewers that can drive adoption of your technology, it makes all the sense in the world to participate. Overall this is a great news for the industry and consumers because competition brings the best out of people including companies – Adobe with their Flash technology and Microsoft with Silverlight.

  • GookLuckChina
    Live part: p2p on WMV in Flex UI. you need to download a p2p plug-in. In China, no companies like Microsoft and Adobe could commit to using Server live streaming method to afford so critical situation.
    Vod part: from 8.6 to 12.31, CCTV will switch all of videos which owned by IOC and from http progressive download to RTMP FMS. they deployed over 300 servers cross 3 CDNs to support the FMS origin Edge topology. The videos include 3800 hours owned by IOC and 1200 hours owned by CCTV.

    This is the fact I knew from CCTV’s team.

  • informed observer

    Adobe Flash is a monopoly? And Microsoft is now a friendly competitor, bringing out the best the market?

    Whose world are you living on? Have we forgotten so quickly that MSFT was proven a monopoly, in the most godawful places to do it, the US and the EU courts…and that MSFT *still* isn’t in compliance with the EU?

    If you think Adobe has a monopoly, think again.

  • eelcoh

    Dutch public broadcasting company NOS is using Silverlight. They also used that for the European Championships (Soccer) and the Tour de France.

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