NBC, CTV and NRK Stream Winter Olympics in Silverlight

As you’re probably well aware, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics are upon us. Just as we did 2 years ago for 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, Microsoft has once again teamed up with NBC to bring online video coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics to U.S. viewers. This time around we also expanded our project to include Canada’s CTV and Norway’s NRK.

Remember, even though the Olympics Games are an international event, the International Olympics Committe (IOC) sells Olympic broadcast rights exclusively to 1 broadcaster per country – and only for that country. While that practice obviously originated for television broadcasts, the IOC still hasn’t gotten around to changing the rules for online streaming, which unfortunately means that access to Olympic video content on NBC, CTV and NRK sites is restricted to American, Canadian and Norwegian users only, respectively. No, they won’t check your passport, but they will check your IP address. 🙂

So if you’re lucky enough to live in the United States, Canada or Norway, you can check out the Silverlight and Smooth Streaming powered video coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics by visiting the following sites:

You will, of course, need Silverlight 3 installed to view any of the video content. If in doubt whether you have the latest version of Silverlight, visit http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/get-started/install/default.aspx. Silverlight 3 works on Windows and Mac OS (Intel only); and with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and (still unofficially) Chrome browsers. If you’re a Linux user, you might be pleased to know that the Novell Moonlight team has been working frantically to get Moonlight 3.0 ready in time for the Winter Olympics. It’s still just a preview release so your mileage may vary, but please give it a shot – you can download Moonlight 3.0 Preview 2 here. I recommend reading the prerelease notes for Moonlight team’s recommendations on browser builds.

Everyone should also be aware than not all broadcasters have chosen to make the same amount of Olympics content available to their viewers. While CTV’s and NRK’s coverage is pretty much unlimited and requires no special sign-up process, NBC has chosen to restrict access to “premium” content only to cable/satellite/IPTV customers. First time you try to access such content you will be asked to sign in with your Comcast/DirectTV/Cox/DISH/TimeWarner/etc account. Many more providers are supported, but be prepared to possibly jump through some hoops to prove that you’re an NBC affiliate customer. In addition to the sign-up procedure, NBC is also withholding much of the live online coverage, preferring to show the popular events on primetime television first. Don’t shoot the messenger.

If you experience any issues with Silverlight or content access, there’s a good FAQ over on the NBC website: http://www.nbcolympics.com/faq/index.html.

About Alex Zambelli

Alex is a Senior Product Manager at Hulu in Seattle, WA. Prior to his current job he was a Product Manager at iStreamPlanet (Turner) and Technical Evangelist for Microsoft Media Platform at Microsoft Corporation. He specializes in video streaming, adaptive HTTP streaming, video compression, and video processing best practices.
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