Commentary

Looking Forward To The Olympics: Watershed In Digital Coverage

The Consumer Electronics Association just concluded its 41st annual trade show in Las Vegas last week. With more than 2,700 exhibitors and 140,000 plus attendees, the CES has turned into one of the most recognized trade shows in North America. The show has also evolved into much more than just an electronics showcase. With media and technology intersecting more and more each day, the CES has become a cross-section of product, technology and media dealings and announcements related to all things digital. Consequently, companies like Yahoo and CNET are exhibiting and using the forum for relevant announcements.

Coverage of the show seemed to center around general disappointment regarding future developments and notable announcements. However, during Bill Gates' keynote, there was one announcement that I found very interesting. Gates addressed the NBC/Microsoft partnership for online video technology and distribution for the upcoming Olympics. For those who missed it, this new partnership (which makes sense considering both parties own MSNBC) is centered on the utilization of Microsoft's Silverlight online video technology by NBC, along with MSN gaining the rights to serve as a secondary digital distribution platform for the games. With more than 3,000 expected hours of coverage and 30 simultaneous feeds, the upcoming Olympics promises to be a watershed mark in digital coverage of a live event.

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While there was minimal financial disclosure on the deal, the fact that NBC is going outside of its owned and operated Web properties to distribute the Olympics online is significant. Through this agreement NBC gains meaningful online promotion of the Olympics, which should not only help drive traffic directly to its site and the MSN offering, but will also help increase television viewership - which is still what matters most. I am sure the MSN sales team is excited to sell video sponsorship opportunities to their roster of advertisers. And on the technology side, Microsoft is now able to put into action its much-hyped Adobe Flash-killer, Silverlight, which is being positioned as the next-generation tool for online video.

The Olympics are still six-plus months away, and I am already excited to see how the Web coverage of the event pans out. Both Microsoft and NBC are hyping the digital video offering as a sort of mission control center for everything related to the Olympics. Mark your calendars for Aug. 8, when the games begin.

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