Commentary

The Olympic Games: Most Challenging Digital Media Supply Chain Ever?

The just-concluded Summer Olympic Games featured an unprecedented amount of coverage over an equally unprecedented series of distribution types. Consider some of the pre-event statistics cited publicly:

 

  • A minimum of 3,600 hours of broadcast coverage
  • A minimum of 2,900 hours of live programming
  • A minimum of 2,200 hours of streaming coverage on NBCOlympics.com
  • All footage acquired in HD and protected for 4:3 aspect ratio consumption
  • Coverage of all 302 unique Olympic events
  • U.S.-based coverage on NBC, USA Network, Universal HD, Oxygen, CNBC, and Telemundo
  • Supplying content to a myriad of partners like Google, which streamed content on YouTube
  • Video on Demand (VOD) of noteworthy Olympics coverage in an offering entitled "Highlights," "Rewinds", and "Encores".
  • Supplying content to Amazon, NBC2Go, and mobile phones

 

Just the ability to cover 302 events, all in HD, would be complex enough. But adding the 360-media component to the efforts required a staggering amount of work to be done to ensure that the correct content was in the proper resolution, frame rate, aspect ratio, and scan type.

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This event, and the manner in which content was acquired, distributed, and exhibited, placed enormous demands on digital media supply chain management infrastructures. Simultaneously feeding multiple distribution venues with the right content in a timely fashion was crucial. Mistakes -- like sending a full HD clip to a telco provider for consumption on a mobile phone -- had to be avoided. That's why the content requirements for each provider were well-described and thought-out in advance.

To ensure that this process ran as smoothly as possible, the supply chain had to be as automated as could be, which translated into scripting routines that moved the content from ingest, through transcode, and to distribution. Content had to be moved in the most efficient manner possible and file transfer acceleration techniques employed.

It was also important to be able to centrally manage and manipulate all digital media packages that utilize finite network resources. Having visibility into all transfers and being able to prioritize transfers as they were "in flight" was necessary in order to be able to react to developing stories or fast-paced demands for content.

Every media organization has its own set of partners and customers it communicates with, and its own digital media supply chain requirements. The Olympics coverage we saw and enjoyed put the spotlight on implementing and fulfilling a global digital media supply chain solution.

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