Not everyone will be watching the Winter Olympics from the comfort of their living room couches. NBC expects audiences to tune in at work on their PCs and on the go with their mobile devices. The games take place this year in Sochi, Russia on Feb. 7–23.
"Microsoft Corp. has been selected to be the cloud encoding and hosting platform provider for NBC Olympics," said the software giant in a statement that includes some of the first official comments by Scott Guthrie in his new role as executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise division. The position was vacated by Satya Nadella, who left the post to become Microsoft's new CEO on Feb. 4.
The games also mark one of the biggest tests Guthrie faces early in his tenure as Microsoft's new cloud chief. So far, Guthrie is striking a confident tone.
He expects viewers to put Azure through its paces this year, he said. "During the 2012 London Olympics Games, viewers with connected devices watched, on average, six hours of NBC Olympics' coverage a day, and we anticipate this demand will continue to grow for the upcoming Sochi Olympic Games."
For "the first time in history," Guthrie added, Azure will provide "end-to-end live streaming of the Winter Olympics entirely in the cloud, including encoding, transcoding and streaming."
First announced during the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2012 conference, Windows Azure Media Services finally went live in January 2013. Backed by the company's massive cloud infrastructure, Microsoft positioned the platform as a mobile-friendly, one-stop media delivery solution.
With Windows Azure Media Services, "you now have everything you need to quickly build great, extremely scalable, end-to-end media solutions for streaming on-demand video to consumers on any device," according to a statement at the time from Guthrie, then corporate vice president for Windows Azure. "For example, you can easily build a media service for delivering training videos to employees in your company, stream video content for your Website or build a premium video-on-demand service like Hulu or Netflix."
During the Olympics, the platform will serve up more than 50 live high-definition streams and on-demand content. The Azure-powered streams are accessible via the NBCOlympics.com Website and the free NBC Sports Live Extra app, available for Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Phone, Android and iOS.
"Our partnership with NBC Olympics delivers an immersive viewing experience, bringing the 2014 Olympic Winter Games to viewers' fingertips, thanks to our powerful cloud technology and One Microsoft approach," said Guthrie.
Richard Cordella, senior vice president and general manager, Digital Media, NBC Sports Group has faith in the platform. In a statement, he said the broadcaster is "confident that Windows Azure Media Services will help us provide the most robust streaming experience ever for a Winter Olympics."