Wimbledon Championships in live 720p

Posted: Jun 27, 2009  8 comments  

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One of the things distracting me from blogging lately has now been announced: the Wimbledon Championships are going to be live HD in Silverlight starting today (Saturday June 27th). Full details (once again) at the Silverlight Team Blog. This is going to be the biggest English language Live Smooth Streaming event so far, coming off the successful French International tennis tournament at Roland Garros. It’s amazing to think that this came together in just eight weeks, and amazing the amount of work that has gone into it. From the blog:

When we first started talking about streaming The Championships, Wimbledon, we were definitely excited, but knew it was going to take a village to make it possible. After agreeing to work with NBC Sports back in April of this year, we had only two weeks to figure out not only if we could pull it off in time, but who we needed in order to do so. Given that we only had eight weeks until The Championships started, you can only imagine how fast we had to put the pedal to the metal.

We already had a solid foundation to start from, with the successful broadcast of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on NBCOlympics.com, and Live at Wimbledon presented an opportunity to begin to take advantage of the features of Silverlight 3 as we prepare for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics Games.

We also chose iStreamPlanet to not only encode all of the media content, but called upon their design prowess as well to create and deploy a custom Microsoft Silverlight-based media experience, which will leverage the latest Microsoft Internet Information Services 7.0 (IIS7) Smooth Streaming technology. Additionally, iStreamPlanet’s digital asset management product, iStream Director will manage all the file-based transcoding for match replays and highlights.

So what does this all mean exactly? Well, some pretty cool features and functionalities all at the tips of your fingers, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Live HD Smooth Streaming
  • Video-On-Demand HD and SD Smooth Streaming (which will be used for highlights and match replays)
  • Integrated Advertising
  • Instant Replay (in case you want to see Roger Federer’s forehand one more time), and
  • Deep-linking via RSS feed (which provides the ability to link to the media player from external sources and invoke playback of the desired media clip you’d like to watch).

And when we said this kind of project takes a village, we meant it. In addition to iStreamPlanet, we also had to call upon content delivery network (CDN) partner Akamai to provide the media delivery, Inlet Technologies to provide the encoding technology, NBC’s partner IMG who is managing the event logistics at Wimbledon, and their partner Perform Group, who is handling the encoding of the 4 WMV court feeds and providing archives of the matches.

Here’s the on-demand player:

And the live HD player:

As for the event itself, here’s some more details from Sports Media News about the planned experience:

Live at Wimbledon will offer live streaming of up to four concurrent courts, on-demand replays of the best matches from every day of The Championships, alternate camera angles for NBC Sports semifinal and final match coverage, daily video highlights, and Golden Moments from the Wimbledon archive, including an on-demand replay of the classic 2008 Gentlemen’s Finals between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, that NBC Sports’ John McEnroe said was the “greatest match we’ve ever seen.”

Live at Wimbledon will be available starting today, the first day of The Championships, Wimbledon with on-demand coverage. Live streaming of NBC Sports coverage and additional matches will begin on Saturday, June 27, concluding with the Ladies’ Final on Saturday, July 4 at 9 a.m. ET and the Gentlemen’s Final on Sunday, July 5 at 9 a.m. ET.

The Live at Wimbledon video experience will be powered by Microsoft Silverlight and offers the first implementation of Live Smooth Streaming for U.S.-based audiences. Silverlight and Live Smooth Streaming enable NBC Sports and Live at Wimbledon to deliver true high definition (HD)-quality streaming video for both live NBC Sports broadcast and on-demand coverage. Live at Wimbledon users will also be able to experience digital video recorder (DVR)-like controls, such as the ability to pause live action, skip back to drive their own instant replays, and join live broadcasts mid-event. Microsoft partnered with application service provider iStreamPlanet to build the Live at Wimbledon video player and handle content acquisition, encoding, and origin hosting with Akamai providing the delivery of the content.

“NBC Sports has a proud tradition of Wimbledon coverage, and we are even prouder to extend our coverage online with the all-new Live at Wimbledon,” said Perkins Miller, Senior Vice President, NBC Sports & Olympics, Digital Media. “Tennis fans in the U.S. can now widely follow Wimbledon online both live and on-demand, and the quality of the Live at Wimbledon video player will only enhance their viewing experience.”

“Building on the success of the NBCOlympics.com broadcast of the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, we’re excited to partner with NBC Sports once again to provide Silverlight and the unique capabilities of Live Smooth Streaming to power Live at Wimbledon,” said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the .NET Developer Platform at Microsoft Corp. “Silverlight enables NBC Sports to provide Wimbledon fans true HD-quality video content and DVR-like features, dramatically improving the quality of the online viewing experience over previous years.”

For more information on Live at Wimbledon, tennis fans can go to NBCSports.com or Wimbledon.org. Tennis fans can also follow Live at Wimbledon on twitter.com/NBCWimbledon.

As always with these big sports events, there’s plenty of georestrictions going on. The direct link for the USA is:

http://wimbledonlive.nbcsports.com/

The options per country are listed here:

http://www.wimbledon.org/en_GB/interactive/video/live.html

It’s amazing to think we pulled this together in just two months. It’s a testament to the very hard work of our great teams inside Microsoft and some incredible partners.

Read the complete post here

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