Rio 2016 Summer Games break streaming records; Azure is ready for Olympic-size livestream events

Azure, streaming, NBC Olympics
Steven Goulet, Azure Media Services principal program manager, helping NBC Olympics to deliver the Rio Olympics to the U.S.

Much like the athletes who competed in the Rio Olympics, our robust team of Microsoft Azure engineers have been hard at work preparing for the Games since the Sochi Winter Games came to a close in 2014, when NBC Olympics first selected Azure as the cloud-based live encoding, hosting and streaming platform for the Olympics. We’re grateful that NBC Olympics selected us again this year, building on our rich near-decade long partnership – not only do we get the opportunity to play a major role in NBC Olympics’ ability to bring the Games to millions across all devices, including connected TVs for the first time, we get to put Azure to the test – outdoing the scale and reach we’ve previously achieved for the largest sporting event on Earth.

With the chapter now closed on Rio 2016, NBC Olympics is reporting that Rio 2016 established “a new standard for event coverage.” Eric Black, CTO, digital, NBC Sports Group, said, “Rio 2016 shattered streaming records in the sports category, with over 3 billion minutes streamed. More than one-third of those who streamed the Games did so from connected TV devices. Our partnership with Microsoft Azure helped us extend our reach to more people and more devices via cloud streaming than ever before.”

Here is a snapshot from NBC Olympics’ press release highlighting just how streaming has created a new standard in reaching audiences and breaking records:

  • Across and the NBC Sports app, there was a record 3.3 billion total streaming minutes (live + full event replays + highlights).
  • Viewers live streamed 2.71 billion minutes of Olympic coverage – a new record for live event coverage. The 2.71 billion live minutes nearly doubles the combined live streamed minutes of ALL prior Games (1.48 billion).
  • NBC Olympics digital coverage amassed 100 million unique users – 29 percent more than the 2012 London Olympics.
  • More than 50 percent of viewers live streaming Olympic events on and the NBC Sports app were under 35 years old.

Azure made this scale and reach possible. Our goal was to deliver more channels and content in real time across all devices in a high-definition, glitch-free livestream experience. We’re pleased to report we did just that – and with zero downtime in all 19 days of the event as Olympics history was made. Azure’s records for the Rio games include:

  • A 1080p profile for all streamed channels (up from 720p during Sochi) as viewers expect a “TV-like” experience on any device.
  • Over 4,500 hours of content made available.
  • Over 50 simultaneous Olympics events – a 40 percent increase compared with the Sochi Winter Games.
  • Over 100 live channels continuously available for the Games, nearly double the number of available channels for Sochi.

Congrats to all the athletes who competed in the Rio Games – we’re glad we could serve with NBC to share your actions to the world!


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