Social Media, IT, and SharePoint: How We Consume Content

Greetings again from the Olympic Park in London! As an Olympics bonus, I’d like to share with you a glimpse into some of the incredible numbers we’re dealing with here at NBC, and pundit a bit about what I think they mean to all of us in IT, particularly in SharePoint.

The bottom line: Digital media (and video in particular) are now going prime-time, in an enterprise near you.

During the broadcast of the XXX Summer Olympics, NBC is delivering more than 5,500 hours of content through its many networks, and (as you probably know), is streaming every competition through—a herculean effort in digital media delivery accomplished in partnership with Google’s YouTube.

For background about all of the third-parties that are contributing to the technical platform that’s delivering the Games digitally, see the NBC press release, NBC Olympics to Offer Unprecedented Digital and Social Coverage of London 2012 Olympic Games.

For some perspective, NBC is delivering more than 275 hours per day of content, which per day is much more than the entire broadcast of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Crazy, huh?

So is anyone watching?

Traditionally, broadcast events have been measured by television ratings. Ratings are still the king, and NBC has been doing a phenomenal job in that category. While a US-based summer Olympics, like Atlanta, and a drama-filled Lillehammer winter Olympics (1992) still carry some records, these games in London are, to date, breaking every other record.

NBC has been besting the Beijing Olympics handily, and it’s not far-fetched that NBC may see these games land at the top of the most watched events in television history (a list which is comprised entirely of Olympics broadcasts).

But in this era, television is not the only channel (pun intended) through which people consume content.

Digital delivery has become a critical element, and people have been consuming it in enormous quantities. Check out these statistics:

• As of Wednesday morning, there have been 1.4 billion page views at across computer, mobile, tablet, and app platforms. With 5 days left in the games, that’s already more than the total page views for Beijing (1.2 billion).
• Close to 67 million unique users have visited the computer, mobile, and app properties.
• On average, visitors spend 28 minutes per visit on That’s more than double Beijing’s 12 minutes. Your employees can go back to work next week, we promise.
• We’ve seen nearly 8 million verified unique devices on This is believed to be the most device verifications ever for a single event in history.
• There’ve been around 50 million live streams—more than triple the entire Beijing games (14 million), and well north of 100 million total video streams, more than the entire Beijing Olympics (75.5 million).
• Those streams have amounted to 15.3 million hours of total video streamed, 10.4 million hours of live streams, already more than the entire Beijing Olympics (9.9 million and 4 million, respectively).
• More than 7 million downloads of NBC Olympics Live Extra and NBC Olympics apps, peaking at number one and two top free apps in the Apple app store.
• At least six events were watched by live stream by more than one million viewers each. The Women’s Team Gymnastics event was streamed to more than 1.4 million viewers.
• More than 75 percent of users streaming videos using the NBC Olympics app on iPads, and more than 80 percent using the app on iPhones, are streaming video for the first time in their lives.

These digital media numbers are absolutely mind-blowing, and there are still five full days left.

So what does this all mean? Well, from my perspective, this Olympics marks a cultural shift in the way we consume content. Streaming video is now “in da house,” being consumed by people who’ve never done so before, and in huge quantities.

I’ve got to think that this will be a boon to other digital video efforts, such as Hulu, and that it will influence what people want and expect from their intranet content as well.

What does this mean to your network infrastructure? Can you handle video being “pulled in” from the internet, as well as video streams originating from your own communications, marketing, HR, and training organizations?

Are you ready to deliver content across the broad range of devices with which users consume video content?

What does this suggest you should do, from a content perspective, within your enterprise?

The Olympics numbers reinforce that people like video. Yes, it can be harder to produce than a Word, PowerPoint, or Excel document, but the sensory and human dimensions of video make it an effective way to deliver messages, training, and more.

What does this mean for SharePoint? Well, Microsoft has been doing some very interesting—and under-hyped—things with media lately! Windows Azure Media Services is an extraordinary platform just waiting for “killer apps” to be built upon it.

Personally, I’d love to see an event like the Olympics leverage this totally modern cloud media platform. Microsoft also released the Microsoft Media Platform Content Manager  (that’s a mouthful!) for SharePoint 2010, late last year, and will I, hope, be updating it for SharePoint 2013.

And, from reports I’m hearing from colleagues who’ve dived in, SharePoint 2013 video handling is excellent, with superb streaming even to non-Microsoft platforms (read: iPads).

And what does video mean for your storage infrastructure and architecture? Remote BLOB Store, anyone? So spend some time proactively thinking about video in your enterprise, so that when your business customers come to you demanding a solution “yesterday,” you have an answer!

Finally, a personal note. This is my seventh Olympics—my fourth with NBC—and in recent years it’s bothered me that the advent of social media put pressure on the “prime time” experience of watching multiple competitions in a time-delayed, edited package.

For the XXX Summer Olympics in London, NBC has risen to the challenge of live-streaming all competitions—so that sports fanatics can catch the entire competition in its full glory—while extending the quantity and quality of daytime, prime time, and late night coverage—the latter two of which are significantly time delayed from the events in London.

It’s absolutely fascinating to me that in 2012, when it’s highly likely that millions of viewers already know the results (through social media) or already have watched the event in real time, they are still sitting down to watch the broadcasts—in record numbers!

Personally, I interpret that in the most optimistic light. I believe that we as human beings still love the story as well as the competition. We love to learn more about the sport, to create a personal relationship with the athletes, to celebrate excellence and the human spirit, and to be taken on an emotional journey through competition.

And we love to do it together. Many of us, when we turn on NBC after dinner, are seeing events for the second time, with our friends and family, after sharing the cheers and the tears with our coworkers as we stream the event or follow the social media at work.

As someone who spends far too much time with technology, it’s truly heartwarming to know that, in the end, technology is giving us more opportunities to be a family, a community, a nation, and a planet. And THAT is what my Olympics experience is all about.

I hope you enjoy the remaining five days of the Olympics, and that your Ethernet, wireless, and mobile networks don’t melt down!

I’ll be back with you later this month with lessons learned for SharePoint from this extraordinary undertaking.

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