Rio 2016

Rio 2016: CBC Streams Live, On-Demand, and VR (With No Authentication Required)

Canada might be a Winter Games powerhouse, but it loves the Summer Olympics, too. This year, it falls to CBC/Radio-Canada to stream the Games to sports-loving Canucks, and it‘s doing so with a much bigger effort than it delivered in Sochi.

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CBC/Radio-Canada has nearly doubled the amount of streaming coverage it offered at the 2012 Sochi Olympics.

Two years have made a huge difference. For Rio 2016, CBC has almost doubled the amount of streaming coverage it is offering, increasing its concurrent live streams from 12 to 23. It also made changes on the backend: this is the first time CBC is using IP technology to send its 20 live-video and -audio feeds and data traffic to its studios in Toronto and Montreal. Once there, the feeds are packaged for broadcast, radio, and online distribution.

It’s an even bigger change from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which is the last time CBC had the rights to the Summer Games, notes Greg Stremlaw, executive director for CBC Sports and GM/chef de mission for CBC/Radio-Canada’s coverage of Rio 2016. In 2008, its coverage came from 22 HD and eight SD feeds.

“With 306 events across 42 disciplines, there are more hours of competition than we could fit into a regular broadcast day,” Stremlaw points out, “but, online, we are able to offer as many as 23 simultaneous live-streaming feeds for Canadians to choose from, whether they are watching at home or at work on a computer or on-the-go on a tablet or on their phones.”

CBC offers online viewers HD streams on any device. Viewers can choose an optional statistical overlay for live coverage, giving them greater insight on what they’re seeing. Viewers can also watch four feeds at one time with the split-screen view. That’s a good thing, because, with multiple live feeds, it can be hard to choose.

The many simultaneous events in Rio make behind-the-scenes scheduling a challenge. CBC employees have one hurdle that their neighbors to the south don’t: all content needs to be offered in English and French, the country’s official languages.

“When you consider that the Olympic Games used to be delivered on one single channel, the complexities we face today are enormous,” Stremlaw says. “In the lead-up to the Games, we test and retest our systems, our backup systems, and contingency planning.”

CBC’s broadcast and online video starts at the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS), which offers broadcast and multilateral feeds to all rightsholders. CBC augments these feeds with its unilateral cameras at selected events of special interest to Canadians. These multiple feeds are integrated for both broadcast and online use.

Viewers find CBC’s coverage at cbc.ca/Olympics, its hub for Rio 2016 news and video. For the Games, CBC partnered with deltatre, which provides a video player with DVR controls. On-demand clips are available from the website and the CBC app immediately after events conclude. Besides video, fans can see medal counts, news, reports, and results from Rio that focus on Team Canada.

CBC is debuting a notable first from Rio: Olympic virtual-reality video. Unlike NBC’s VR effort, the VR plays on Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear, and Google Cardboard headsets and on browsers. In partnership with Visa, CBC created iOS, Android, and Oculus apps for the VR video.

“Each day during the Rio Games, a sport is selected to be the VR sport of the day, chosen for the ability of that sport to allow a unique camera placement to get the viewer closer to the action with a 360[-degree] perspective of the field of play,” Stremlaw says. “Fencing, diving, beach volleyball, and gymnastics have all been identified as sports to receive the VR coverage in Rio.”

Some VR events will offer multiple camera feeds, allowing viewers to choose what they want to see. “For anyone interested in trying something new and unique,” he adds, “it is an exciting advancement.”

CBC is using its social-media platforms to drive viewers to its coverage. Reports onsite and back home provide a behind-the-scenes look at the Games. A section on the CBC Rio app, called Rio Now, provides a central view on the broadcaster’s Olympics social-media activity, giving instant insight on the Games from a Canadian perspective.

On digital simulcasts, CBC shows the same ads that broadcast viewers see. On its 23 live feeds, however, it adds in unique online spots. Canadian viewers have one advantage that cord-cutting Americans can only dream about: the online coverage, including video, is available to everyone, with no authentication required.

For CBC, online coverage is crucial — not just for the Olympics but for its future.

“CBC’s shift to digital is not only demonstrated in our coverage of the Olympic Games,” Stremlaw says. “It’s a key cornerstone in our corporate strategic plan that sees us continue our transformation into a modern public broadcaster.”