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A global event such as the Olympic Games is an ideal chance to test new technologies, and the innovative offerings rolled out for the recent Games held in Rio de Janeiro have proved video streaming’s rise to the mainstream and validated the strategies adopted by the pay-TV sector to remain relevant. Over the course of the event, consumers had access to an array of media that complemented their experiences rather than competing for their attention.

Pay TV, content owners, and even the Olympic Committee are experimenting with video innovation

The Rio Olympics attracted an audience of approximately 5 billion viewers across the world. Due to its scale and the diversity of simultaneous events, it was only natural that experiments on new formats, such as 8K and virtual reality, would take place. Some examples are Japanese broadcaster NHK’s delivery of 8K content to two theaters in Japan, and US broadcaster NBC’s coverage in 360-degree virtual reality to be used with Samsung’s Gear VR. The question of whether these formats will become mainstream will probably be answered only at the Tokyo Olympics.

Even though OTTs such as Netflix had no access to the Olympics, given the tight control the International Olympic Committee (IOC) keeps on broadcasting rights, their influence was felt anyway. Recent innovations in video had a direct effect on consumers’ habits during Rio Olympics, and the adoption of multiscreen strategies by many content holders meant that users had multiple platforms to choose from, covering TV, desktop, and mobile. For instance, the strategy taken by Brazilian media group Organizacoes Globo involved its free Internet portal, G1; its pay-TV programming arm, Globosat; and its free-to-air channel, Rede Globo. G1 aired the same live video of selected events shown by TV Globo.

The most ambitious initiative was undertaken by Globosat: The programmer created 13 temporary pay-TV channels that were added to its existing 3 SporTV channels, and it made all 16 channels available via each pay-TV provider that carried its sports channels. Subscribers to these channels also had access to the SporTV app, which provided live and on-demand video for nearly all events during the Games.

Even the IOC itself is jumping on the video streaming bandwagon: At the closing of the Rio Olympics it released an Olympic Channel that streams Olympics-related content via a multiscreen strategy, in a bid to extend the Olympics experience to years without any Games.

All in all, the innovation in content distribution spurred by the widespread adoption of broadband and smart devices and by the popularity of video OTT services has permanently changed the TV market. The Rio Olympics gave us a glance of the future of video.


Further reading

How the IOC uses telecoms and IT to support an increasingly demanding Olympic audience, TE0001-001051 (September 2016)


Ari Lopes, Principal Analyst, Latin America

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