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The Media Technology

NBC Aims For Stability Through Redundancy In Athens 163

Darren writes "With the Athens Olympics just 27 days away NBC is gearing up for a massive 1210 hours of coverage (that's enough to watch TV over 50 days of Olympics 24/7). The infrastructure needed to provide such coverage is huge, and the potential for problems is significant. As a result NBC are taking all precautions possible and over the 17 days of competition they will utilize three satellite network linkups and three land-based connections to ensure they always have a connection. The mind boggles at what it is all going to cost - but I'm sure their advertising revenue will make it worth their while."
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NBC Aims For Stability Through Redundancy In Athens

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  • Hang on... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 17, 2004 @05:37PM (#9726907)

    The infrastructure needed to provide such coverage is huge and the potential for problems is significant.

    Unlike the facilities for the Olympics themselves, the place is still a building site isn't it?

    • Re:Hang on... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bigman2003 ( 671309 )
      The sad thing about this, is that I am sure they are preparing for the possibility of a terrorist attack.

      Let's say there is an attack, at some stadium. Well, the whole world would be watching, and they would have exclusive rights to access the area with cameras.

      Seriously, you know they thought about it, and probably put that into the contract. Exclusive rights to a track and field competition...good...but exclusive rights to the second largest terrorist event this century? Priceless.

      I'm not saying it
  • Yes but... (Score:5, Funny)

    by k4_pacific ( 736911 ) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (cificap_4k)> on Saturday July 17, 2004 @05:39PM (#9726919) Homepage Journal
    Will they eb covering the math competition?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 17, 2004 @05:40PM (#9726927)
    Do they have a redundant Athens standing by?
  • Well we woudn't pass the barr body test because our chromosomes are still XY. With the reduction in weight...perhaps the marathon.
  • NBC has the backbone (Score:5, Interesting)

    by toetagger1 ( 795806 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @05:41PM (#9726933)
    NBC is owned by GE [], which in turn owns GE Energy []. With the resent history of power outages [] on July 13 in Grece, I wonder how they back up against that?
  • by poulbailey ( 231304 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @05:44PM (#9726945)
    This story just seems to be posted to drive traffic to a blog. Why do the Slashdot editors allow this?

    The proper stories are posted at [] (printer friendly []) and [] (printer friendly []) respectively. Click those links instead.
  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @05:44PM (#9726947)
    NBC's idea of redundancy might sound like a good one at first, but according to the Department of Redundancy Department, redundancy has its risks as well. First and foremost is the risk of a false sense of security. For example, if the satellite gets shot down, then their three links to the satellite won't be worth the paper they're printed on.
  • by crashnbur ( 127738 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @05:44PM (#9726949)
    ...because everyone will be watching hoping to be glued to their TV when/if a blackout or terrorist attack hits. There's no news like bad news, and nothing can replace the ego of an American who can say he/she "saw it as it happened".

    (I don't think I will intentionally watch any of the Olympics, because I'll be out looking for a job and preparing for grad school.)
  • it's easy! afraid of losing a broadcast? simply submit a duplicate broadcast! if both get through, blame Taco!

    I mean what the hell, it works for slashdot!
  • And after? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Trailwalker ( 648636 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @05:46PM (#9726955)
    Let's get this into perspective - if you were to watch those 1210 hours end on end you'd be watching 50.4 days worth of television around the clock!

    Death would be a mercy after that.
    • Look on the brighter side. They could have brought back the PAID olympic channels red white and blue. At that point, you'd be watching people's training, interviews and everything else on top of the competition for 50hrs x 3 channels. And if you don't watch, it's kind of a waste of money.

  • by Jayfar ( 630313 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @05:48PM (#9726964)
    The mind boggles at what it is all going to cost - but I'm sure their advertising revenue will make it worth their while.

    The networks generally lose millions on the olympic broadcasts - it's a prestige thing for them. Maybe they gain some small advantage in viewership for subsequent sports programming.

    • Yeah, I seem to remember one of the networks (I think it was NBC) coming out with 3 Olypmpics dedicated cable channels in the early 90's. They were a HORRIBLE economic venture, losing so much money I think it made the news.
      • The Olympics tripple cast was not designed to make a dime. It was a reason to get PPV eqipment installed in (at the time) TCI cable systems and be able to write off the investment as a loss. NOBODY thought it would be successful on a revenue basis.

    • by DocScience4 ( 795837 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @06:18PM (#9727123)
      It's what is known as a "loss leader" in the broadcasting industry. Not only is it (though marginally) for getting people to watch other sports, and overall "prestige", but mainly it delivers a sizeable audience to which they can promote their new and incumbent shows.

      They can also charge a premium rate for certain events on NBC (akin to the Super Bowl), and can provide more limited-appeal sports to narrowly-focused audiences in non-prime-time, as well as on their ancillary (e.g. USA) networks.
    • I am not so sure about that. The advertising revenue for 50.4 days of programming is potentially very lucrative and major networks such as NBC are very good at providing efficient coverage of major live events. They are most definitely making money on the games.

      and why is Slashdot scanning my ports right now?

      Your computer's TCP ports:
      80, 1080, 3128, 8000 and 8080 have been scanned from

    • Another reason for the major investment in the latest and greatest gear is because Sony and Panasonic usually fight to outfit the network. They then make a big deal about the fact in the trade mags. The other thing is that they sell off the trucks after the event for just about what they paid for them (after all, the equipment is almost new and is unlikely to be beat up).

      Due to Hollywood accounting, the olympics and just about everything else on television looses money. But, for some unknown reason, the net

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Despite spending so much time & effort covering the games, they don't actually broadcast the vast majority of it!

    NBC will have a couple hours of wrapup every day, and that will be it.
    • Answer (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mattjb0010 ( 724744 )
    • by NickV ( 30252 )
      That's actually not true. It seems like NBC is planning on prempting ALL of their coverage on all of their networks (I wonder what they're going to do with CNBC during business hours... olympics + stock ticker?)

      They'll be broadcasting it ALL across all 7 of their channels (bravo, cnbc, msnbc, telemundo, nbc, USA, nbcHD [local HD affiliates]. The HD broadcasts will be in 5.1 1080i too, which is pretty damn slick.

      Of course, aside from a prestige thing, this looks like network programming suicide.
    • Yeah, sometimes i wish nbc could be banned from showing sports at all.
      Even the stuff they do cover (which, in my slightly biased opinion, consists of way too much gymnastics) shows up far too late. The sydney olympics were the worst. They showed events that had literally taken place over 30 hours earlier. And all, i suspect, because they have to do a big mock up story about every frickin event. Talk about it a half hour before they show it. Talk about if for half an hour after. Instead of just showing more
    • No, they'll have an hour and a half of biographical drivel, then a half hour of gymnastics.
  • by syrinje ( 781614 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @05:54PM (#9727008)
    ...AT&T for all the six links. I would have thought it made sense to go with multiple service providers if I was spreading out my options for 99.9% availability.

    I just loved this gem from the link in the article "NBC will be able to send live feeds from Greece to the U.S. over all six links at once or use them for separate transmissions." Hmmm...six identical high-speed digital transmissions of Marion Jones tumbling in ignominy - yeeesh, wot a waste of bandwidth!

    Now here is an article about the design of the media center and its redundant systems [] that is more in tune with my ./er persona

    • I work in the bush leagues of broadcasting, and I can't wait until they surplus all that equipment. It's usually high end stuff that's perfectly good, but can't be sold as new. It won't go on eBay, probably, but if you like some of the small parts you see at the Olympics, start saving your pennies now.
  • No idea (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I work for a major UK broadcaster's engineering department (shortly to be sold to Siemens :( ) and, believe me, 6 connections is not in the big league of broadcast redundancy. For The Scottish open last week we had 12 feeds (six main feeds, and reserve circuits for each) - distributed over a variety of paths and technologies (for risk-reduction.) (Good) Broadcasters take multiple redundancy very seriously.
  • In the spirit! (Score:1, Redundant)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 )
    In the spirit of NBC's 'get the news out through redundancy' campaign, Slashdot will dupe every article they post about the Olympics!
    • "In the spirit of NBC's 'get the news out through redundancy' campaign, Slashdot will dupe every article they post about the Olympics!"

      In the spirit of NBC's 'get the news out through redundancy' campaign, Slashdot will dupe every article they post about the Olympics!

      (I'm gonna earn that redundant mod, dammit!)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Doesn't anyone remember the huge problems facing the Olympics this year due to extremely poor ticket sales ( rtsNews&storyID=5657784)?

    How will all of that coverage put a positive spin on the massive number of empty seats at each event?
  • by croddy ( 659025 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @06:00PM (#9727037)
    you got your personal olympics blog linked on the front page of slashdot.
    now go upstairs, your mom needs some help in the kitchen.
  • by Wakko Warner ( 324 ) * on Saturday July 17, 2004 @06:01PM (#9727043) Homepage Journal
    ...if the power keeps going out every other day [] in Athens.

    - A.P.
  • Linking to multible sattelite networks is all well and good, but what about electricity? Just last week Athens had a blackout due to overload in the electric grid. This situation will not improve during the games!

    Guess they will have their own generators too.
  • My gripe with Olympics coverage in the US is that you never get to see any event which does not involve some US team/athlete. So I'm assuming that this would likely be 1200 something hours of US athletes-only fest. Entirely goes against the spirit of the Olympics itself.
    • My gripe with Olympics coverage in the US is that you never get to see any event which does not involve some US team/athlete. So I'm assuming that this would likely be 1200 something hours of US athletes-only fest. Entirely goes against the spirit of the Olympics itself.

      Specifically, it will be 1210 hours of BEACH VOLLEYBALL!!!! All the other events will be ignored, even if they include U.S. athletes.

  • by synx ( 29979 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @06:19PM (#9727131)
    So NBC will have redundancy - so you won't miss a minute of your favourite American competitor! Most people I know joke about NBC's coverage of the Olympics - its laughable. They'll show an event, then when the American loses they'll cut to a new event.

    Contrast this with CBC and BBC which cover entire events regardless of who wins or loses.

    So those who get cable, time to watch CBC for _full_ coverage of the Olympics!
  • I mean, seriously, after all the corruption issues [], does anyone take this seriously?

    Note the 48,500 links for this search!

    Seems like the Olympics has become like the UN: A good idea, which has been defiled by some of the people involved.

    Pity, really.

    I don't think i've watched since the Israeli 1972 Olympic Team was murdered in Munich []

  • by chiph ( 523845 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @06:26PM (#9727167)
    Now if we can get them to use all that technolgy to broadcast the shooting sports. I'm getting a little tired of watching hours of Curling [] or rhythmic gymnastics [].

    Chip H.
  • I bet advertising revenues are at least a billion bucks.

    This site [] says the 2002 Winter olympics took in over $700M. 2000 Summer took in over $900M.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @06:28PM (#9727181)
    The major network coverage of the Olympics stinks anyway. Endless fluff pieces about athletes, almost no coverage of anyone who is not from the US, and heaven forbid they spend time on anything but track, volleyball, swimming, diving and gymnastics (again especially if no americans figure for a gold) and tape delayed coverage. Last olympics I was lucky enough to have CBC coverage since I lived near Canada but no such luck now. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the sports that do get the airtime but the coverage is usually horrible for anyone who actually knows/cares about a given sport.

    For example, the bicyling time trial last time was "The Lance Armstrong Show". I don't have anything against Lance but he didn't even win and there were lots of other good riders I would have liked to see. What little coverage was shown was poor and basically an expose about Lance's life. I wanted to see the event. If I wanted information about a rider there are plenty of ways to find out. (Yes I know why they do this but I don't have to like it)

    Anyway I seriously doubt I'll be watching much of the Olympics. The coverage will be annoying and instead of seeing a variety of sports I'll be subjected to every qualifying round of the men's volleyball team. Ugh...
  • The even more impressive part is all of the coverage on the normal NBC affiliates will be in HD with 5.1 (!!) sound.

    Now that's just sick! (and about time, NBC's HD coverage is the worse of the big 3)
  • by shokk ( 187512 ) <> on Saturday July 17, 2004 @06:35PM (#9727210) Homepage Journal
    Balancing three Satellite connections and three landlines is not such a big deal. With equipment like Israeli company Radware's LinkProof [] at both ends, the loss of one line would not be noticed. You can configure that equipment to aggregate all connections to multiply the bandwidth, including spreading VPN traffic across the lines, or just use the other lines as failover. These boxes are supposed to handle 10 connections and are very configurable and are veeeery configurable.

    The same technology is available for smaller sites with their Linkproof Branch product.
  • NBC's coverage of the olympics has always sucked.

    A two or three hours a day, "plausably live".

    We're lucky, here in Canada the CBC (our national semi-public broadcaster, who must of spend their entire year's budget on it) is airing the Olympics, and their coverage has always been very good for a regular broadcast station -- the Olympics are run virtually all day. (And through a good bit of the evening, too.)

    • I think that's the point... NBC is planning to show people that they can do good coverage, because ALOT of people complained ALOT about Sydney.

      1200+ hours of live coverage across 7 channels all day is about as good as you can get.
      • I wonder how much of that coverage will be about non-american athletes...

        Maybe it's just me, but I like seeing competitors from other countries and seeing profiles on them as well...

        • Thank you for your comment. Your name has now been entered into the database of potential terrorists. We all know that there are no athletes worth caring about that are non-americans. They are terrorists, and will be assimilated.

          Department of Homeland FUD^W Security
  • What we want to know is the computers they're using are running Linux and what is done to protect the network against h@xx0rs.
  • by fprefect ( 14608 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @07:08PM (#9727355)
    I've got my TiVo configured with an external RAID and terabytes of storage, I'm ready -- bring it on!
  • NBC - 99.99% Reliabe Connection for Athens Olympics

    Gee, I'm glad spellchecking is 100% reliabe.
  • > You certainly cant tell a marathon runner that
    > you need to run it over [because of a network
    > issue].

    Nor could you tape it locally as you were capturing it, and retransmit it from the tape. No. That would be impossible. Or at the very least, it wouldnt cost nearly as much as having a 6-way redundant transmission link. And the goal is to spend as much of money as possible, right?
  • "An Olympic event is a one-time event, and there are no do-overs," Bob Kiraly, director of broadcast and telecommunications operations at NBC, said in an interview from Athens this week. "Everything we plan for in our networks or our Athens operations center is really based on a failure scenario. You certainly can't tell a marathon runner that you need to run it over [because of a network issue]. "

    Aww... What is this world coming to? I remember, back in the day, we never complained about having to do
  • The 1000+ hours figure factors in the fact that NBC's HD-capable affiliates will be showing "Olympics in HD" 24/7 on their digital stations.

    However, if you can see the HD feed, you will always have at least two choices (NBC HD and at least one SD feed) on the air at all times throught the games.
  • The major networks only will be airing "Highlights" of the upcoming political conventions in the US. Guess whether a 15 year old gymnast falls off the balance beam is more important. American students suck at science, but they can sure bounce a ball and throw it through a hoop. Long live the cult of Sport.
    • Please explain to me why a fully scripted, three-day-long, political pep rally is newsworthy.

      At least at the Olympics, we don't know in advance every detail of what's going to happen.
    • The major networks only will be airing "Highlights" of the upcoming political conventions in the US.

      Interestingly HDNet (Mark Cuban's network) is showing the entirety of both the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention in high-definition and is making the HD feel available for free to all MSOs and satellite providors.

      So even though the networks aren't showing the whole thing, someone's stepping up to the plate. More info here [].

  • "I'm sure their advertising revenue will make it worth their while."
    • Thank god for TiVo.

  • I won't watch a minute unless they cover the shooting events.

    To watch US coverage of the olympics you'd think there WEREN'T any such events - even though the US does exceptionally well in them.

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky