Even if NBC didn’t make more than a few dollars by putting the Olympics online, it still gets traffic bragging rights — a whole lot of eyeballs looked at NBCOlympics.com in the last few weeks. And, as we’ve noted before, even more eyeballs went to Yahoo’s Olympics site. But let’s add yet another winner to the mix: Oft-maligned Microsoft (MSFT), who used the games as a platform to launch its oft-maligned Silverlight video software.
Microsoft built NBC’s site (with an assist from WPP’s Schematic, which built the actual video player), operated it, and footed the bill for bandwidth, hosting, Limelight (LLNW) CDN services, etc. This wasn’t a forgone conclusion: A source familiar with the matter tells us that NBC was still negotiating with Microsoft rival Adobe (ADBE) about using that company’s Flash software to power its video as recently as December 2007.
We don’t know the financial details of the transaction: It’s possible that Microsoft paid NBC for the privilege, but we also assume that Microsoft was able to share in the ad revenue that NBC generated, since Microsoft promoted the site on its giant MSN portal.
In any case, no matter how the dollars played out, the games were a success for Redmond, since it got Silverlight into millions of American homes. In order to watch any of the video streams, you needed to download the software, and Microsoft says that half of the 40 million U.S. visitors to NBCOlympics didn’t have Silverlight when they showed up. Surely not every one of those 20 million visitors ended up downloading the software. But those who did — like us — found it easy to install, and that the video quality they got was excellent.
We’re also not sure how much of that video quality is due to Silverlight, and how much of it has to do with source material, the way the player was designed, and a host of other factors. But in the absence of other information, we have to conclude that Silverlight works pretty darn well. And that’s exactly what Microsoft was hoping for.
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