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Record breaking start to the Olympics for BBC Online

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Cait O'Riordan Cait O'Riordan | 14:30 UK time, Monday, 30 July 2012

Before the Olympic Games began, the BBC promised to deliver up to 24 simultaneous live streams of coverage to the biggest audience the Sport website has ever seen.

And my team managed that within the first 48 hours of live sporting action.

As the Head of Product for BBC Sport, it’s been a fantastic weekend for me and my team watching the Games unfold. Just after 3pm on Saturday afternoon we had all our encoders in action playing 24 live video streams of sporting action across desktop, mobile tablet, connected TVs and Red Button.

And Sunday was the busiest day ever on the BBC Sport site – with 6.1 million unique browsers in the UK and 8.3 million worldwide.

The first weekend of the Olympics online, in stats:

  • Saturday - 7.8m global browsers for bbc.co.uk/sport (5.6m UK browsers) – a global record
  • Sunday - 8.3m global browsers for bbc.co.uk/sport (6.1m UK browsers) – a global and UK record
  • 1.15m downloads for the BBC Sport Olympics app, with 55% of browsers coming from non-desktop devices on Saturday
  • 1.7m requests for the Olympics opening ceremony in BBC iPlayer, with 925k on Saturday alone – a record for a single day
  • The James Bond Escorts The Queen to the London 2012 Olympic Games clip has been viewed 640k times on the BBC’s YouTube channel.

We have been testing the infrastructure and the sites we have built for the games for months using test data and streams and artificial traffic and we were really confident it would work.

But even so it’s nerve wracking turning it all on and showing it to vast numbers of real users – so we are thrilled that it’s all working so well.

And we’ve been gratified to see such positive feedback, on social networks and via email, about the things we have built.

More than 1.15 million people have now downloaded BBC Sport’s Olympics app for the UK, and we are really pleased that people are staying in touch with the action via the phones while out and about like Mark Ames:

For watching the bits of the Olympic road race happening where you aren't, I heartily recommend the BBC Olympic app:


— ibikelondon blog (@markbikeslondon) 3:18 AM - 25 Jul 2012


The reaction to our new interactive video player has been really positive.

All our live and on demand video sessions are split into “chapters” to make it really easy to find the bit you’re interested in. That feature was used more than 2.5 million times on Saturday, including by Rich ‏@richardarnatt:

The BBC interactive Olympics coverage is incredible! Jaw dropped at how easy it is to jump straight to *any* event in moments.

— Rich (@richardarnatt) 12:11 PM - July 28, 2012


Our favourites feature on the desktop version of the site is also being exercised with more than a million interactions a day.

Now people are back at work the graphs are going skywards with hundreds of thousands of people sneaking a look at our coverage in the office, like Simon Warren:

We've managed to hook up two spare monitors in the office so far this morning, 22 more and we can stream all the bbc's live content.

— Simon Warren (@100Climbs) 2:55 AM - 30 Jul 2012

At around 3pm today, we will have 24 live streams running again and we’re hopeful today’s going to be another record-breaking day. I’ll keep you up to date with the stats as we get them this week.

Cait O'Riordan is the Head of Product, BBC Sport and London 2012


  • Comment number 1.

    Enjoying the sport interactive player, but unfortunately, I can't watch videos full screen without the stream becoming corrupted (the picture brakes down to unwatchable corrupted bright green/pick lines and video artefacts). This is happening consistently whichever browser I use on my Mac (with the Flash 11.3 plug-in installed). Is this known issue?

    (Apologies for filing bug report here, but I can't find anywhere else to do so)

  • Comment number 2.

    Cait, the BBC coverage so far has been superb and it's no wonder that you're breaking lots of online records. With all the concern about the questionable legacy of the Olympics, at the very least the BBC will be left with a robust infrastructure it can leverage in the future... the interactive video player, for one, is amazing!

  • Comment number 3.

    Paul Robert Lloyd: You can try turning off hardware acceleration within Flash. You do this by tapping with two fingers in the playback window, click on settings and then go to the display settings (bottom left). Uncheck hardware acceleration and then you need to refresh your browser. There more details in our video help page. I hope that works for you.

  • Comment number 4.

    The Red button coverage is fantastic, once selected/loaded; the A-Z menu system is a joy to use and, its HD too! Excellent.

  • Comment number 5.

    Have to agree the red button on SkyHD has been fantastic very simple to see what's going on and in HD!

  • Comment number 6.

    Fantastic technology, wish it was usefull. BBC keeps reporting failure of Olympic seating arrangements but "red button" is a disaster. Acessing view guide gives you football results, accessing a sport produces a different sport. When announcer tells you to change channels to continue watching a sport, it is seldom correct. Blogs indicate Sky is doing a much better job. Please give us a accurate daily viewing guide urgently. It is accepted that it might be changed if something exciting and unexpected happens.

  • Comment number 7.

    this is all great but since the start of the olympics when i press the red button i get "Interactive unavailable at present ,try later, error code C501-U83-L1970.I get my programmes via a Sky card.
    Like previous blogger apologies for airing my problem here but cant find anywhere else

  • Comment number 8.

    Thanks Cait. I hadn't spotted that help page! I've yet to try that fix yet, but it sounds like it will solve my issue. Thanks for your help!

  • Comment number 9.

    @EJohnK If you access our red button app via the red button (select Olympics Extra from the menu) then you should get an accurate list of what is showing now. There are several choices on the main screen and the rest of the live streams can be selected by clicking on the button on the bottom right hand corner which will tell you how many live events we're currently running. That will take you through to an A-Z of what's live.

    @gedhenly I will raise the problem you are seeing with the right team and will update you here if I find out more

  • Comment number 10.

    @gedhenly: I have been told this this error message is related a local equipment issue. The advice is to try the classic turn it off and on again - turn it off at the plug for a minute and then reboot. If that doesn't work then make sure your set-top box and satellite are set-up correctly, for example by plugging in a neighbour's set-top box to your satellite feed. If all else fails then it would be best to call Sky directly. I hope that helps, Cait

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm on Safari 6, on Mac OSX 10.7.4 with Flash 11.3.300.268 and I had the video corruption problem. I can confirm that turning off hardware acceleration appears to solve the problem. Haven't tried with the video settings set to 'performance' rather then 'battery life' yet as I'm on a 2009 MBP with dual GPUS which needs a log off to change settings and I don't want to miss any olympics!

  • Comment number 12.

    the red button has been giving me an error code since beginning of olympics. "This BBC Interactive Service is currently unavailable please try again later , error code C501-U233-L1970." I m with sky. Not sure if it is sky or bbc who have goofed up on this..!!

  • Comment number 13.

    emb-Imay have rumbled this are you outside the UK

  • Comment number 14.

    I have to say, the BBC's coverage of this Olympics has been outstanding. I have my laptop plugged into my HDTV as I don't have a satellite system and I've been able to watch everything I've wanted to so far. I just hope this is the future and we don't go backwards when it comes to the Rio games in 2016 to just six red button streams.

  • Comment number 15.

    @emb: This is also likely to be local equipment issue. Turn your box off at the plug for a minute and then reboot. If that doesn't work, then please call Sky directly. I hope you manage to resolve it, Cait

  • Comment number 16.

    The different channels for different sports are great, but it's killing our bandwidth, and the athletics coverage is a bit interview heavy and field event light!

  • Comment number 17.

    Caitlin $ channels viewing showing (can find this channel hopping) cannot find Olypics extra or an A-Z to plan viewing. Certainly not on Freeview TV.

  • Comment number 18.

    The video does not work on my mac which is running safari.... Five second play then a green screen.... Pretty crap really...

  • Comment number 19.

  • Comment number 20.

    @juliet: Unfortunately, due to platform capacity we are unable to offer the 24 streams on Freeview. We have a stream available all day on channel 301, and we have added a second stream for the duration of the Olympics on channel 302 from 7pm each evening. In addition the channel 301 output is available in HD on channel 304. The full 24 streams are available online via computer, mobile or tablet.


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