Olympics Sets New Records for Streaming

Many seats may have been empty for some of the events at the Rio Olympic Games but online audiences as expected scaled new heights. Streaming traffic for the games has obliterated records set by previous events, according to CDN giant Akamai, which delivered more video data in the first eight days of Rio than it did for all 34 days of the 2012 London and the Sochi winter games combined.

Last week the company revealed that it had already exceeded the total amount of video data that it delivered for all 17 days of London in 2012 within just 3 days. Maximum peak traffic from the games was 4.53Tbps, while peak audience size of 1.54 million was recorded by Akamai.

The traffic levels reflected not so much any rise in popularity of the Olympics but the continual growth of video streaming. A key metric was the global average video bit-rate of 2.75 Mbps, which means that the quality at which many people were viewing was substantially higher than at the London Olympics in 2012, with much less buffering and pixilation. That coupled with the greater penetration of tablets and large smart phones has driven more online viewing of the games, with far more people catching up with events while on the go.

As a result total consumption of Olympic content on screens is higher than at London even though audiences in the stadia are down. Indeed the breakdown in online viewing reflects the varying popularity of the games among people around the world rather than in Brazil, with over half of all video traffic, 55%, going to Europe, while 40% went to North and South America. Just 2% went to Asia, which apart from China, Japan and South Korea has relatively low interest in the games, reflected also in a tiny medal quota for the population size.

The growth in streaming can also be charted by considering traffic levels at other major sporting events. The recent UEFA Euro 2016 Football Championships in France generated double the streaming traffic of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, according to Akamai, despite having a smaller target audience. According to Akamai’s director of product marketing for media solutions, Ian Munford, the maximum peak traffic for streaming matches at the Euros was 4.03 Tbps. Peak traffic hit 7.3 Tbps during the final between Portugal and France, setting a new record well in excess of the peak for the Olympics, as did the 3.3 million concurrent streams during the decisive half hour of extra time. We could note though that the peak traffic rate for the 2014 World Cup during the semifinal between Argentina and the Netherlands was 7.0 Tbps, which was actually a bigger spike given the lower prevailing averages two years ago.  

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