Streaming toward the biggest World Cup audience ever

  • After a week of competition, 393 million people had streamed the games this year
  • Singapore has World Cup packages where viewers can live-stream all 64 matches


Streaming toward the biggest World Cup audience ever


NEARLY half the world’s population watched at least some of the last Fifa World Cup, including the one billion people who tuned in for the final, making it the most watched sporting event in the world. But could this year’s numbers blow away past results?

Competing variables are in play. For instance, the US and Italian teams didn’t qualify, and that’s a potential viewership drag, but the location in Russia could boost the live audience in Asia, which in 2014 was a half-day ahead of matches happening in Brazil.

And then there’s the streaming factor.

After just a week of competition, 393 million people had streamed the games this year, according to Conviva, a streaming TV metrics provider. That’s already far more than the estimated 280 million people who watched online or on a mobile device during the entire event in 2014.

It’s not just the ability to watch on the go that streaming services are delivering this year, but also customised highlights and camera angles. In short, the potential audience is bigger than ever, the viewing options are more diverse than ever, and this is shaping up to be the most streamed sporting event in history. But getting it right is going to take interconnection. 

More connected people, enhanced options

The 280 million people who streamed the last World Cup represented less than 9% of the total audience of 3.2 billion. It’s clear that percentage will grow this year, and it’s likely to significantly push up the broader numbers.

The streaming spike can be attributed to a variety of factors, but one is that overall access to the internet and mobile devices is up substantially since 2014. Consider: 

  • At end of 2014, about 3.08 billion people were on the internet worldwide, but the number is up more than a third to 4.16 billion in 2018. (Internet World Stats)
  • Smartphone penetration has risen from 22% of the global population in 2014 to about 35% today. (Statista)
  • The volume of mobile internet video traffic has increased by more than eight times since 2014. (Cisco) 

In China alone, the number of viewers who stream the World Cup could hit one billion, according to estimates by Youku, the streaming service that has exclusive online rights to the event in China.

And in Singapore, there are various World Cup subscription packages available where viewers can live-stream all 64 matches.

In addition, the digital offerings are enhanced this year, and that could further expand the streaming audience.

Among this year’s online video features:

  • User-customised highlight reels drawing on current and past footage
  • Artificial intelligence is being used to detect cues like emotional tone and location in the footage to help stitch the highlights together.
  • Camera views just above the pitch, for a close-up view of the action, as well as over one of the goals, to show formations and the movements of all 22 players.
  • Team channels that offer viewers three video angles and live stats when their favourite team is playing.

Interconnection makes it work

These advances are setting up this year’s World Cup to draw a record audience and offer the best viewing experience outside of actually being inside a stadium in Russia. But high-quality, customised streaming cannot happen without interconnection – the private data exchange between business.

At a basic level, interconnection helps ensure the actual video stream is delivered glitch-free. One of the key characteristics is of interconnection is direct connectivity, such as between broadcasting companies and the networks carrying feeds, and that is essential for the speed and low-latency needed to guarantee a smooth viewing experience.

Interconnection is also crucial to deliver AI-fuelled customised content. The “many-to-many” connectivity that interconnection enables can link the multiple parties that collaborate to produce the personalised content (data analytics firms, content delivery companies, clouds, etc.).

And interconnection by its nature brings counterparties as close together as possible anywhere in the world. That’s essential for companies that need to reach a global audience.

Equinix specialises in delivering interconnection. Our global interconnection platform, Platform Equinix, spans across 52 markets, so content and digital media (CDM) customers can use it to build their digital edge alongside the largest industry ecosystems on Platform Equinix.

Across this platform, they can scale their digital business, find new growth opportunities and keep pace with shifting markets by following the industry best practices of an Interconnection Oriented Architecture (IOA).

Interconnection is critical to content and digital media companies, and the need for it is going to keep growing past this year’s World Cup. The Global Interconnection Index, published by Equinix, predicts a 31% compound annual growth rate in Interconnection Bandwidth capacity among CDM companies to 2020.

Platform Equinix is built to handle this increase in interconnection demand, no matter what is fueling it, no matter how big it gets, in markets all over the world.

Chuck Correll is senior manager of Field Development at Equinix.


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