Late last week Akamai announced that World Cup Soccer helped drive substantial amounts of Web access and especially video viewing across its massive content distribution network. While not the only CDN in the field, Akamai is the largest and it serves some of the biggest news and sports providers worldwide. Its 24 broadcast clients in 65 countries include ESPN, Televisa, and Prisacom. The company said that at peak usage it was serving 1.6 million concurrent streams.
At ESPN3.com, 7.4 million unique viewers consumed video during the course of the month of World Cup games. At sf.tv in Switzerland, up to 35,000 concurrent streams were counted at peak, a record for the site.
Overall traffic to the World Cup was significantly higher than the previous 2006 match. Akamai saw a peak of overall news usage (not just video) of 20 million visitors worldwide on June 24. Curiously the peak was not on the day of the final but after the Italy vs. Slovenia match. Akamai says that the peak of 20 million visitors in its Net Usage Index for News on the 24th was more than twice the load it saw at the peak in 2006 of 8 million.
While growth in World Cup usage may have been impressive compared to four years ago, video viewing didn't seem to break any overall records for online viewing. As Dan Rayburn, analyst at Streaming Media points out, the January 2009 Inauguration of President Obama had far more simultaneous streams -- 3.6 million.
Emerging platforms always attach high hopes to major sporting events. In the mobile sphere for instance, every World Cup for the last decade seems to have held for the industry the promise of accustoming people to using mobile to get breaking news. On the Web in the U.S. the Olympics have always had similar promise. The premise seems to be that a major must-see event will introduce people to the medium of live digital streaming, which then somehow translates into increased viewing overall and new habits.
Historically, one of the legends of early TV history is that the 1947 World Series helped accelerate TV sales and habitual TV viewing. In fact, solid promotion, clear and satisfied expectations are what establish new media habits. Creating for users a reliable place where they know breaking news, or the latest sporting event, will be available for viewing regardless of the special event is more important than leveraging a single event.