Streaming Toward the Biggest World Cup Audience Ever

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 1 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 U.S. 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.

An estimated 280 million people watched online or on a mobile device in 2014, and mobile video traffic has boomed since. It’s not just the ability to watch on the go that streaming services will deliver this year, but also customized highlights and camera angles. In short, the potential audience is bigger than ever, the viewing options are more diverse than ever, and this could 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. But there are good reasons to believe that percentage is going to grow and push up the broader numbers, and 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 more than 8x since 2014. (Cisco)

In China alone, the number of viewers who stream the World Cup could hit 1 billion, according to estimates by Youku, the streaming service that has exclusive online rights to the event in China.

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-customized 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 favorite 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, customized streaming can’t 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’s essential for the speed and low-latency needed to guarantee a smooth viewing experience.

Interconnection is also crucial to deliver AI-fueled customized content. The “many-to-many” connectivity that interconnection enables can link the multiple parties that collaborate to produce the personalized 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.

We’ve done this

Equinix specializes in delivering interconnection. Our global interconnection platform, Platform Equinix®, spans 52 markets over five continents and hosts a range of growing industry ecosystems, including the top networks, clouds, analytics firms and content providers. Content and digital media customers can 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™).

Equinix already has deep experience working with top content companies to expand their capabilities and offerings in ways similar to what we’ll see at the World Cup. Our partnership with Discovery Communications, for instance, enabled that company to switch to a cloud-based delivery platform, where they can assemble personalized content for their three billion viewers in 220 countries.

We’ve also worked with the UK-based Independent Television News (ITN) to allow them to produce highlight packages for dozens of soccer matches in near-real time. By colocating their IT in an Equinix facility, ITN can quickly receive and store footage from the match sites, remotely access it with their editing teams, then blast the highlight packages to broadcast outlets. The networks and media companies that ITN needs to connect with are also inside Equinix, right next to them, so the data exchange is as fast and efficient as possible.

Interconnection is critical to content and digital media (CDM) companies, and the need for it is going 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.

Check out the Content and Digital Media Digital Edge Playbook for more about how CDM companies can use interconnection to meet the demands of today’s users.



Subscribe to the Equinix Blog