A Heaping Helping of Streamed Sports

July 18, 2016
By Ron Hendrickson - Not everyone likes watching sports, but those who do really do. And nowhere is that appetite more apparent than in the world of streaming video.

Not everyone likes watching sports, but those who do really do. And nowhere is that appetite more apparent than in the world of streaming video.

It seems like every time there's a major televised sporting event, it sets a new record for streaming. Case in point: According to Akamai, the Portugal-France 2016 European Championship soccer match last week set a new live streaming record of 7.3 Tbps and 3.3 million concurrent streams. Similarly, the Super Bowl and soccer's World Cup typically set new streaming records every time they're shown. Research from Parks Associates indicates that 16% of U.S. broadband homes have a sports OTT video service subscription, and that number can be expected to rise.

And more and more sports are running, jumping and swimming into the stream, so to speak. Last week, Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) announced a deal to live stream Pac-12 collegiate sports, and more traditional video service providers are gearing up to stream the upcoming summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero. Flow in the Caribbean just introduced a multiscreen streaming app specifically for the Olympics, and Cox Communications and Altice USA (Euronext:ATC) have both inked deals with NBCUniversal for streaming carriage of the Games. Most major sporting organizations stream at least some of their events, just a few of which include Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, NASCAR, and even (I am not making this up) Major League Eating and the International Federation of Competitive Eating, the governing body for hot dog eating contests and the like.

Sports streaming's exponential growth is part of a years-long trend in streaming video generally. Sandvine (TSX:SVC) says streaming video and audio now make up 71% of evening Internet traffic, and Cisco predicts that IP traffic - dominated by video - will nearly triple by 2020. Ericsson expects video to make up 70% of mobile traffic by 2021. And as with popular TV series on Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), ongoing sporting events such as the Olympics or World Cup tend to foster "binge watching" and attendant spikes in network traffic.

As streaming increases, network capacity needs to increase as well. Not surprisingly, the content delivery network (CDN) market is booming. Future Market Insights expects the global CDN market to grow at a year-over-year rate of 19.9% in 2016 and reach $ 5.898 billion in revenues. The research house expects the market to grow at a CAGR of 20.5% through 2026.

Given the trends in streaming video and consumers' ravenous appetite for sports, network engineers and planners would do well to think of capacity upgrades as an ongoing process rather than occasional events. In the meantime, have a hot dog. Or 27.

About the Author

Ron Hendrickson | Contributing Editor

As BTR's managing editor, Ron keeps the editorial wheels from coming off. He gathers and posts daily news, interviews cable's movers and shakers, and generally keeps his finger on the pulse of the industry. He joined BTR in 2010 and got his start in cable in 1998.

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