Euro 2016, Then Olympics, Set to Break Live Streaming Records
Official streams may reach peaks of 15-18 terabits per second for the Rio Olympics, but the IOC is banning social streaming from the games, without saying how it plans to police or punish fans who use Periscope, Facebook Live to share the games
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With every successive global sports event, the amount of live streaming grows, and this summer will be no exception. Akamai, the CDN delivering live streams for multiple broadcasters from both the UEFA Euro 2016 soccer tournament and the Rio Olympics, is predicting "massive" streaming activity which will smash records.
"We are expecting both of those to set new records locally and globally," says Ian Munford, Akamai's director of product marketing, media solutions. "During London 2012 online traffic peaked at about a terabit (Tb) per second. We expect peaks globally of between 15-18Tb per second during Rio to set new global records in terms of online streaming traffic."
He added that predicting peaks in demand around the Euros [10 June – 10 July, in France] was a little harder given that matches occur on different days and different time of day. "We expect peaks of between 10-13Tb per second" which in itself be a record until the Olympics begin on August 5.
Akamai has partnered on previous Olympics with NBCUniversal, which says it plans to stream 4,500 hours of Rio 2016 coverage on its NBC Sports Live Extra mobile app and website which will also be made available on in its Comcast X1 video service.
Akamai will post a micro-site for both thet Euros and Olympics providing a running total of viewing numbers and viewing time, among other stats. According to Munford, this will be more like overnight ratings rather than real-time analytics.
The BBC is promising to stream each individual sport online, and Canada's Olympic broadcaster CBC will stream 2,000 hours from Rio via a dedicated app. This will include the ability for fans to choose from a variety of camera angles. It will also be among the rights holders that will take the official 360-degree virtual reality experience from inside the Olympic stadium and on the field of play through VR headsets, and iOS and Android devices.
"Any organization looking to deliver high-quality scaled events needs to plan how to deal wih very large peaks of audience," says Munford. "It's a bit like a power surge. Peaks can be unpredicatable."
Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), the games' host broadcaser and division of the IOC, has been planning to make streaming services a major part of its offering. It has been developing its second-screen offering and will deliver an enhanced version of the Olympic Video Player (OVP – first introduced for Sochi) for the Rio Games, including access to more content and data.
It is notable, though, that the organization is intent on banning use of social media streaming apps in Rio. It has issued a rule—applicable to accredited personnel—which states that "Videos of Olympic events and competitions can be taken by accredited persons but must not be shared or posted without the consent of the IOC. Broadcasting images using live-streaming apps such as Periscope is also prohibited."
While the IOC encourages use of social media, like Twitter, it is not clear if these rules on streaming hold true for any non-accredited person such as a spectator.
Short of preventing everyone who visits an Olympic venue in Rio from using a mobile phone, such a ban would be hard to police, and it's unclear what action will be taken if a member of the crowd is using Facebook Live to live stream the 100 metres final.
Wi-Fi access within crowded venues is notoriously poor ,so sheer bandwidth capacity issues could save the IOC from having to take action in any case.
"The IOC are not going to be able to prevent everyone entering the Olympic stadium from using their mobile phone," says Mark Blair, vp of EMEA at video player developer Brightcove. "This should be treated as a business issue."
Going forward, the industry view is that sports bodies and broadcasters should embrace social media streaming as an inclusive crowd sourced tool rather than trying to cut it off.
"Rather than a big brother approach, it makes much more sense for a broadcaster to create an app for fans to download which make it easier for them to stream," says Chris Knowlton, vice president and streaming media evangelist at Wowza, whose media servers power Periscope. "You might have a curation committee moderating all the live streams and encouraging action. You could challenge fans to send in streams via your app so that you control the experience."