Content delivery network Akamai Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AKAM) is expecting 100 times more live streaming for the ongoing Rio Olympics than for the London and Sochi Olympics, at twice the speed and with three times the traffic peaks.
The company stated it had already delivered more video data in the first eight days of Rio than it did for all 34 days of London and Sochi combined. On the company site, the statistics board lists the maximum peak traffic to date at 4.53Tbps, the peak audience size at 1.54 million and the average video bit-rate has been 2.75Mbps. Europe has drawn 55% of Olympic traffic, compared with 39% to the Americas, two percent to Asia and four percent to Australia.
US online users had streamed 1.28 billion minutes of Olympics coverage last week, surpassing the number of minutes streamed for both the London and Sochi Olympics combined, according to the Wall Street Journal. NBC Universal , the network that won the rights to show the Olympics, is offering video coverage of every event on its streaming app and live streaming its prime-time coverage.
Turns out this was a wise decision: TV viewership of the first ten days' events was down 17% compared with the previous Olympics in 2012. It was also behind the ratings racked up by the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Unsurprisingly the culprits are the millennials, or more precisely viewers aged 18 to 34. Viewership within that demographic has dropped 30% compared to London.
However, it's not as if TV ratings are being entirely picked up online; overall viewing has dropped compared with London even when all distribution channels are combined. That's noteworthy given that the US population has increased in the four years between London and Rio, so the overall audience is larger. But there are a number of factors that influence viewership.
One, the audience for the Olympics may be getting older. The median age for US viewers of the 2002 Salt Lake City winter Olympics was 48, while for Sochi in 2014 it was 55. And the median age for London was a year more than for Beijing. These estimates can be challenged on a few grounds, including the fact that the 2002 games were in the US, likely to have skewed results for US viewers. But equally, there might be some truth to the fact that younger viewers aren't as interested in many of the Olympic sports.
There is also a developing culture of binge-watching, schooled by OTT providers, where viewers want to sit down and watch large libraries of VoD content. Live events are somewhat tiresome, especially when you can always get the highlights on demand from some online source. And there's also just a huge amount of audience fragmentation, where viewers have more content available and are more likely to spread out their media consumption than in the past.
Lower viewership could also be explained by a lack of truly compelling US-based storylines, such as rivalries that get the ratings numbers up. Equally, it could be that the big viewership events haven't happened at the time this data was collected, and the end-result at the end of the fortnight will be quite different.
Whatever it is, NBC appears satisfied with its investment, with NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus claiming Rio will be the most "economically successful games in history," for NBC. So there may not be a medal in it, but there's plenty of gold.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation