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Streaming Scale and Complexity on The World Stage: How Streaming Providers Delivered for World Cup Fans in The First Week

By Mike Metzler

December 5, 2022

In the world of streaming sports, the scope and scale of the FIFA World Cup are right up there with the Olympics. Thirty-two countries are competing for the coveted soccer (fútbol, to most) trophy handed out once every four years.

While in-person attendance is breaking records, millions more are streaming games on a mind-boggling number of device types and models, operating systems, broadcast networks and content delivery network (CDN) combinations. To say this is non-trivial is an understatement. Vying for eyeballs during one of the largest, and most complex live sporting events in the world is high stakes for any World Cup streaming provider.

Conviva helps publishers deliver World Cup fans a great viewing experience

Twenty of these top World Cup streaming providers are counting on Conviva to monitor and optimize the viewing experience, taking into account all variables, including location, the match, device used and even service provider.

From the moment the whistle blew on the first match-up of Qatar vs Ecuador, the Conviva Stream Sensor was monitoring dozens of metrics like video quality, viewer engagement and network performance. Streaming technical operations teams relied on Conviva dashboards and alerts to anticipate and respond (in real time) to service, performance and reliability issues so they could offer a quality experience on every screen.

After twenty games of streaming data analysis, here’s what the data reveals, underscoring the scale of World Cup streaming and how streaming experiences have improved.

Growth of unique streaming devices

The World Cup is unique in its ability to capture global attention, and fans have more streaming options than in 2018. New streaming platforms, cheaper devices and infrastructure improvements are bringing the joy of soccer to a record number of unique devices. In just one week of the World Cup , Conviva measured a 34% increase in the number of unique devices streaming compared to the week before matches began. The result? Billions of hours streamed from tens of millions of devices.

2022 streams provide a better experience

Research by Conviva has shown direct correlation between Quality of Experience (QoE) and average watch time, and a major factor in quality is streaming bitrate. This year’s World Cup bitrate showed great improvement, up 23% on average across all matches. During the 2018 World Cup, the highest bitrate recorded by any publisher was 6.2 Mbps, however for this year’s World Cup several of the more established publishers achieved more than 10 Mbps for entire games on average. Conviva measured streamed matches at a higher bitrate (and therefore better streaming quality) than was even possible in 2018.

Another number that indicates improved QoE is the increase in percentage of successful plays. No matter how you plan for contingencies, technical issues are bound to happen with an event of the World Cup’s scale, running 24/7 over 29 days. The most successful publishers track real-time performance indicators to make any necessary adjustments based on what’s happening in the moment, and what is likely to happen according to predictive analytics. This is exactly how Conviva customers operated in the first week. Successful play attempts inched up every day across the first 20 games as publishers diagnosed issues and tuned their systems in real-time to incrementally improve.

world cup streaming qoe successful plays conviva 2022 World Cup First 20 Games (11/20 – 11/25)

More ad impressions despite fewer commercial breaks

The World Cup (and fútbol in general) presents a unique challenge to streaming advertisers because there are no commercial breaks except during half-time. Even AVOD (Advertising-Based Video On Demand) platforms that have predictable breaks every 15-20 minutes offer fewer ad impressions. Yet, in the first week of the World Cup, average ad impressions for live and on-demand viewers were up 14% compared to the previous week. This trend bodes well for ad-supported streaming partners during the rest of the tournament.

Now, let’s get on to the main event – the teams and their fans! The World Cup is truly an international past time with some of the most dedicated fans of any sport. Here are a few surprising numbers about the most popular matchups.

Massive audience tunes in week one for USA’s return to the World Cup

It’s rare when the entire world collectively pauses to participate in the same experience, at the same time. So perhaps it’s no surprise that since the US Men’s National Team missed the last World Cup, their match against England in the first week logged a Conviva record high of 5.1 million concurrent viewers. That’s more than half the peak concurrent viewers (9.1 million) we measured during the final match in 2018.

Nine matches beat the average of total minutes viewed

Teams from North America, South America, Africa and Europe were among the most viewed games, with England vs USA at the top of the list. Using the first 20 games as the baseline average of total minutes viewed, England vs USA exceeded that average by an impressive 45%. Occupying second position was USA vs Wales which clocked 36% more views than average. Rounding out the list were Portugal vs Ghana (+33%), Mexico vs Poland (+28%) and Brazil vs Serbia (+26%). Wales vs Iran totaled the least minutes watched during the first 20 games.

Games with the highest average watch time per unique device

Many factors affect viewer engagement, but it all ends with how long they watched the program. For that insight, we looked at average watch time per unique device. Most games in the first week averaged around 44 minutes per match, however some games far exceeded that. France vs Australia was the most engaging game at 51.7 minutes watch time on average. Belgium vs Canada was next at 51.6 minutes, followed by England vs USA (a tie game) at 50.2 minutes. In addition to being the least viewed match in week one, the Wales vs Iran game interestingly saw its only two goals occur in overtime. The match recorded the least engagement at just 35.7 minutes watched on average.

most watched world cup matches 2022 World Cup First 20 Games (11/20 – 11/25)

With 20 matches completed after the first week of competition, our customers’ first party data highlights the global magnitude and impact of the World Cup for viewers, streaming publishers and advertisers. Be sure to check back in on Conviva’s LinkedIn, Twitter and blog during the rest of the World Cup for more insights

For more streaming video insights, read the latest State of Streaming report from Conviva, or request a demo of Conviva today.