QoE

How Streamers Adapt For Global Live Events: World Cup Quarterfinals Test Streaming Capacity

By Jessica Ramirez

December 14, 2022

As we enter the final matches of the 2022 World Cup, more fans than ever tuned in to the must-win quarterfinal matches. These are the games that make the World Cup one of the most loved tournaments around the world as teams give their all to make it to the Finals. And streaming providers dedicate their teams to delivering a great viewing experience. Our quarterfinals analysis captures that enthusiasm through markedly increased viewership last weekend. We also share insight into what goes on behind the scenes streaming such a complex, large-scale, live event like the World Cup.

Audiences are Tuning In

Conviva measured a 79% increase in Total Minutes Streamed across last weekend’s 4 quarterfinal matches compared to the 2018 World Cup quarterfinal matches in Russia.

The matchup between longtime rivals France and England was expected to draw massive attention, and viewers did not disappoint. France v. England had the most Total Minutes Viewed of any of the 4 matches this weekend, meaning users were locked into the nail-biting 2-1 match more than any other.

Key Factors to Supporting a Large-Scale, Live Event

For streaming publishers, the preparation for the quarterfinals begins months before the first whistle blows. With record-breaking viewership for the entire 2022 World Cup, streaming publishers must spend months preparing to support a worldwide large-scale event like the World Cup to ensure their viewer experience is not impacted by the massive increases in viewership.

So how do you prepare for a worldwide sporting event with viewers tuning in across different countries, devices and service providers?

Ensure Infrastructure Can Scale and Adapt

With high peak concurrency, viewers attempting to log in at the same time, and a wide range of devices used, the World Cup poses a unique challenge for publishers to ensure their players can meet the demand for these events. So how do they ensure an app or player can scale to effectively deliver to any audience?

First, they need historical data to understand the baseline for performance and how many viewers have previously been supported for larger events. From there, they can identify where performance gaps occurred in other large-scale events, uncover the root cause behind those issues, and adjust app versions and players to ensure those performance gaps do not resurface.

But infrastructure and performance enhancements are not a one-time exercise. Publishers also need the right real-time data to analyze performance throughout the tournament to continuously identify performance improvements and optimize. The quarterfinal matches had 4x the Average Viewing Minutes per game compared to the first 20 matches of the Group Stage just a few weeks ago. That means that infrastructure adjustments that were adequate to support the group-stage games might not have the same efficacy when it comes to these higher-watched matches.

Plus, World Cup viewers are tuning in across the globe on a wide range of devices. Publishers must ensure that every single version of their apps and players across all devices meet the same standards.

Improve Delivery Process Through CDN Optimization

Traffic naturally spikes at the time of every World Cup match, so how do they effectively route traffic through CDNs to ensure every viewer has an optimal experience while also lowering CDN costs? Many issues with Quality of Experience, like increased rebuffering, long video start times and high video start failures are a result of ineffective management of CDN traffic. That can ultimately result in a poor experience for the viewer and wasted CDN costs for the publisher.

These are real-time routing decisions that can take a whole team to effectively manage. That’s why many publishers rely on a CDN Optimization solution to automatically measure traffic spikes and immediately reroute traffic to the optimal CDN based on specific thresholds and costs. Conviva Precision offers AI-powered video delivery optimization to monitor traffic in real-time and reroute traffic based on thresholds set at the most granular metric level.

Prioritize Device Specific Optimizations

With the entire globe tuning in, the list of smart TVs, connected TV devices, tablets, and mobile phones viewers use to stream can become overwhelming. Strategic publishers should focus on device-specific optimizations to ensure that each device has the same level of Quality of Experience, particularly as Mobile usage has increased. For the quarterfinal matches, Conviva looked at the top devices used around the globe, based on Total Plays and Total Minutes Played.

We also took a deeper dive into the Quality of Experience across device types to understand how performance varied across different devices during the quarterfinals. We found that Mobile devices accounted for the majority of Total Plays during the quarterfinal matches, but TVs still accounted for most of the Total Minutes Viewed. So, while more viewers were tuning in on mobile than any other device, they did not spend as much time watching the game as those who tuned in on TV.

Quality of Experience also varied significantly across devices, meaning there’s still some complexity that comes with providing an equal viewing experience across diverse devices. For example, we saw a high video start time on Gaming Consoles (around 7 seconds) when compared to other devices. We also saw a significantly higher rebuffering ratio on PCs: 2.34% compared to an average of 0.5% for other devices. These differences highlight just how difficult it is to provide a high-quality experience across all devices, and what an achievement it is for those streaming publishers who do.

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With just a few more matches left in the tournament, our insights highlight just how difficult it is for streaming providers to support a live, global large-scale event like the 2022 World Cup. With the diverse set of devices, CDNs, internet service providers, regions, and languages, it is crucial to monitor performance in real-time and continuously optimize video players to ensure no fan misses out on the big games ahead.

For more insights on the World Cup, check out our Week 1 Analysis.