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Internet to support Super Bowl sized audiences by 2022?

ETCA Scaling the Internet for Live

No live event has come close to a Super Bowl sized audience to date online, but live usage is growing fast. A panel of experts gives their opinions on when the Internet will be ready.

Fox live streamed the last Super Bowl (LI) for free in the US earlier this year. The company issued the following statement:

“Super Bowl LI is the most live-streamed Super Bowl ever, delivering an average minute audience of 1.72 million, up +23% over last year (vs. 1.4 million) and up +224% over FOX’s last Super Bowl stream in 2014 (vs. 530,523).”

The number of people that watched on regular TV was 111.3M. How long will it be before the Internet can carry that sort of load? I asked a panel of experts at ETCA 2017 what they thought. Here’s what they had to say.

Jason Friedlander, Director, Marketing Communications, Verizon Digital Media Services (VDMS)

Jason Friedlander Verizon

Jason Freidlander, Verizon

VDMS specializes in delivering live and simulcast video streams, and has firsthand experience delivering many live events online. Mr. Friedlander thought multicast was critical, but not because it is necessary to deliver true scale:

“I think it’s when devices have multicast antennas built in. That’s going to be the real streaming, because it’s a one to many model. We’ll figure out the dynamic ads to make sure its relevant. People won’t be fearful about what’s going to happen to the CDN, even though that’s not really the issue anymore.”

I asked him if this would take a long time. He said:

“No, all the Verizon cell towers have eMBMS built in. So, it’s really just when Apple puts a receiver in the phone.  Android devices are starting to be required to have one. “

Ed Haslam, CMO, Conviva

Ed Haslam Conviva

Ed Haslam, Conviva

Conviva helps online video service providers optimize online streaming experience. For example, it recently helped Turner deliver March Madness NCAA basketball, including the final game, which was watched by 4.4M people live, a 30% increase over the last year’s tournament. Mr. Haslam was the most bullish on the ability of the Internet to deliver to a massive audiences.

“The Internet could support the super bowl today if we just all worked together. If we turned off all those software downloads. The CDNs have the capacity, they’re just busy doing other stuff. In the next 5 years, there will be a group of people that get together with all the CDNs and figure out how do it.”

Tony Emerson, Managing Director, Worldwide Media & Cable, Microsoft


Tony Emerson Microsoft

Tony Emerson, Microsoft

Microsoft is using its Azure platform to help broadcasters reach their customers online. Mr. Emerson believes many of the problems preventing live streaming from scaling to Super Bowl audiences have already been solved:

“I think it will be within 5 years, because we will have moved so substantially over to OTT and mobile. And I don’t think it will be as difficult as we think.”

Dan Sahar, co-founder and VP Product Marketing, Qwilt

Dan Sahar, Qwilt

Dan Sahar, Qwilt

Qwilt open edge cache solutions are being used by ISPs and network providers to optimize the delivery of all types of web video. Increasingly that includes live event streams. Like Mr. Emerson, Mr. Sahar thinks the Internet will deliver massive live scale within five years. However, he doesn’t think it will be a mainstream event that will generate it:

“I think it’s within 5 years, but I don’t think it’s going to be a sporting event. It’s going to be something like a Facebook (Live) event.”

Why it matters

No online live streaming event has achieved anything like Super Bowl audience scale.

Though there are still challenges to overcome, the consensus of a group of experts at ETCA was that size of an event will be handled online by 2023.



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