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The Winter Games - Your Way

Here at Akamai, six days into the winter games, we have been reliably streaming the events in high quality - much of it in HD - for more than 20 broadcasting rights holders around the world. Since each of these broadcasters has their own unique requirements and workflows, our teams have been working with them for over nine months so that we can meet their expectations, as well as their audiences', over these 17 days. Video streams from the Akamai network are reaching devices around the globe in all of the major streaming formats, providing stream security and analytics capabilities. And of course, this all requires 24/7 support. 
Let's take a look at a few of the key statistics that Akamai has collected so far while streaming this event internationally:


We are already seeing traffic peaks regularly exceeding the 873 Gbps peak we experienced on our network during Usain Bolt's 100m gold medal win in London in 2012. And those peaks continue to build, as audiences become caught up in the events and increase their awareness of the online streaming opportunities. 
As you can see in the chart, the highest peak traffic we have seen occurred during the men's half-pipe competition on Tuesday, when Iouri Podladtchikov unexpectedly won the gold medal while competing against the two-time gold medalist Shaun White. From our estimates, which include additional traffic not represented in the chart, the total games-related traffic rate on our network during this event was 1.3 Tbps, while opening ceremonies last Friday peaked at 1 Tbps. Feel free to click on the chart, which will take you to an interactive version that allows you to visualize the events that have been driving viewership. This is one of the key benefits of online media delivery - the ability to capture, collect and view rich real-time statistics. The chart also clearly illustrates how rapidly audiences sizes change in the online world. Being able to handle these demand spikes, whether expected or unexpected, is critical to successfully streaming online events. It is also why, at Akamai, our mantra is "Quality at Scale."
No doubt we will continue to collect an array of numbers that confirm this is a big online viewing event. But as I watch the games over the course of my day, on my tablet, smartphone, and television, I am struck by how dramatically all of this access to the games changes the overall experience. I can find the events I am interested in watching live in advance, set reminders, get alarms and then watch - all on the same device; or move to a different device. Big screen quality or mobility. My choice. I may hear about events I missed through social media or headlines, and I can easily find and watch that event on demand. If a relatively unknown competitor emerges to become a big story, I can easily go back and watch their performance in prior events. Or my children may discover a new hero from a foreign country and they can easily follow them. 

And yet for me, these options do not replace the traditional evening "lean back" experience in my living room. The traditional broadcast offers a dramatic side to the experience that I could not easily replicate on my own. In fact, I now appreciate the prepared content even more, because it is a completely different entertainment experience. And of course, I can use my tablet as a second screen to further enhance what is happening on the main screen. There are now infinite ways to enjoy the games, and I can easily customize my viewing - instantly - to fit my needs.

So while the traffic statistics are interesting for tracking the magnitude of the events, they also provide a window into understanding the true freedom that a quality online experience unlocks. 

Enjoy the games ... your way!

Kurt Michel is director of product marketing for Akamai's digital media solutions.