With an event where every second is so wrought with consequence and expectation, success for online hinges on capturing every microscopic moment. As always, we witnessed many record-setting athletic triumphs, which thrilled fans around the world. But off-the-field records were also set: the 2016 games had the greatest volume of online views, consuming the largest amount of content, across the widest variety of devices. Akamai shattered expectations, setting the standard for a world beyond broadcast.
Streaming options abound
Global broadcasters with rights to the games embraced streaming as a primary distribution channel. Across the globe there was an unprecedented amount of streamed content available. The volume of content exceeded what was streamed throughout the entire London Games in just the first three days of the competitions.
The billions of dollars that carriers around the world invested in their wired and wireless networks allowed their subscribers to catch the action. These networks are now more robust than ever, making watching high-quality online video an enjoyable experience. According to Akamai's Q1 2016 State of the Internet Report, the global average connection speed increased by 12% quarter-over-quarter to 6.3 Mbps, with global average peak connection speed up 6.8% to 34.7 Mbps. Meanwhile, average mobile connection speeds continued to increase across the 74 countries measured, with the four leaders - Australia, Germany, Israel and Thailand - all reporting average speeds across 100 Mbps. In short, virtually anywhere viewers watched the games digitally, either on wired or wireless networks, they likely had sufficient bandwidth.
Proliferation of devices
For those who watched the games on the go, the massive proliferation of smartphones meant having a TV in your pocket. According to Statista, there are now over 2 billion smartphones in use globally, and mobile video viewing is exploding. Cisco recently estimated that, in 2015, mobile video accounted for over 55% of mobile data traffic, clearly illustrating how watching video on smartphones has become mainstream.
OTT and Connected TVs
Beyond mobile, watching in the home was easier than ever. For the first time, Olympics streams were available on connected TV devices including Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and Windows 10, again for authenticated pay-TV viewers. In addition, Comcast subscribers with the X1 set-top box had all of the linear and streaming Olympics content seamlessly blended for their personalized viewing.
Social and expanded coverage
With the social networks pushing hard into video, it was no surprise that there was plenty of Brazil-related content coming to your favorite feed. Broadcasters and well known social media sites teamed up to create and distribute complimentary video of the competitions to online fans, including live streams of the most watched events. YouTube sent 15 of its popular creators to Rio to live-stream some of the events and go behind the scenes. Google also sent "Google Trekkers" to shoot 360-degree videos. Twitter also had an Olympics presence with featured games-related channels on Periscope and Vine, along with live "moments" and other ways to follow.
Virtual reality and immersive experiences
Brazil also saw the first virtual reality experiences, with multiple broadcasters relying on Akamai to deliver these new immersive experiences. There was 4K video, available via big pay-TV operators including Comcast, DirecTV and Dish Network in the U.S. In the U.K., while BBC used 4K only for internal tests, it also experimented with 360 video for viewers.
As if all of this isn't enough to drive live and on-demand digital viewing, one more big benefit was that Rio is just one hour ahead of the Eastern U.S. time zone, which meant that many of the most popular competitions occurred during prime time, driving up home and out-of-home live viewing.
With all of this tailwind behind them, these events set new digital viewing records both on and off the field.
For retrospective views into how the games were consumed, check out the Akamai Brazil highlights data visualization at Akamai.com/EverySecondCounts
Hope you enjoyed the show!
This post was updated on August 25th