The Performance of the Digital Side of the 2014 World Cup

Here we are in the middle of the World Cup, and the entire world is watching thanks to the ubiquity of online video. We have gotten so comfortable with the idea of live streamed sporting events that it can be hard to believe it was only in 2010 when HTTP-based adaptive streaming quickly became the norm, opening up the door for global, online audiences watching Wimbledon and the Vancouver Olympics. Services like video streaming, live social media coverage and mobile push notifications have only been available for a short time – yet consumers have embraced them and immediately become reliant on them.

Pew Research reported that about 1 billion people from around the world watched the 2010 FIFA World Cup final, in which Spain defeated the Netherlands. A similarly-sized audience was in virtual attendance at the London Olympics’ opening ceremonies. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this year’s World Cup amassed even more eyeballs than that.

People are watching, whether it be from a television set, desktop, laptop or mobile device; they are tuned in and hanging on to every second of each match. More people, watching on more devices, with larger screens and higher resolutions – all this puts pressure on video streaming services and sports websites to ensure optimal performance. If they don’t, they risk serious backlash among their consumers.

In this post, we will take a look at the digital side of world sporting events and how important online performance is to success.

How World Sporting Events Go Digital

There are four major aspects of world sporting events that rely heavily on website infrastructure to be set in place and tested in order to keep up with demand.

1. Ticket sales launch

In classic “you have one job!” style, it’s surprisingly common for world sporting event websites to collapse shortly after tickets go on sale, under the amount of load generated by eager fans.

The 2011 Cricket World Cup saw ten million fans seeking just 1,000 tickets – crashing the website in 20 minutes. Tournament organizers were forced to scrap plans to sell tickets on the web after the crash and resorted to a ballot system instead. The KyaZoonga chief executive officer Neetu Bhatia explained, “The website was completely overloaded. To give you perspective, Facebook gets 14 million visits a day and we got 10 million visiting in the first 20 minutes.”

This past year, the FIFA website experienced similar issues. In August 2013, when tickets were first released for the 2014 World Cup, there were close to 3.3 million tickets available for the 64 matches. But the demand for the first batch of tickets had been so strong the FIFA website virtually shut down “due to exceedingly high demand for access to the ticketing page.”

2. Video streaming services have the fingers crossed

Sports networks from across the world are stepping up their video streaming services game. ESPN, the all-sports-all-the-time-network, is all over the World Cup 2014. Not only will the channel present all of the games on live TV, it will live stream all 64 matches for the first time through WatchESPN.

Kind of a big deal streaming every single match on a digital platform.

But spectators around the world are all going to have different experiences. That’s because in every country you’ll find a different network that’s acquired the rights to stream matches within their own regional borders. They put in place IP-based geo-restrictors so that you can’t watch matches on the BBC iPlayer when you are in the US. As a result, there is a proliferation of different players from networks like ESPN, Univision, BBC, RTE, CBC that give everybody a different experience. You are also dealing with a variety in network quality – bandwidth, packet loss, lag length, mobile network issues and a whole lot more. To read up on video streaming metrics you should watch out for as a tester read our blog post here.

3. Social networks buzz with too much activity

This year’s World Cup has been dubbed the most social sporting event in history, according to Fox Business. The event has generated millions of mentions on social sites like Twitter and Facebook and has surpassed the Super Bowl and Olympics in popularity according to data released by Adobe:

The World Cup has been talked about online in 90% of the world’s countries, compared to only 84% of the world talking about the 2014 Olympics.

And we hope Twitter is ready for the chatter. For the last FIFA World Cup in 2010 the micro-blogging site seemed to struggle. When the Dutch beat the mighty Brazilian team, stunned fans turned to Twitter, most likely causing the site to crash, although Twitter never admitted the overload in soccer tweets being the culprit. However, even a Twitter engineer warned users to expect frequent outages during the World Cup.

This year we hope Twitter is better prepared. Billions of people are watching.

4. Advertisers are looking to make some money with big ads

With all the buzz online from the World Cup, advertisers and marketers are expecting billions of eyeballs, which means big money. With a huge marketing machine like the FIFA World Cup, major corporations like Sony, Emirates and Coca-Cola have already launched global advertising campaigns geared toward driving revenue through sponsorships and advertisements.

With that comes implications to website infrastructure, especially servers. Testers need to make sure websites with global marketing campaigns have been tested in an environment that mimics the post-production environment. Which is why testing your servers under geo-realistic load is important, especially if you are a tester for major global corporations sponsoring world sporting events like the World Cup. To learn more about geo-realistic testing take a look at our post here.

The World is Already Global

Events like the FIFA World Cup and Olympics are only going to attract more viewership as internet connection and networks expand into rural areas of the world. Testers need to be prepared to roll up their sleeves and get the load tests rolling as these global events approach the next time around.

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  1. July 30, 2014

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