Streamed live, stored for time-shifted access and delivered through digital networks to screens of all sizes worldwide–from smartphones and tablets to smart TV sets– the 2012 Summer Olympics in London is set to be the latest in a growing string of global events that serve as indicators of the performance of, and consumer demand for, multi-platform multimedia.

Fremont, CA-based provider of Intelligent Policy Enforcement solutions for network operators Procera Networks is capitalizing on the high-visibility opportunity by sharing “granular visibility into data traffic patterns surrounding the Olympics from peering points at a U.K. mobile provider, and also wireline/wireless peering points here in the U.S.,” along with some in Asia.

Viewer demand for multimedia coverage of specific events ebbs, flows and mutates, as do delivery capabilities. That’s already making for some interesting results that are likely to prove of particular interest to ISPs, telecom network operators, content providers and device manufacturers alike.

“Sometimes what doesn’t happen is just as interesting as what does,” a Procera spokesperson noted, “for example, when we learned that there was very little enthusiasm for watching the Super Bowl over the Internet (a DSL operator had less than 0.5% of their subscribers watching, and multiple MSOs had almost 2% participation).”

Data on Olympics data traffic is now flowing in. “We are monitoring a large number of our customer networks (mainly in Europe and North America), and we are seeing some things that we expected and some that we did not,” he continued.

  • Social Networking traffic (mainly Facebook and Twitter) is up 25% in North America over normal weekend levels with the exact same number of users and connections, indicating that more frequent postings and uploads are driving more activity from the same users. This is measured across a number of fixed broadband networks (both cable and DSL). Twitter has recognized the importance of the event, and has created a dedicated Twitter page.
  • YouTube traffic is not really budging from normal traffic levels on the networks that Procera is watching — yet. Stakeholders are monitoring YouTube for copyright violations, and are being very aggressive in going after any unauthorized videos, which is likely depressing the overall numbers as the Games get started. The reason for this crackdown is that NBC and Olympic organizers have put a great deal of effort into their own streaming, and are ensuring that they can monetize their investment (NBC’s is reported to be $1.18B). The Olympics channel is well done, and is getting significant traffic, but levels are below what you would expect to see if people were uploading and sharing their own takes on the games.
  • For the American audience, streaming is very active, with an average of 2% of subscribers streaming on Friday and Saturday. The iPad video presentation and interface from NBC are very well done. Any event can be watched in real time, and this allows users to not have to hunt through the channels for specific events. The iPad version of the video is streaming at consistent rates of ~10Mbps on Procera’s FTTH connection, reflecting great planning by both NBC and YouTube, with no buffering seen throughout the weekend. In a change, the PC/Mac videos are also of great quality (past live events have not fared well with these streams), although the bandwidth used is about half (due to the default resolution settings).
  • There has been minimal activity on file sharing sites, with the Opening Ceremony being only the 202nd most popular file on a leading torrent site indexer, reflecting the widespread availability of streaming and broadcast video. This can be seen for now as validation that if you make content available via streaming, you will see less piracy occurring.


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