The Olympics Prove that Streaming Growth Continues

Carl Weinschenk

Each year, IT departments are stressed out during the first few days of the NCAA basketball tournament as employees commandeer corporate bandwidth and, for a few days, switch from following sales and profits to tracking jump shots and backcourt violations.

Gradually, much of the action that was streamed over wired networks is transitioning to mobile streaming. This is sort of good news for organizations because the wired bandwidth crunch is somewhat alleviated. That doesn't mean, of course, that folks aren’t goofing off.

The bottom line is that wired and mobile streaming is growing. While the highest-profile use is in entertainment, it also is growing in business, as this piece at Broadcast Newsroom suggests.

Though the context of this Seeking Alpha piece is an assessment of Netflix's business model, the general dynamics are laid out nicely. The takeaway is that the criticism Netflix has gotten during the past months doesn't have anything to do with a lack of demand for its streamed products.

The ongoing Olympics is another case — this one on a quadrennial basis — to look at the evolution of streaming. NBC, in an effort to blunt the intense criticism of its coverage, has released information about the streaming traffic the games are generating. These numbers of course don’t isolate what people are doing at work, but it is not hard for IT departments to make useful inferences.

Here are the facts, as related by Paid Content: Almost 28 million people have visited (8 percent more than the first five days of the 2008 games in Beijing), 64 million streams have been served (a 182 percent increase) and 5.3 million hours of live video have been served (more than the entire Beijing games).

Further, 45 percent of the streams have been sent to mobile devices, almost 4.6 million people have visited the mobile site (double the 2008 number) and apps have been downloaded more than 6 million times.

None of these percentage increases are particularly shocking. After all, four years is an eternity in the world of telecommunications. But, though these aren’t a surprise, they present a good opportunity to take stock of where the industry is. In that light, perhaps the most important issue is the growth of mobility.

It is possible to quibble: Doubling the number of people who have gone to the mobile site seems a bit conservative. But, in the big picture, that doesn't matter too much. The simple reality is that streaming to mobile devices is exploding. The fact that it is generally assumed to be the case shouldn’t stop people from taking a work break -— from watching the women’s 400 IM or the men’s water polo finals — to think about its ramifications.

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