Putting the Super Bowl’s 2.1M Online Viewers in Context

More than 2 million people tuned into the first-ever live stream of the Super Bowl, NBC Sports reported yesterday. The stream was available at NBCSports.com, NFL.com, and on mobile devices through Verizon on NFL Mobile.

Citing data from Omniture and mDialog, NBC claims the online audience it drew last Sunday is the largest ever measured for a sporting event. It’s a big number to be sure, backed by significant engagement data suggesting users did more than dip in and out. The average stream lasted more than 39 minutes, and viewers changed the camera angle on their screens a total of 1.8 million times.

But it was relatively small when compared to other major streaming events in recent history. Others with more reported streams include the British Royal Wedding in 2011, Michael Jackson’s memorial in 2009, and Barack Obama’s inauguration in the same year.

The live Internet audience for the President’s inauguration ceremony in January 2009 reached 7 million active simultaneous streams, according to Akamai, whose products support web performance – most of them live streams. Meanwhile Michael Jackson’s memorial service six months later drew 2.2 live and on-demand streams.

But both were dwarfed by the Royal Wedding, which YouTube says was live streamed 72 million times around the world – to 188 countries. Of these, the U.K. and the U.S. were the no. 1 and no. 2 nations.

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Sources: NBC Sports, Akamai, YouTube

One reason these three events saw higher streaming numbers is easy to pinpoint: Each was scheduled on a weekday. On Super Bowl Sunday, Americans were at home, or at friends houses, reducing broadband demand.

Additionally, the three non-Super Bowl events were streamed through multiple content owners, whereas NBC had exclusive rights to the big game. Other factors that play into streaming numbers – and distort comparisons – are global versus local access, time of day, and mobile access.

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