NBC Sports disputes World Cup streaming record

NBC Sports is challenging the claim that the World Cup has already set the record for international viewership

The World Cup match between Cameroon and Mexico was viewed 2.8 million times, setting a world record for the most views of a sporting match streamed over the internet. However, NBC Sports still claims it holds the record for the most internet views of a sporting match, Variety reported yesterday, even though the record-setting 2014 Olympic Semi Final hockey game between the U.S. and Canada generated only 2.1 million views.

The technicality that the NBC Sports dispute rests on is the method of measurement. The U.S./Canada hockey game was measured in unique views, whereas the World Cup record metric was measured in total views that could have included duplicates due to viewers restarting the game.

If the Cameroon/Mexico World Cup game did set the record, the credit goes to content delivery network Akamai and television networks ESPN and Univision. Hopefully, the three companies will get together and sift through the data and set the record straight.

If the World Cup viewing record is disqualified, World Cup soccer still has very good odds to set the record during this year's tournament. The World Cup competition is only a few days old and will continue until July 13, 2014 when the last and final of 65 matches is played in Rio de Janeiro. As the World Cup progresses and emotions rise, it may not take the final to set the world record for internet video streaming views, just one contentious game between two teams with strong followings.

The scale of World Cup viewing is enormous. About 700 million people watched Spain defeat the Netherlands on TVs, PCs, and mobile devices during the 2010 World Cup final. This dwarfs the 110 million that watched this year's NFL Super Bowl.

This dispute sheds light on one of the big quantitative differences between internet streaming and television. Just as a fan at the stadium doesn't wait to know the final score of a match, streaming sports networks don't need to wait to total the number of streaming viewers. The total television viewer count takes a lot longer because it is estimated based on consumer polls by Nielsen, using methods that when compared to internet metrics would be described by some as antiquated and inaccurate.

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