The Remarkably Resourceful Cord Cutters of Cleveland: Streaming Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals

“How the Cavs become #1 and Fios TV rocketed to #2 in Cleveland on Sunday Night”

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During Game 7 of the NBA Finals, devoted Cavs fans would not be denied… the opportunity to stream the game and see their Cavaliers make history. 

 

Perspective From a Warriors Fan

As a lifelong Bay Area resident and Warriors fan, it pains me to have to write this post.  The Cavs came back from a seemingly impossible position to overcome 3 games to 1 deficit to win the NBA championship in game 7 that was played at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.  There is no longer any danger of King James abdicating the throne.  Despite my desire to see the Warriors win and take the title for the 2nd year in a row, I must admit that the series turned into an epic battle with much at stake for both sides and, at the end of the day, a great product for the NBA.  I have great respect for Cleveland’s fight and grit throughout.  So, in the end, the NBA wins and, I expect will draw in an even larger audience in the coming years to follow this great sport. 

 

Limitations in Streaming the 2016 NBA Finals

So, let’s move on to the real purpose behind this post.  What about those who decided to stream the game?  Given our broad deployment of Open Cache systems in the US, we were able to look across the country on Sunday evening as game 7 was underway and see the impact of those streaming the last game of the series.  In our scan across the US, one market caught our attention quickly – Cleveland. 

First, some context.  ABC had broadcast and streaming rights for the game.  For anyone tuning in on broadcast Television, there was only one channel to watch.  But, for those in Cleveland who wanted to stream the game or, more importantly, for those cord cutters, for whom streaming was the only option, there was an issue.  ABC was not streaming the game in Cleveland.  On the abc.com site, Cleveland fans were greeted with this sad asterisk and comment: 

* The ABC live stream requires a participating TV provider account. Show and episode availability are subject to change. Live streaming available in Chicago, Fresno, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham and San Francisco.

http://abc.go.com/news/insider/watch-the-nba-finals-2016-live-stream-on-abc-cleveland-cavaliers-vs-golden-state-warriors-053116

 

What?!  No ABC.go.com streaming in Cleveland.  A travesty!   But, for the faithful, there is way. 

So, while less committed NBA fans might have read this and given up on streaming the game, it seems Cavs fans responded with remarkable initiative and resourcefulness.  As you can see below from an Open Cache system deployed in a fixed Broadband ISP (for clarity, this ISP is not Verizon FIOS) in Cleveland, the Verizon streaming site Fios TV, which normally does not rank among the top 20 streaming sites in that market, rocketed to the Number 2 position, behind only Netflix. 

Ranking of Streaming Video Sites – Cleveland Market – During Game 7 of the NBA Finals
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Source:  Open Cache Systems in Fixed Line Broadband ISP – Cleveland Market – June 19th 2016

Given Netflix dominates total streaming traffic from its vast VoD library each night during primetime, the fact that Fios TV can generate a comparable volume of live traffic from a single event is quite significant. 

But here’s the thing.  Verizon Fios TV is not offered in Cleveland. 

 

Resourcefulness of Cavs Fans

What explains the meteoric rise in Fios TV traffic?  The only logical explanation is that really dedicated Cavs fans, after seeing that ABC.go.com was not streaming to Cleveland, must have exploited the Verizon Fios TV policy which allows shared access for up to 8 users per account for friends and family.  We can imagine that all those Cleveland Cord cutters started calling campaigns, reaching out to friends, family and neighbors, in search of someone, anyone who could get their hands on Verizon Fios account credentials so they could stream the game in Cleveland.  Since we’ve already established that the cord cutter movement in Cleveland is thriving (http://qwilt.com/the-real-cord-cutters-of-cleveland/) and Cavs fans are fanatical, we are not surprised with this rather unexpected result.  As the proverb goes, “necessity is the mother of invention”. 

Nevertheless, the outcome is interesting in several ways.  First, it shows the increasing appetite for consumers to stream live events.  Second, it continues to suggest that popular live events have the potential to eclipse Video On Demand streaming on any particular day.  This is important for those who manage capacity planning throughout the ecosystem given our collective desire to create a “Broadcast TV Quality” experience for consumers.  Finally, it suggests that streaming demand may have a multiplier effect. 

To give you a sense for the magnitude of increase in Fios TV consumption in Cleveland that was a direct result of the NBA Finals, consider the chart below.  This shows the volume of Fios TV traffic in Cleveland each day during the last week.

 

 

Daily Volume of Fios TV Streaming Traffic – Cleveland Market
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Source:  Open Cache Node in Fixed Line ISP Network – June 5th through 19th 2016

 

You can see in the chart above that the volumes on each of the days of a Finals game was 5 times that of a typical day.  The correlation between spikes of Fios TV traffic on NBA game days is striking. 

 

What Live Events Mean for Streaming and Scaling of the Internet

At the end of the day, the NBA turned out a great product during the 2016 season and, in particular, during the Finals.  The implications for the streaming ecosystem are also compelling.  We are entering a new era in streaming, when live events drive traffic volumes that rival the biggest VoD sites and, therefore, are competing for network resources in ISP networks, peering points and transit networks for capacity needed to delivery broadcast TV like quality of experience.  Live events, like the NBA finals, that drive this level of traffic are coming more frequently and with greater intensity.  ISPs need a new, open architecture for streaming in order to cost-effectively scale their capacity and keep up with the steady growth of streaming video traffic. 

 

Thankfully, the Streaming Video Alliance (SVA – http://www.streamingvideoalliance.org/) is taking on this challenge and has already approved and published the functional requirements for Open Caching (http://www.streamingvideoalliance.org/approved-documents/ ).  These requirements will benefit the entire ecosystem by invoking a new architecture which embraces the simple edict to push content to the edge of the network, deep inside ISP networks and close to consumers. Qwilt is a Founding Member of the SVA and, along with the more than 40 other member companies, has been pleased to see the industry converge rapidly on the need for and definition of Open Caching. 

 

With the trajectory of the SVA and, more specifically, the Open Caching Working Group, we’re confident that streaming video will, as time goes on, know no bounds in terms of its ability to serve a stream to anyone, anywhere and at any time. 

 

Read “The Real Cord Cutters of Cleveland” – Part 1 – http://qwilt.com/the-real-cord-cutters-of-cleveland/

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Mark Fisher

Mark Fisher

More posts by this author >> Posted on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

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