World Cup: Level 3's IP HD grows Online Viewers

Although the FIFA World Cup in HD is reaching a much larger audience than four years ago, a lot of viewing is also being done via smart phones and broadband. This might be especially true since most games outside South Africa are not in primetime.

Level 3 Communications said its Internet broadcast services for several European broadcasters — such as Spain's Telecinco — includes HD streaming to online viewers. Level 3 said during Spain's game against Switzerland last week, an estimated 220,000 "concurrent users" watched the broadcast on Telecinco's Web site. Level 3, based in Broomfield, Colo., said those initial numbers would match the most-watched event of any kind that Telecinco has delivered to a Spanish broadband audience. (In the U.S., ABC/ESPN is providing iPad, PC, and smart-phone apps for purchasing live match coverage, but owner Disney has not yet released any figures on its usage, including live viewing.)

To handle the crush of simultaneous online users in any one country, Level 3 said its Internet broadcast service is leveraging its own proprietary Vyvx and Broadcast Encoding Center infrastructure and its "international Tier 1 backbone" to support clients from content capture to consumer consumption.

This is the way it works: Live content is fed onto the Level 3 network and the firm's encoding service then transfers the video/audio to any number of major media formats. The content is then transmitted via Level 3's Content Delivery Network for online viewing.

Level 3 said its "Internet broadcast service" supports next-gen streaming formats — which can use adaptive bit-rate technology to switch seamlessly between streams (depending, as always, on a user's bandwidth and computer performance). The end result, Level 3 said, "allows broadcasters to offer true HD streams to customers with sufficient bandwidth, while still providing the live stream to [PC] viewers with lower connection speeds."