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Online Olympic video streaming is big, but not as big as eSports

The world’s best athletes are on display, but don’t tell the dudes watching League of Legends on Twitch.

Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Lots of people are streaming the Rio Olympics.

Which may be one of the reasons TV ratings for the Olympics are down.

If that’s true, that’s less-bad news for Comcast’s NBCUniversal*, which is paying many gazillions of dollars for the rights to show the Olympics on TV and online.

A less-good explanation for NBCUniversal would be that people aren’t watching the Olympics because they’re doing things online that don’t involve the Olympics.

Which is probably at least partly true.

Sandvine, the broadband services company that occasionally provides snapshots of internet usage, says that through the first couple days of the Olympics, usage of Twitch, Amazon’s live gaming platform, occupied more bandwidth than Olympics streaming did.

That is: eSports appears to be more popular than real sports, at least online.

Here’s what broadband usage looks like on an unamed U.S. broadband network (i.e., an internet service provided by a telco or cableco) that Sandvine works with:

That Olympic spike at the end came during the men’s 4x100 freestyle relay, where cupping-enhanced Michael Phelps and his U.S. teammates won another gold.

So it’s likely there will be more streaming surges over the rest of the games.

But if it’s not a hold-everything competition? There’s lots of other stuff to do online.

Like watch people play competitive video games.

*NBCUniversal is a minority investor in Vox Media, which owns this site.

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