The 2022 FIFA World Cup was the highest-grossing data traffic event of all time for a live sporting event, with 2000 terabytes of cellular data traversing a baseline 5G infrastructure across 8 stadiums and 100 fan parks. The Argentina - France final in and of itself generated 90 terabytes. That’s according to Ooredoo Chief Business Officer Thani Al Malki, who spoke during an MWC23 “Top of the Table” livestream earlier this week in Barcelona.
In our latest Global Internet Phenomena Report’s FIFA World Cup section (pg. 32), we asked if sports would be “the next frontier for streaming,” and beyond, with AR and ultimately VR, too. We do believe sports is a prime monetization play for telcos, given the fact sports fans are among the most passionate of customers.
A case in point, the 2022 World Cup set a new standard for immersive digital-first engagement and interaction during sporting events through its numerous and varied sharing behaviors and AR-driven “live experiences.” Every stakeholder – from telco, to league, to fan, to athlete, to broadcaster, to advertiser, to brand – recognized the World Cup was – forgive the pun – a game changer. In a time where many service providers are frustrated with the slow pace of 5G use cases and monetization, sports may represent what’s possible in other realms. Below are five “firsts” that will inevitably manifest in future sporting events:
1) The FIFA+ Stadium Experience, which allowed fans to scan the pitch and train their cameras on individual players, triggering an AR app that would pull up stats and info about that player and team, as well as in-depth analysis of their performance, in real time.
It’s easy to see how this type of capability could be extended to include player’s personal backstories, exclusive interviews, or even in-game access to what players are saying or hearing in the moment.
2) The FIFA Player App combined tracking data with match footage and enhanced data to give the World Cup players immediate insights about their physical performance metrics (collected through multiple cameras around the pitch), as well as enhanced intelligence from integrated event and tracking data that created heat maps of players’ positions, the distances they covered, their speed, the number of actions they took, the pressure they applied on opponents, and more. AI applied to limb- and ball-tracking data can further inform insights about players and their performance.
Access to this type of data could easily fuel monetization across betting, gaming, and even metaverse apps.
3) The Golden-Globe-Football was a FIFA and Phytgtl collaboration that took fandom into a new dimension with AR-driven social experiences. Fans could “eternalize” their emotions and experiences by handpicking their favorite World Cup videos and pictures and submitting them through the app for audience feedback and votes. The winners then saw digital representations of their favorite moments shared with the global audience.
4) 3D animation of World Cup matches delivered more realistic representations than those delivered over 2D devices, improving how players’ positions and movements could be conveyed to both in-stadium fans and television viewers. FIFA made these animations available to all broadcast partners. That capability also gave rise to 2D-to-3D subscription-based conversion software, which enabled fans to create “3D animations” of their favorite World Cup images and clips.
5) Ubiquitous availability and robust choices was another first, as FIFA went to great lengths to make its content readily available to MRLs that wanted to integrate content into mobile phone apps, Smart TV apps, web-based experiences and other multimedia platforms. By developing services to populate front ends, all platforms could use World Cup VOD clips, near-live multi-angle clips and near-live statistics.
All of these World Cup digital-first strategies enhanced fan fervor by tapping into the tribal nature of the game. Fútbol fans proved through their World Cup usage and behaviors that they crave more ways to be a part of the action, to share what they are feeling, and to create and broadcast content.
Those are important lessons for service providers who, like Ooredoo, can use individual sporting events as showcases of what’s possible on a broader scale, microcosms of what larger networks could ultimately achieve.
With new business models and ecosystems on the horizon, it’s in the best interest of all service providers, sporting leagues, broadcasters, AR and VR players, digital platforms, and other stakeholders to tap into sports fans’ desire to try anything that better connects them to others in their tribe, and that makes it easier and more fun to enjoy their favorite sports, teams, and players.
Buoyed by the real-world proof that sports are going to be a major, if not leading, realm for the next phase of digital experience innovation, telcos have a huge opportunity to enable (through their networks) and monetize (through their data) the new era of digitally enhanced sports and fandom.
Understanding the fans
Tapping into the sports market will require a better understanding of the ways in which people are changing the way they watch, share and view . This knowledge can inform more tailored and compelling marketing offers, and also drive up the value they hold to advertisers and third parties, which are increasingly seeking data and analytics for their own monetization efforts.
Additionally, understanding user, application, and device trends will make for more intelligent network and capacity planning, heavy usage management, and ultimately automation and intent-based congestion management.
As a first step, operators will need data-driven insight to inform network planning, taking into consideration what may be unconventional for upstream and downstream traffic demands at a sports setting. For example, video might be both a consumer and producer of bandwidth, with people in the stadium and people at home.
Video will no longer be a generic category but rather one of different variations that are uploaded and downloaded from different places, like web sites, social media apps, or AR streams.
Knowing the composition of the traffic, such as the types of video that will cope reasonably well with congestion, and those that are more latency sensitive would help operators avoid the worst-case scenario: sports fans frustrated with their app experiences, and unwilling to try again.
To see how Sandvine can help set the stage for the best digital-first experiences, schedule a demo. Also check out our recent AppLogic press release and 2023 Global Internet Phenomena Report.