Soccer may not be as popular in the United States as is in other parts of the world, but that doesn’t mean the World Cup isn’t still capable of attracting a giant crowd. Just ask ESPN. The popular cable sports network saw its streaming service experience outages today following unprecedented demand for the US/ Germany game.
According to Variety, early estimates claim viewership peaked at about 1.4 million during the game’s busiest sequences. No doubt that was more than ESPN could have possibly expected for a group stage contest, and apparently it was just too much for the WatchESPN website to handle, though exactly how bad the problems were depends on who you ask.
People on Twitter were complaining up a storm about not being able to access the game, but ESPN, of course, downplayed the whole thing and let fans know they would investigate to figure out exactly what happened.
“(We are) investigating some limited issues due to unprecedented demand.”
Having an outage like this is obviously an embarrassment for the network it happens to, but at this point, such things are extremely common. The number of people trying to stream programming is rising all the time, but because it’s still only a fraction of the total audience, it’s hard to get businesses to invest the necessary time or money it’s going to take to making streaming a comfortable process. Throw in Internet speed problems and screen sizes, and damn near everyone would prefer to watch events on a conventional television.
Still, at some point in the near future, these kinks should be worked out to the point where we’re shocked when outages do happen, especially on big events. Maybe that will be 3 years. Maybe it will be 5 years. I’m not really sure, but I’m confident in saying it will be under 10.
As for the game itself, the United States put in a pretty good performance against Germany, but ultimately, they just didn’t have enough weapons and lost a hard fought game 1-0. Luckily, because of great earlier results in the group stage (a win and a tie), they were still able to advance out of the so-called Group Of Death. That might not sound like a big deal, but it’s the first time in the history of the World Cup that the US Men’s National Team has advanced into knockout play in consecutive tournaments.
Given the next game against Belgium will be the most important one yet, ESPN is probably already working on the streaming problems to make sure they can accommodate even more people. Because they're coming.