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Anatomy of an OTT Traffic Surge: NFL Kickoff on Peacock

Doug Madory
Doug MadoryDirector of Internet Analysis

Internet AnalysisOTT


Football is officially back, and Doug Madory is here to show you exactly how well the NFL’s streaming traffic was delivered.

Peacock, NBC’s streaming service, carried the NFL’s opening night game on Thursday featuring the defending superbowl champions Kansas City Chiefs facing off against the Detroit Lions. Then a few days later, Peacock carried the Sunday night blowout win by the Dallas Cowboys over the New York Giants. In this post, we’ll take a look at how that traffic was delivered during those games.

OTT Service Tracking

Kentik’s OTT Service Tracking (part of Kentik Service Provider Analytics) combines DNS queries with NetFlow to allow a user to understand exactly how OTT services are being delivered — an invaluable capability when trying to determine what is responsible for the latest traffic surge. Whether it is a Call of Duty update or a Microsoft Patch Tuesday, these OTT traffic events can put a lot of load on a network and understanding them is necessary to keep a network operating at an optimal level.

The capability is more than simple NetFlow analysis. Knowing the source and destination IPs of the NetFlow of a traffic surge isn’t enough to decompose a networking incident into the specific OTT services, ports, and CDNs involved. DNS query data is necessary to associate NetFlow traffic statistics with specific OTT services in order to answer questions such as, “What specific OTT service is causing my peering link with a certain CDN to become saturated?”

Kentik True Origin is the engine that powers OTT Service Tracking workflow. True Origin detects and analyzes the DNA of over 540 categorized OTT services and providers and more than 50 CDNs in real time, all without the need to deploy DPI (deep packet inspection) appliances behind every port at the edge of the network.

Kicking off the 104th season of the NFL

In these days of an endlessly fractured media landscape, professional football remains a ratings powerhouse in the United States, consistently drawing in audiences numbered in the millions.

As illustrated below in a screenshot from Kentik’s Data Explorer view, Peacock traffic dramatically surged during the evening on Thursday and Sunday. If traffic volume can indicate viewership, then broadcasting the first game of the NFL season more than doubled the number of households watching Peacock during the games.

Peacock NFL Traffic Source
Peacock OTT traffic analyzed with Kentik

Based on our customer OTT data, the game was delivered via a variety of content providers including Fastly (28.3%), Edgio/Limelight (23.1%), Amazon/AWS (20%), Akamai (13.5%), and Lumen (11.3%).

The graphic below shows how Peacock was delivered during this one-week period. By breaking down the traffic by Source Connectivity Type (below), we can see how the 2023 season kickoff was delivered by a variety of sources including private peering, IXP, embedded cache, and transit. For this mid-September week, the content viewers were consuming overwhelmingly came via private peering (68.3%), but also via transit (25.1%) and IXP (6.3%). For Peacock, embedded caching (0.1%) barely registered.

Peacock NFL Traffic Source Type
Peacock OTT traffic analysis by source

It is normal for CDNs with a last mile cache embedding program to heavily favor this mode of delivery over other connectivity types as it allows:

  1. The ISP to save transit costs
  2. The subscribers to get demonstrably better last-mile performance

In addition to source CDN and connectivity type, users of Kentik’s OTT Service Tracking are also able to break down traffic volumes by subscribers, specific router interfaces, and customer locations.

How does OTT Service Tracking help?

Previously, my colleague Greg Villain described the latest enhancements to our OTT Service Tracking workflow which allows providers to plan and execute what matters to their subscribers, including:

  • Maintaining competitive costs
  • Anticipating and fixing subscriber OTT service performance issues
  • Delivering sufficient inbound capacity to ensure resilience

Major traffic events like the release of a blockbuster movie on streaming can have impacts in all three areas. OTT Service Tracking is the key to understanding and responding when they occur. Learn more about the application of Kentik for subscriber intelligence.

Ready to improve over-the-top service tracking for your own networks? Get a personalized demo.

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