Networking & Content Delivery

World Cup 2022 – Amazon CloudFront retrospective

It was only just over a month ago, yet somehow it already feels like it could have been a dream. Following 4 action-packed weeks of soccer, capped by perhaps the greatest ever final of any major tournament, Lionel Messi lifted the World Cup aloft in the futuristic Lusail Stadium in Qatar. It was a World Cup full to the brim with sporting drama, with 172 goals representing a tournament record (and the highest goals-per-game ratio since 1954).

For the past decade or more, major sporting events like this one have been synonymous with the rise of online video streaming. The flexibility streaming affords has ensured that viewers in ever-increasing numbers haven’t had to miss iconic sporting moments, irrespective of whether they’re at home, on public transport, or at work. Broadcasters have built on that initial organic shift towards streaming, with many offering differentiated experiences or enhanced image quality that would not be possible with a traditional broadcast.

In this post, we’ll share some insights gleaned from Amazon CloudFront’s experience delivering high-quality streams to millions of fans around the world on behalf of our customers using the AWS network.

A note on preparation

Amazon CloudFront delivered streams for the FIFA World Cup on behalf of more than 19 major broadcasters globally. In many cases, these customers have built adaptive-bit-rate streaming architectures with CloudFront used in concert with AWS Elemental Media Services for cloud-based stream origination.

Across almost all of these customer interactions, our preparation for the World Cup began 18 months or more before the event itself.  The long duration of this preparation is due to a number of factors. First, you have to consider the non-linear nature of Internet traffic growth during a major sporting event, where a significant proportion of viewers access the event using their home broadband or mobile network service. You also need to bear in mind how a stream is delivered to an end-user device, such as a smart TV, games console, smartphone or tablet. Most commonly, the stream traverses at least two networks—the content delivery network (in this case, Amazon CloudFront), which transports the data from the streaming media origin to the viewer’s metropolitan area, and the Internet Service Provider network through which the viewer connects to the Internet.

Diligent, proactive preparation allowed our network planning teams to work closely with our ISP partners to ensure that customer forecasts for event traffic were incorporated into our mutual network capacity buildout planning. A number of these customers also benefited from our Media Event Management service, which provides best-practice architectural review and documentation in advance of the event, as well as war-room support during the event and a post-event retrospective. For more insight into how we prepare for large-scale events, check out this re:Invent session from 2022, which describes how Prime Video deployed cloud computing workloads using AWS media and entertainment solutions such as CloudFront to broadcast Thursday Night Football.

Scaling up to support millions of concurrent viewers

During the span of the tournament, Amazon CloudFront delivered streams to more than 49 million unique client IP addresses, supporting 19+ major broadcast/streaming operators, spanning geographies as diverse as Western Europe, North America, Latin America, ASEAN and Japan. Throughout the duration of the tournament, CloudFront delivered more than 150 petabytes of streaming media content across all of these customers, peaking at just under 23 Terabits-per-second across these customer distributions during the final game of the tournament. The following graph shows the concurrent bandwidth consumed over the course of the 150-minute match:

graph shows the concurrent bandwidth consumed over the course of the 150-minute match

Note the acceleration in the graph as the match progressed through its final stages of normal time into extra time and penalties. Here, you can clearly see the cultural impact of the event, as viewers who may not have planned on watching the final were pulled in by the sheer drama of it all. From a network viewpoint, the statistical significance of CloudFront’s share of viewer traffic across multiple markets means that our perspective likely represents a directionally accurate view of the wider Internet trends and viewing patterns during the tournament.

Playback device types – how viewers streamed the matches

We note the heavily fragmented nature of the playback device landscape, with more than 100 unique user-agent strings in evidence across all streams served. These can be broadly categorized into the following groups: smart TVs and connected TV devices (such as ROKU), game consoles, desktop computers, and mobile. Using a representative sample CloudFront log data from Western Europe, we observe that more than 28 percent of requests were associated with a mobile device user agent, making smartphones and tablets the predominant destination for streams served by CloudFront during the tournament in this part of the world. However, we also observe from the same sample that each category of client device has significant representation, with games console-associated user agents having the lowest share of the total, still at more than 18 percent. The takeaway here is that all of these playback platforms clearly offer viewers different options that they like—and that playback experience across all of these device types requires attention during these large-scale events.

Another observation we make from the data is the difference in viewing preferences for viewers in different parts of the world. In Japan, for example, smart TV is the dominant platform, with 4K-enabled smart TVs alone accounting for almost 10 percent of all requests. In some ways, this gives us an indication of where streaming is headed. For all of the benefits of being able to watch events unfold live wherever a viewer may be, fans still value a big screen experience (and the ability to watch iconic moments with friends and family at the highest possible viewing quality).

Operationalising the network for sudden demand surges

A lesson we take from this event is the impact the timing of matches can have on the networks through which viewers may access their streams. For example, the group stage matches took place daily, starting at 11:00 Central European Time. In Western Europe, at least two matches per day took place during working hours over a 2-week period. During this period, we saw a larger proportion of requests from non-domestic ISP networks, such as academic networks. This is a potentially useful dynamic to consider for future events, helping to inform traffic distribution forecasts.

Related to the time of year, this was the first World Cup to occur during the seasonal Black Friday global shopping event. Black Friday is an event with markedly different characteristics from that of live streaming, but one that also requires significant forward planning around considerations of scale. By some quirk of fate, the date of Black Friday 2022 – November 25, just happened to coincide with a high-profile group stage match between England and the USA. On the day of these overlapping major events, CloudFront successfully delivered a record number of requests-per-second across the network, with both streamers and shoppers enjoying a great quality of experience.

Finally, let’s talk about automation. Running a network of the scale of CloudFront, with its more than 450 points of presence distributed around the globe and peered with thousands of ISPs, requires a high level of operational oversight. The highly dynamic nature of Internet traffic, as evidenced during major events such as the World Cup, requires a high degree of automation to ensure that the consumption of network resources is optimally managed. Our end goal is always to ensure the best quality of experience for each and every byte we deliver in response to end-user requests.

In the case of this event and all others, every server and every network interface is continually monitored for signs of high load, with automated remediation steps applied in the cause of max utilization thresholds being reached. This can mean temporarily rerouting traffic across another preferred path within the AWS private network to reach viewers with the best possible throughput and latency. These measures, combined with the aforementioned preparation work we undertook with our customers, meant that there were no significant operational trouble tickets opened during the term of the tournament.


The FIFA World Cup 2022 was, in many ways, an extraordinary tournament, and one that will live long in the memory of many. What’s clear is that the continued rise of streaming is likely to accelerate as broadcasters take advantage of the increased prevalence of connected TV to build differentiated experiences for their customers. Alongside that, mobile streaming clearly isn’t going away and offers potential for second-screen or augmented viewer experiences in addition to its viewer portability benefits. The richness of experience offered to the viewer, and the opportunity for innovation afforded to the broadcaster, means that Internet-delivery will become more and more the norm in future tournaments, eventually replacing linear broadcast.

In all of this, a new form of television is emerging—one that offers fans and broadcasters alike the ability to reinvent the experience of watching live sports. Along with many of our customers, we are already well into the planning stages for the next set of forthcoming major events.


Rory McVicar

Rory has spent his career focusing on the convergence of video and the Internet, working in a variety of roles at companies ranging from VC-backed startups to multinational corporations. He leads Go-To-Market initiatives for AWS, working in the Edge Services team.