Many users across the U.S. were unable to access ESPN’s WatchESPN video-streaming service as the USA-Germany match in the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicked off at noon Eastern time on Thursday.
An ESPN rep said the sports programmer was “investigating some limited issues due to unprecedented demand.” WatchESPN viewership for the first half of the USA-Germany match peaked at more than 1.4 million concurrent viewers.
During the match, WatchESPN peaked at 1.7 million concurrent users — a record for the service — but that was across all live streams, not just the USA-Germany match. The pivotal Portugal-Ghana match was streaming at the same time, along with ESPN’s live Wimbledon coverage.
The match was a critical one for the U.S. national soccer team. Despite its 1-0 loss to Germany, the Americans advanced to the round of 16 after Portugal beat Ghana 2-1.
Univision Communications, which holds the Spanish-language broadcast and Internet-streaming rights to the 2014 World Cup, apparently did not have similar issues delivering the live stream online. In fact, Univision Digital delivered 750,000 live concurrent streams for the USA vs. Germany match, a record for the company. “Our live stream absolutely did not experience any outages,” a rep said.
The WatchESPN issues may have been related to the infrastructure that handles the authentication process to verify a user’s pay-TV subscription, which ESPN requires to access the service. (Univision’s Internet stream is available free to all users in the initial rounds, but will require authenticated pay-TV logins starting July 4.) ESPN declined to provide details on the WatchESPN problems except to note the service saw record demand over a short period of time.
Multiple Twitter users cited an inability to access the WatchESPN website or apps:
Did the World Cup match crash http://t.co/7GAIeCnGMT and http://t.co/O4hicTyezc? Can't get to either. #WorldCup2014
— Steve K (@Klazk) June 26, 2014
So soccer made the watch @espn servers crash? Bet they never thought that would be the issue! #worldwideletdown
— TheChrisJ0NES (@TheChrisJ0NES) June 26, 2014
Some other recent high-profile TV events streamed over the Internet have encountered glitches. This March, ABC’s first-ever livestream of the Oscars through the Watch ABC app was unavailable for most of the evening. A rep for the network blamed “a traffic overload/greater than expected” for the outage.