Did you catch FIFA World Cup fever this year? I’m sure many of you did, and for those who didn’t, chances are you heard from an enthused fan or two. One thing was clear: The excitement of the World Cup was felt worldwide in 2014, including right in my own home.

The month-long tournament was also a prime example of the rapidly evolving world of online video. It seemed that every broadcasting company—ESPN in the U.S., UNIVISION in Mexico, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Canada—encouraged fans to stream the matches live via their desktop computers and mobile devices. And by all accounts, fans tuned in online in huge numbers.

Here’s an anecdote from the Adobe office here in Utah: We had a fire drill during one of the US men’s team games, and as we all filed out to the parking lot, I noticed a colleague watching the game live on a tablet while making his way out the door. How’s that for engagement? That one moment was indicative of the role streaming video will play during live sporting events.

During the World Cup, the analytics team was able to help the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation measure their video streaming efforts. (You can read a case study here.) Not only were we able to help the CBC shine on one of sporting’s biggest stages, we also learned quite a bit about the Adobe Analytics new video heartbeat capability. Here are a few lessons we learned during the 2014 World Cup:

Lesson One: Real-Time Granular Data Is Key

Having a real-time view of your data is essential for maximizing engagement, especially during an event like the World Cup. For the CBC, Adobe Analytics’ new video heartbeat measurement helped provide a new layer in their real-time reporting, and they were able to take full advantage of it during the tournament.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how the heartbeat capability works: After making an initial server call, every 10 seconds a heartbeat (or ping) is sent back to Adobe to deliver the most granular streaming video data in real time. Scott Smith, our video product manager, wrote about the new functionality in more detail when it was released last year. This helped various CBC teams understand the size of their audience, the devices viewers were using, connection rates, number of ad impressions, how much a video was watched, and much more.

Before utilizing Adobe Analytics heartbeats, the CBC gathered video stats every two minutes. Although this method of reporting provided accurate metrics, there was one distinct disadvantage: a lot can be missed in that two-minute window of time.

Lesson Two: Using Real-Time To Maximize Viewer Engagement

The CBC had quite the audience during the World Cup, and they were able to leverage real-time analytics to maximize engagement. Their World Cup app was downloaded 1.1 million times. And during the tournament, the CBC’s audience viewed an astounding 13 million hours of video online.

To match the scale of the World Cup, each CBC team focused on gathering specific data. Here are a few examples of the data they were collecting in real-time:

  • For the IT Team: Traffic sources, device type, connection speed, and launch stats
  • For the Communications Team: Trending stories and most popular videos
  • For the Ad Sales Team: Engagement peaks, average viewers per minute, time spent on page, and mobile app log-ins

All these data points and more were then used to improve the viewing experience, engage the audience longer, and spot trends more quickly. This translated to a jump in online World Cup coverage: the CBC counted 45 percent more page views and 51 percent more video views compared to the 2010 tournament.

Lesson Three: Granular Data Leads to More Efficient Ad Strategy Optimization

During the tournament, the CBC sold advertising space on their mobile app and on their World Cup website as well as in-stream. Aided by real-time data, the CBC’s ad sales team was able to better estimate engagement and tailor ad strategy to match engagement during each day of the tournament.

For instance, their sales managers could more accurately estimate peaks in viewership such as when audience engagement was at an all-time high during games, which better informed their ad placement strategy. Plus, the real-time data about their website—for example, average time on page—enabled the CBC to maximize impressions as well.

For broadcasters, streaming video is becoming an increasingly important tool for engaging with a 21st-century audience. We’ve already seen it during March Madness, the Olympics, and the NFL Super Bowl, and the importance of streaming video will continue to grow. The key for maximizing engagement in every case is video analytics that provide actionable insights in real time.