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US loses to Germany but World Cup streaming scores big

Streaming of Thursday's key soccer games hits a record for ESPN -- and perhaps for video on the Internet, period.

US player Omar Gonzalez reacts to his team's advancement to the next round of the World Cup. Getty Images

The final scores for US v. Germany and Ghana v. Portugal are in -- and the results for ESPN World Cup video streaming show a blowout.

The games, which would help determine whether the US, Germany, Ghana, or Portugal would advance out of the "Group of Death" into the knockout round, brought 1.7 million concurrent viewers to the WatchESPN video-streaming service, a new record for the company.

The games had high drama and some practicalities working in the favor of heavy ESPN streaming. They were high-stakes match-ups to determine who would advance (in the end, it was a goal difference advantage for the US over Portugal that gave the US its ticket). It, obviously, involved the national team for ESPN's biggest market, the US. And it came at 9 a.m. PT/noon ET, a time when the greatest number of Americans are likely to be away from their living rooms -- and needed a way to watch the action. And Thursday had two concurrent games occurring, piling up reasons to stream.

The heavy online demand led to some complaints on Twitter and elsewhere about stuttering, dropped streams, and other performance issues. ESPN said it investigated some limited issues due to unprecedented demand during the first half. Many factors can contribute to difficulty streaming, including service coverage, the device's processing capability, etc.

The game may have been a record for streaming video generally. Akamai, a major content-delivery-network operator, has been tracking traffic from the 50 rights holders around the globe that are working with the company to stream the tournament -- and posting the data to a live, updating site.

Though the official stats for today won't be available until tomorrow, a live graph tracking usage in real-time shows the biggest spike of the World Cup so far. The previous record was last week's Brazil-Mexico match with 4.59 terabits per second of streaming video on Akamai's network, surging above the previous highs during the tournament and the 3.5 Tbps for the US-Canada men's hockey semifinal during the 2014 Winter Olympics.

While Akamai verifies the final numbers, a representative said it was fair to estimate traffic exceeded 6 Tbps during the combination of the two games, the highest peak for a live sports event the company has ever delivered.

At least, it's the highest until the next big match.

Update, 2:31 p.m. PT: Added Thursday's Tbps estimate from Akamai.

Screenshot by Joan E. Solsman/CNET