British are biggest online slackers during World Cup

June 18, 2010: 6:00 AM ET

The United Kingdom is consistently the largest source of internet traffic on Akamai's network for World Cup related goodies -- including live game feeds, downloads, scores and follow-up stories.

Whether England and the lads can muster themselves and make a real run at the World Cup remains to be seen, but if nothing else, the United Kingdom looks like a lock as champion when it comes to online viewing of the global football tournament.

According to stats from Akamai (AKAM), which helps some of the world's largest media companies including CNN and ESPN keep their Internet traffic flowing smoothly, the United Kingdom is consistently the largest source of internet traffic on Akamai's network for World Cup related goodies -- including live game feeds, downloads, scores and follow-up stories.  Take Thursday's 2-0 victory by Mexico over France (le ouch).

While Mexico was exploding like a piñata on its way to the win, accounting for 5.8 percent of the traffic generated by people looking for World Cup information on the site, people in the U.K. accounted for 7.7 percent of traffic. Or to put it another way, of the 350,000 hits per second on Akamai-fed World Cup sites, about 27,000 per second were coming from Britain. You can check out Akamai's World Cup traffic site live here.

Remember that England was not playing, and it was about 8:30 at night there. You could explain it away by the historic ill feelings of Britain toward France, a bit of Web-based gloating going on, and that is clearly part of it. But the country that invented football is clearly obsessed. It doesn't matter what time of day, whether people are supposed to be working or sleeping, overall the British are hitting the Internet harder for their World Cup fix than any other geographic region, according to Akamai stats.

That doesn't mean other geographic regions aren't showing their own flashes of slacker brilliance from time to time. Italy can put on a show, especially when it comes to online post-game chatter. In the hours after France lost, Italy spiked to 10 percent of World Cup traffic on Akamai. France on the other hand, barely registered 0.5 percent of traffic in that dark period. You picture sad, dejected French people, too heart broken or too embarrassed to fire up their computers or take their iPhones out of sleep mode.

The highest volume of online traffic in the tournament so far came during the South Africa versus Uruguay match (Uruguay won 3-0) with 421,000 hits on World Cup sites per second.  And as compared to even the recent Winter Olympics Akamai engineers are seeing a marked increase in online traffic coming from smart phones as people stream matches and check scores on the go, which, let's be honest, means at work.

Stateside, the East Coast is leading in online World Cup traffic, according to Akamai, with the Midwest next, and the West Coast trailing in its own laid-back World Cup frenzy. New York City is clearly the key to the East Coast's edge in this one, with the Boston region adding its own football fever to online traffic volumes. Both are  towns with rabid fans that possess a healthy ability to ignore work during times of great sporting events.  But on a global scale, even the fans of the Northeast can't compare to the dedication of the British when it comes to dropping everything for football.

Now before you Brits get your tea-cozies in a twist, it is true that Akamai's network isn't comprehensive. There may be parts of Cornwall or the Isle of Wight that couldn't be bothered with football and everyone is very hard at work all the time (write in if you are). But Akamai's network is fairly representative of overall Internet traffic trends as it delivers 20% of the volume daily. Which means practically everyone in Britain is watching football online.  The U.K. ought to embrace this victory. To paraphrase the great British rock band "Queen:" When it comes to skiving off work and watching World Cup matches on phones and computers, you are the champions.

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About This Author
Michael Copeland
Michael Copeland

Michael V. Copeland joined FORTUNE as a senior writer in September 2007. Copeland has covered everything from electric cars to e-readers. He is a creator of Tech Mate, an irreverent video series in which he debates (and skewers) digital issues of the day. Before joining FORTUNE, Copeland was a senior writer at Business 2.0. Copeland graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.

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