According to research from bandwidth management company Sandvine, Netflix is the world's most data-hungry application, consuming 15% of global net traffic.

During peak evening hours, when networks are under "the most stress", the video streaming service can be accounting for a staggering 40% of all download traffic in the US. It’s a phenomenon that is putting huge pressure on networks around the world to maintain standards of service.

It’s also a problem that’s been years in the making. The extent of our love affair with the inexpensive TV and film platform is clear from the integration of Netflix buttons in remote controls, ‘Netflix and Chill’ goody bags available through Amazon and numerous memes inspired by our nation’s binge watching habits.   

The really compelling part of Sandvine’s report isn’t actually to do with where we are right now though, it’s the glimpse of a future where video streaming is only a fragment of a much richer, diverse set of online entertainments.

Rising tide of eSports

The first of these to land will be gaming.  Currently the sector only contributes just shy of 8% of the total volume of downstream traffic on the internet – it’s a percentage that will only rise exponentially.

So far gaming’s tranche of the internet has been generated through the rise of streaming via services such as Twitch and games being purchased via download rather than a physical disc – for instance, Call of Duty Black Ops uses up to 101GB of data, the equivalent of 14 hours of 4K video.

Where this might have made a drop in the ocean, what’s going to be really disruptive is the growth professional gaming leagues. ‘eSports’ is well on its way to becoming a household name according to GlobalWebIndex.

According to the market research company's latest Trends ’19 report, almost 70% of internet users in the UK and U.S. alone have now heard of the term esports. Moreover, of those who say they watch esports content in these regions, more than 60% watch it at least once a week.

From breaking barriers to breaking the internet

Despite many traditional sports fans remaining unconvinced of esports’ close relationship with their favorite sports leagues, for many sports leagues esports represents an important means of reaching younger fans and unlocking more revenue.

A good example of this is the National Hockey League (NHL) in the U.S., which has announced its 2019 plans of moving much further into the esports scene.

Borne from the likes of Twitch, these platforms require little hardware to set up a channel, allowing streamers to reach an audience in the hundreds of thousands with minimal investment.

As a result, the gaming industry boasts a growing annual valuation far above even the film and music industries. The ensuing competition among stakeholders to secure eyeballs and advertising dollars will drive both investment and gaming’s contribution to the online traffic jam and could prove the very tipping point doomsayers are predicting.