For the past few years, close watches of streaming video have questioned when major sports rights, like the Super Bowl, could become available exclusively via streaming, rather than viewed primarily through linear television.
That has continued this year, with early predictions suggesting that millions of people were planning to tune into the game over a broadband connection.
One thing that has held sports leagues back from partnering exclusively with streaming video companies is concerns about reliability. While live streaming technology has improved dramatically over time, is it ready to handle tens of millions of people, or even more than 100 million people at once?
Sunday’s Super Bowl was a case in point.
A number of Roku users found their feed of the game cut off near the end… which just happened to be the most exciting and important part of the game.
“CBS Sports is currently experiencing some technical difficulties. Roku is investigating a fix,” the official Roku Twitter account tweeted. “The Super Bowl is also available on CBS All Access, DirectTV Now, Fubo, Playstation and You Tube TV. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
Of course, with the game nearly over, switching to a different, paid streaming service would be more than a minor inconvenience.
YouTube TV also tweeted about the outage on Roku, suggesting the problem was either with Roku’s platform, or CBS Sports’ stream.
The whole incident was reminiscent of the challenge faced during Turner Sports’ Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson face-off, when it charged users to stream through its BR Live service. The paywall faced a technical issue, and the company simply made the match available for free to compensate.
In both cases, the content was fine, but it was the product that suffered. We won’t see a streaming-only Super Bowl until the technology is at a point where it “just works.”
Traditional linear TV providers have had delivery issues before, but the underlying infrastructure is proven to be capable of delivering live video to more than 100 million people simultaneously.
If Sunday’s Super Bowl streaming issues are any indication, it will be some time before we are all watching the big game through our broadband connection.