Paramount botches Super Bowl livestream: more problems ahead?

The Paramount+ livestream of the Super Bowl crashed for multiple users who, of course, took to social media to complain. Big live events are still a problem for streamers, it seems.

The Super Bowl drew a staggering 123.4 million viewers, who tuned in to watch the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers. That’s the most for any American broadcast since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon on July 20th, 1969.

People could watch the game in six different ways. One of those platforms, Paramount+, disappointed many, though.

Viewers watching on Paramount+ had to deal with several crashes, the broadcast being behind by around 30 seconds, and other kinds of glitches. For many, the problems made the broadcast “unwatchable,” and they had to look for other ways to watch the game.

Right before the game started, Paramount+ users suddenly found themselves locked out of the streaming platform as well. It has more than 21 million subscribers.

Paramount+ acknowledged the issues after the fact: “The vast majority of users experienced an uninterrupted stream, but we are aware that a very small number of subscribers experienced an error due to a technical issue with one of our partners, which was quickly rectified.”

Paramount Streaming’s chief technology officer told Fast Company last week that there were “over 500 team members across five offices around the United States that are all working together to ensure that everything goes smoothly.” Apparently, that kind of effort still wasn’t enough.

Streaming is getting more popular each year. Nielsen said that streaming grabbed a record 38.7% of total TV usage in the US in July 2023 – this was a new high for the category.

But livestreaming is still a big challenge for companies – when a lot of people want to watch the same thing on the internet at the same time, problems begin. ESPN’s livestream of the World Cup in 2014 was a perfect example.

It doesn’t even have to be sports – Netflix struggled to show a live episode of Love is Blind less than a year ago. It also doesn’t have to be a livestream – HBO had issues showing Game of Thrones and True Detective in 2014.

Part of the problem is the architecture of the internet itself, where data is broken up into “packets,” which are routed in different paths and then reassembled upon reaching the destination.

In other words, the process doesn’t work very well for live video because the web was designed for non-real-time traffic.

Still, streaming companies should probably invest more in technology and ensure that the viewer experience is as smooth as possible. Disney, Warner Bros., and Fox are getting ready to launch a new mega sports streamer this fall.

Hoping to attract new sign-ups with live events, Netflix also paid $5 billion to acquire rights to broadcast live wrestling from 2025.

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