Deeper Dive—Super Bowl streaming draws mixed predictions

Super Bowl LIV, featuring the Kansas City Chiefs versus the San Francisco 49ers, will be held Feb. 2, 2020 in Miami. (Pixabay)

The Super Bowl is quite literally the Super Bowl of television broadcasting. Nothing compares to the audience size. However, large segments of that audience have shifted their football gaze from traditional TV to streaming services.

CBS’ airing of Super Bowl LIII last year drew an average streaming audience of 2.6 million during the game window, an increase of 31% over the streaming audience for the previous year’s game.

This year the Super Bowl (which kicks off Sunday, Feb. 2) is on Fox and it will be widely available to stream for free. Users on a range of connected TV, smart TV and mobile devices will be able to stream the big game through the NFL app or NFL.com; the Fox Sports and Fox Deportes websites and apps; the Yahoo Sports mobile website and app; and through the 49ers and Chiefs mobile properties. The Super Bowl will also be streamed in 4K for the first time – though it will actually be an upconverted 1080p 60fps feed.

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Verizon Media said it will provide technical support for the Super Bowl stream through its video streaming platform and multi-CDN capabilities. The company said that its pre-game testing includes scenarios up to 11 million concurrent viewers.

So, all the digital pieces are in place for this year’s Super Bowl stream. However, some questions still exist about just how big of a streaming audience will tune in.

Adtaxi, a digital marketing agency, surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults and reported that 24% of them plan to stream the Super Bowl this year, up from 21% last year and 8% the year before that. If 100 million Americans watch the Super Bowl this year, that means the Super Bowl live stream could potentially draw 24 million people. Though it’s doubtful all of those people would be streaming at the same time, that potential peak would greatly increase the average audience.

“As streaming services flood the market with competing content, prices and access, the question is not whether Americans will stream big games, but which services will nab their attention,” said Chris Loretto, executive vice president at Adtaxi, in a statement.

As recent survey from PCMag paints a very different picture of the streaming audience Fox and Verizon Media can expect for the Super Bowl. The publication interviewed 2,239 people and 1,000 said they planned to watch the game (85% of them at home). Within that group, 96% said they’d watch the game on a television but 74% of that group said they won’t be streaming the game. Of the respondents who said they would be streaming the game on a big screen, 10% plan to use a Roku device, 6% plan to use Amazon Fire TV and 3% plan to use an Apple TV. Hulu with Live TV was the most popular platform among respondents who said they planned to stream the game (but the game will also be available on fuboTV, YouTube TV, AT&T TV Now and Sling TV).

However, the key point in PCMag’s survey is that only approximately 215 people said they’d be streaming the Super Bowl. That suggests a much smaller potential audience than Adtaxi’s survey.

If the Super Bowl streaming audience grows at the rate it did last year, then the average audience will expand to about 3.4 million. However, since this year’s Super Bowl is streaming in 4K for the first time, the demand could be much higher.

With the continued proliferation of connected TVs and abundance of options for streaming the Super Bowl for free, it’s logical to expect a bigger streaming audience. Just how big, though, is a question that won’t be answered for sure until after the final whistle.

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