NBC's Super Bowl stream logs 1.3M viewers, complaints of video delay

NBC Sports said it recorded the highest number of online viewers ever for a Super Bowl, 1.3 million, along with its highest-ever TV audience. What's more, use of connected devices--smart TVs and Wi-Fi-enabled tablets, for example--jumped 150 percent higher than normal during the live-streamed championship game.

"While desktop usage still dominated over mobile and connected devices, the latter was still almost 150% above the normal levels," wrote Akamai's Austin Thornburg in a blog post detailing traffic patterns during the live stream event.

Akamai was the main CDN provider delivering NBC's stream of the Super Bowl, with Level 3 Communications' CDN in "backup mode" in case traffic was more than expected, Dan Rayburn of Streaming Media noted.

Akamai Super Bowl real time traffic

Online traffic ramped up quickly and remained steady throughout the Super Bowl live stream. (Source: Akamai)

So, why did many media outlets complain about a delay in the live stream that kept online viewers as much as a minute behind their linear counterparts during the game's biggest plays?

While 1.3 million is a good sized number for live streaming, Akamai has handled much larger traffic impacts, such as Apple events and presidential inaugurations.

Rayburn pointed out that such a delay was "unavoidable" due to the many pieces required to stream video. For example, encoding of the video, before streaming it on to viewers, was handled in the cloud by Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Azure platform. Further, live streams had to be encoded differently for different devices--desktop versus tablet, for one--adding more complexity and delay.

To add icing to the cake, even if no other issues delayed the feed upstream, the viewer's own Internet service provider might have had problems that resulted in even more delays, buffering or dropping the stream.

Despite live streaming's current limitations, the NFL is still pretty enthusiastic about the technology. Commissioner Roger Goodell told press ahead of the Super Bowl that the league is exploring the possibility of live-streaming a regular season football game, though he didn't provide additional details.

For more:
- Streaming Media has this post
- CNN Money has this story
- see Akamai's post

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