As a Patriots fan, it was a bummer watching them go down in last night’s Super Bowl, but one major positive surprise was that streaming the game was a superb experience. I was on the road, and watched the entire game (except for the last minute) using the NBC Sports app on my iPad, on the public WiFi network in Palm Beach International airport in Florida where I arrived early for my flight which ended up delayed.
I could have watched on any number of TVs in restaurants or camped out on the floor like the fans below watching on TVs mounted in the terminal. But the circumstances created a good opportunity to see what it would really be like to be dependent on streaming.
I never experienced a single moment of buffering or pixelation - all of the on-field action came through perfectly. The weird thing was that, especially in the first half, there were times when the ads didn’t load, and a slate that said “Coverage will resume momentarily” appeared. Mostly it would go away quickly and the remaining ads in the pod would run. I don’t understand what happened - whether the advertisers didn’t pay for streaming delivery and were therefore blacked out, whether it was a repeated technical issue, both, or something else.
In terms of the game itself, the real catch to watching online was latency. Because I had earphones on and wasn’t paying attention to the TVs this didn’t matter for me. But latency would be a problem if watching near a TV and hearing the cheers or groans in advance. At a couple points I checked the TVs and found around 30-45 seconds of latency. Recently I reported on improvements in latency (and even instances of “reverse latency” in Europe, but clearly delayed streams still be resolved.
However, the ability to play a highly traffic stream for multiple hours over a public WiFi network and not have any significant issues is a significant milestone (I’m waiting for NBC to announce the streaming data later today, which is likely to be an all-time high).
Of course the Super Bowl is the one moment of the year when viewers are going to do their best to be in front of the big screen TV. But it’s great to know that for everything else, streaming to a mobile device can be a very solid alternative.