Will Twitter and NFL Streaming Be a Winner? It’s a Big Maybe

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NFLThis is a guest post by Ravid Hadar, head of marketing for Giraffic.

The NFL is bringing Thursday Night Football to a bigger audience by livestreaming the games on Twitter. The companies could capitalize on Yahoo’s football streaming success last year, by encouraging people to watch games for free on mobile phones, tablets and PCs.

Football is the most watched sport in the U.S., and it’s likely that more people will tune in on their phones. Twitter could be the best thing to happen to football if the tech is in place to deliver a quality experience. With that said, live-streaming is a huge technical challenge. Just ask CBS, which hit some snags with the Grammys last year. The huge NFL audience and anticipated crush of users will put stress on the streaming delivery network.  Even a 1G fiber connection can’t guarantee that users will get the same experience that they enjoy over broadcast and cable. Can Twitter and the NFL deliver a quality experience? It depends on two factors — the pipe and the consumer.

Nobody Wants to Miss a Touchdown—When It Actually Happens. 

Buffering can ruin the experience. Imagine watching your favorite team make an historic move on the way to a touch-down and all of a sudden your screen freezes and you’re left to stare at the infamous spinning circle. If you’re streaming a game and live next to another fan who gets the regular broadcast, you might hear the explosions of joy or groans of pain before you ever get to see the play.

There are a number of factors that could delay streaming action. First, the pipe, which includes video servers, network backbone and the home network, needs to be up to task. There can be bottlenecks at any point. Of course, it can help to have a fast Internet connection and the best possible Wi-Fi setup. But buffering can happen when there is too much user demand or poor networking conditions. Think of the network congestion like drinking a soda from 50 straws at once. It just sucks a lot, without giving you much in return.

To a consumer, watching sports in HD is an expected experience at this point. But in the case of live streaming this is not an easy task to sustain high-def for entire game. Again, with large-scale and high profile events it becomes challenging for the service providers to deliver something beyond unstable SD due to the influx of users.

Data Can Cost as Much as a Ticket

Consumers beware: while you might be able to tune in for free on Twitter, watching TV on your devices comes at a price. Either you pay for a mobile bill and data plan, or you need a better pipe for in-home internet.

Far too many internet subscribers just get the basic home internet plans. Sure, you get decent speeds for your regular browsing, but once you’re streaming high-quality content, you’re going to want to increase your bandwidth. More TVs and mobile devices have trouble streaming standard definition content, without on-board acceleration software, or a better service plan. That’s especially true if you have multiple devices connected at home.

But you want to stream on the go? Well, then you better check your mobile data plan before you’re charged for overages. It may make more sense to use Wi-Fi instead, if you have access to a hotspot or home network. Video is the largest moneymaker for mobile networks, because video content drives more data consumption. That’s why T-Mobile and Sprint are trying to cater to streaming video consumers. If you don’t want to change your provider or plan, be sure to check the app or device settings for Standard Definition at game time. The last thing you want is to put a data hurt on your wallet.

The masses are more than ready for livestreaming as a major platform to consume media, but from an infrastructure standpoint it’s still very premature. Consumers pay a lot of money for their data plans and cellular connection and in its current state, live streaming does not provide the experience it should. Let’s just hope come September that the Twitter and NFL get it right to make sure consumers don’t miss a single down without getting flagged for delay of game-streaming.

This was a guest post by Ravid Hadar, head of marketing for Giraffic, which provides streaming acceleration technology to consumer electronics manufacturers, including LG and Samsung.