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CBS Streamed the Super Bowl to 7.5M Devices, But None in 4K

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Super Bowl LIII host CBS Sports has turned in its post-event numbers, and streaming was way up. That's not a surprise: We're nowhere near peak streaming yet. While broadcast viewing was down, CBS streamed the game to 7.5 million unique devices, which is up 20% from last year. In all, it counted 560 million total minutes of live game streaming, up 19% from last year. The average audience per minute was 2.6 million viewers.

(While that's a Super Bowl record, it's not a world sports record. That seems to belong to the final match of the Vivo Indian Premiere League tournament from May 2018, when Hotstar and Akamai streamed to a peak concurrent audience of 10.3 million cricket fans.)

CBS made the game available without authentication on a variety of platforms, which helped boost its numbers. While there were no major snafus, I did notice a few issues. The first was severe latency. At one point I was on the phone with someone while we both streamed the game through Hulu. My stream was 30 seconds behind hers. I switched to the over-the-air broadcast, and then my video was 60 seconds in front of hers. That means my original stream was 90 seconds delayed. When will we finally see the sub-second latency we keep hearing about? For major events, 30 to 90 seconds of latency is a real Twitter killer.

My next quibble is the resolution. Bafflingly, CBS didn't broadcast or stream the Super Bowl in 4K. 4K and 8K cameras were part of its setup, but it used those feeds only to grab high-quality video for replays. I've been told the network's focus was on providing 30fps and 60fps streams, and using QVBR (quality-defined varialbe bitrate) to provide a consistant experience to a wide audience. But it didn't offer 4K and plenty of people noticed (such as the irate Twitter user below). In 2019, 4K should be table states for major events. People buy new 4K TVs just to enjoy this game in pristine quality. Kudos to CBS and its multi-CDN distribution for pulling off the Super Bowl without any major problems, but seriously.

Fox has the rights to Super Bowl LIV next year. Start planning your 4K strategy now, Fox, and throw in HDR, while you're at it. Even if the game, half-time show, and commercials are as lackluster as this year's, we at least want it all to look good.

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