Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Live TV stream collapsed again? Super-high network latency?

The beers are chilled, the nibbles are piled high, kick-off’s in 5 minutes and your live TV stream goes down. It’s every sports fan’s worst nightmare – and every sports programmer’s worst nightmare too. But it was a nightmare made real in the USA, when the national team played Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. And whoever said Americans aren’t really into ‘soccer’, a quick glance at Twitter when this untimely service collapse occurred reveals otherwise.

The fact is, there were over 1.5 million concurrent viewers (first-half figures) who were able to watch the match on the providers video ondemand streaming service. But there were many, many more who couldn’t get access to the channel. In addition, there were around 300,000 other subscribers accessing the channel, either to watch the Portugal-Ghana match or live Wimbledon coverage, both of which were showing at the same time as the USA match.

With so many popular broadcast sporting events coinciding, it was a perfect storm that left many US soccer fan’s not just disappointed, but devastated. Despite it happening this time during a soccer match, it’s generally known as ‘The Super Bowl effect’, since every year that American Football game is the most watched programme on television (111.5 million viewers in 2014).

Guaranteeing the live TV stream on these sorts of occasions is top of the must-haves for any network service provider. But it doesn’t have to mean ‘over-provision’ the rest of the time. At least, not if the provider is geared up for Control of Delivery. This means having the systems and technology in place to be able to ‘open the pipe’ and ramp up the service as required, whenever there’s a traffic burst.

This burst will usually be associated with a major sporting event (or clash of events, as we saw above). But it’s not always so predictable. A major breaking news story can prompt hundreds of thousands of people to switch simultaneously to the same channel, so the systems need to be able to cope with this kind of unexpected burst too.

Of course, what is never predictable is the score – whether in the Super Bowl, the World Cup or a Wimbledon tennis match. So another nightmare for sports fans is finding out the result, or even the current score, before they’ve actually seen it happen. Yet with so many ways for the news to get out, this is a growing issue.

Imagine watching the game at home, streamed live, and while you’re seeing the ball being crossed in front of the keeper and the striker jumping to head it home, you hear your neighbours cheering the goal. Or your phone beeps with an incoming text and ‘1-0 – get in!’ flashes up on your screen. All before you’ve actually seen the ball hit the back of the net.

That’s network latency, and it’s not only an irritation for fans, but a serious concern for broadcasters running a betting stream. You can see the difficulties if punters place a pile of soon-to-be winning bets on a result you haven’t even broadcast yet.

Super low network latency is the goal of sports broadcasters, and you can find out here the solution many network service providers are using to ensure the result they want on the screen. Even if they can’t guarantee the result on the pitch.

Author:

Matt Parker
Director, New Business Development

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