Yahoo’s execution of the first-ever global live-stream-only broadcast of an NFL game surpassed that of the participants.
The Net media giant pulled off its groundbreaking offensive with more poise than did the competing Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. On Twitter, some viewers did complain about frozen screens and no video. And before the kickoff, the live feed included some annoying beeps.
But those beeps were gone by the time CBS reliables Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon began calling the early-morning action from London’s Wembley Stadium.
This viewer’s game video was smooth and detailed on the computer, tablet and smartphone. However, the feed on a big-screen TV via the NFL app on Xbox Live, while it was watchable and never froze or went black, was not as smooth and had a perceptible stutter.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer followed along on social media cheering good results from viewers.
Others were not so lucky. Business Insider sports page editor Cork Gaines called the event “a disaster for many” and “one of the worst live streams I have seen in a long time. … While I didn’t expect perfection in Yahoo’s first attempt at an NFL live stream, there were far too many instances of the screen being pixelated or going blurry.”
Phil Swann of TVPredications.com said that “watching Yahoo’s stream today was anything but easy, particularly in the first 20 minutes of the game when, for many viewers at least, the picture froze, stuttered, blurred or went to black.”
He correctly noted that this is not a problem for just Yahoo, which has done an admirable job of streaming other events including concerts by Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake. HBO and Sling TV are among others struck with streaming glitches. “Live streaming simply isn’t ready for prime-time yet,” Swann said. “No program or game, even one of questionable viewing content such as the Bills-Jags, should only be available via live streaming. History shows it will do a disservice to fans and viewers. … Instead of going for the big bucks tossed around by online providers, the NFL and other content providers need to think about their viewers and fans first.”
Hopefully, all parties will learn from this experiment — a costly one for Yahoo at a reported $17 million — as you can be sure the NFL and other leagues and content providers are looking at how live-streaming fits into their future playbooks. “This is an early testing ground to understand the Internet’s capability to deliver something like this,” BTIG Research analyst Rich Greenfield told Bloomberg.
During the actual game, most of the miscues came from the players. Buffalo Bills’ quarterback EJ Manuel fumbled and threw two interceptions in the first half, allowing the Jaguars to build a 27-13 halftime lead. Then the 1-5 Jags stumbled, failing to score after driving to the Bills one-yard line to start the second half.
The Bills rallied to take the lead with a bomb for a TD then an interception. Then, the Jags offense woke up to retake the lead just before the two-minute warning. And their defense snuffed out a subsequent Bills drive for just their second victory of the season.
It remains to be seen whether sports fans eventually are the winners in a live-streaming future.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider
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