On Sunday, users of the Fox Sports mobile app experienced an average lag time of only 23.76 seconds between what they were seeing on their phones and what was actually happening in real time at State Farm Stadium in Phoenix during Super Bowl LVII.
That's an impressive score for Fox, which averaged a lag time of 47 seconds for its mobile app back in 2020, the last time Fox controlled the Super Bowl broadcast. The Fox Sports app streamed Super Bowl LVII without the need for pay TV authentication Sunday.
The numbers come from research company Phenix, which annually tracks streaming performance for the big game.
According to The Streamable, which has also been monitoring Super Bowl latency performance for the last three years, albeit with a much different measurement methodology, the Fox Sports app was even ahead of cable -- the pub said the action hit the mobile app, on average, a full 17 seconds before it unfurled on its Xfinity cable box.
The Streamable determined that Fox Sports' coverage only lagged other-the-air broadcast by about 1 second ... with OTA being only around 1 second behind real time. (Again, it's important to keep in mind that The Streamable seems to be measuring latency in a much anecdotal way than Phenix. However, in terms of scale, The Streamable's metrics seem to match up with Phenix's pretty well.)
Certainly, with the living room extended by viewer interaction on social media -- not to mention the emerging addiction crisis that is online sports gambling -- latency matters.
“The Super Bowl was streamed to millions of fans who chat and text with each other during the game. Unfortunately, with the delays in technology that broadcasters and streaming platforms employ, this interactivity can’t extend far beyond the living room, as it’s supposed to, with fear of spoilers from Twitter or a text from your group chat coming a minute too early," said Jed Corenthal, CMO of Phenix. "In 2023, there’s no excuse for delays and buffering to impact the viewing experience this poorly, especially for one of the biggest events of the year.”
And outside the Fox Sports app performance Sunday, latency appears to be getting worse, not better.
FuboTV watchers, for example, were delayed almost 77 seconds from seeing Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry leveled with one of the most consequentially bad defensive holding calls in pro football history Sunday.
And 77 seconds was only an average. According to Phenix, some FuboTV users had to wait more than 100 seconds to see the live action. (More than a few Fubo users in Philly had to be wondering why TV's were suddenly being thrown out of windows on that ticky-tack call.)
Hulu + Live TV users were delayed over 69 seconds. And YouTube TV watchers experienced average latency of 54.14 seconds -- notable, given that the virtual pay TV platform is taking over NFL Sunday Ticket next fall.
Notably, each of these virtual MVPDs got worse, latency-wise, from last year's Super Bowl, according to Phenix.
FuboTV, for example, registered an average Super Bowl latency of only 49 seconds in 2020, and 55.1 seconds for last year's game.
The only vMVPD to show latency improvement over 2022 was DirecTV Stream, which shaved off nearly two seconds from its average.
Notably, the NFL's newly rechristened mobile platform, NFL Plus, experienced average latency of 60.08 seconds. For last year's Super Bowl, Phenix measured NFL.com at 50 seconds.
Of course, many factors go into latency, including crucial ones like where the user is located and what network they're using.
Phenix also publishes every year a useful chart that shows the range of variance for each measured platform. For example, while some Fox Sports app users experienced latency approaching only 15 seconds from the realtime action, others dealt with a lag as high as 86 seconds.
Notably, Phenix found that some DirecTV Stream users were seeing action that was a full minute-and-a-half old.
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Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!