Q. I tried watching the Cardinals-49ers game yesterday and it was only on Amazon and it was a mess. The stream kept breaking up and freezing and it was impossible to watch. Why the heck did the NFL do this? The game should be on normal TV. — Jim, Irwindale, California.
Jim, you’re right. Yesterday’s matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers was only available on Amazon Prime and Twitch. You couldn’t watch it on a major network, such as CBS or Fox, or even on a cable channel, such as ESPN. It was stream or nothing.
The league did this because Amazon paid a handsome fee (terms not disclosed) for the exclusive rights. However, it was a major mistake and should not be repeated anytime soon. Countless fans, such as yourself, stormed social media sites to express their frustration when their picture froze, pixelated or went to black. (Others simply lamented that they didn’t have Amazon Prime memberships.)
“So I’m watching the 49ers and Cardinals on Amazon Prime. Is it supposed to look this bad? Dragging and filtering? We have AT&T U-verse internet. If this is what streaming tv looks like, I’ll stick with DirecTv,” tweeted ‘Shannon Cantwell.
“My Amazon Prime reception isn’t exactly world class at the moment. I feel like I’m watching the 1957 Grey Cup game,” wrote @dandalyonsports.
“Who’s the dumbass with @nflcommish office that thought it was a good idea to put the Cardinal game on Amazon Prime?!?,” tweeted ‘DrZoobs.’
“The Amazon feed of the 49ers-Cardinals is so choppy, blurry and even outright frozen that I missed nearly all the second quarter,” wrote Jeff Domingues, an editor at @spglobal.
After the outpouring of outrage, Amazon responded with its own statement:
“Our data shows that millions of Prime Video customers enjoyed a high quality and reliable streaming experience for the 49ers-Cardinals game,” the statement read. “There were reports of isolated local connectivity and broadband issues, which were unrelated to the Prime Video broadcast.”
Amazon’s statement may contain some truth. Some Prime subscribers said they had no issues with the stream.
But that’s not relevant here. The NFL should not make any game a streaming exclusive because live streaming is still not ready for primetime.
Regardless of the broadcast’s quality, as Amazon notes, some viewers will always have issues with the stream because they have slower Internet service and/or connectivity issues in their areas. That means their picture will occasionally buffer or freeze entirely. There’s nothing that can be done about it. If your Internet isn’t up to handling a particularly live stream, it will lead to technical snafus.
In addition, the streamer (in this case, Amazon) may also encounter problems because the technology behind live streaming is still relatively in its infancy. There have been numerous live streaming disasters over the last few years, including the Super Bowl (multiple times), the Academy Awards and highly-rated season finales.
Add the two together and the chances are always good that a live stream, particularly an exclusive one, will make a certain number of viewers very unhappy.
Of course, the NFL knows this, but it couldn’t resist those Amazon dollars. The league also likely wanted to test an exclusive stream as it considers whether to make the NFL Sunday Ticket a streaming exclusive when its current contract with DIRECTV expires after the 2022 season.
But I think yesterday’s result should give NFL executives pause on that one. Don’t you?
Jim, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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