TV Answer Man, I watched the Cowboys-49ers game on Sunday on Paramount+ and the game was at least a minute behind the actual action. I was on Twitter and people were talking about plays that hadn’t happened yet on my stream on Paramount+. I’ve noticed this delay in other streaming games before. Is this normal? Why does this happen? — Mateo, Orlando. 

Mateo, the Dallas Cowboys-San Francisco 49ers playoff game on Sunday was streamed live on Paramount+ as well as broadcast on CBS and Nickelodeon. Some Paramount+ viewers, however, posted complaints on social media sites that their stream was 30 to 60 seconds behind the action on CBS and Nickelodeon.

Unfortunately, this is not unusual for a stream of a live sporting event. Let me explain. It’s a little complicated.

There are two kinds of streaming: Live and On Demand. Netflix, for instance, is an on-demand service. That means its programming is loaded onto servers and distributed over the Internet to our homes.

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We choose the on-demand shows we want to watch, and they are usually delivered without any technical snafus because they have previously been stored on those servers. This gives the on-demand services time to ensure the distribution will be done with relatively few flaws.

However, live streaming from services such as Paramount+, DIRECTV Stream, Sling TV and others can not be pre-loaded because the signals from the live channels are distributed in near real-time. Consequently, the live stream sometimes encounters technical issues during the transmission.

The live streamers try to minimize this issue by distributing the signals after a short delay, usually from 30 to 60 seconds. (That’s why your Cowboys-49ers stream was behind CBS and Nickelodeon.) This gives them some time to reduce possible glitches in the stream which can cause buffering or picture freezing.

The live streaming industry is hopeful that the technology will improve and ultimately eliminate this issue.  But as of now, live streaming is still prone to technical hiccups and therefore requires a delay.

Mateo, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann