TV Answer Man, I streamed the Super Bowl on Sunday, first watching it on YouTube TV and then trying the Fox app. The Fox app was way ahead of the YouTube TV stream! By at least 30 or 40 seconds. My friend who has FuboTV says his stream was way behind the Fox app, too. Why would this be? It’s just the same stream, right? Did everyone have this problem? — Charlie, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Charlie, you’re not alone. Many viewers who streamed Sunday’s Super Bowl game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles noticed that the Fox Now and Fox Sports apps were closer in time to the real time action compared to the streams on live streaming services such as YouTube TV, FuboTV and Hulu Live.

Phenix, a company which sells technology designed to shorten streaming delays, noticed the same thing. Of course, considering the company’s mission, it’s not surprising it would notice it and issue a press statement to highlight it. But that said, Phenix’s Sunday survey of Super Bowl streamers found that:

FuboTV’s stream was 76.73 seconds behind the real time action;
Hulu Live was 69.8 seconds behind;
NFL Plus was 60.70 seconds behind;
DIRECTV Stream was 57.13 seconds behind;
And YouTube TV was 54.14 seconds behind.

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(Apparently, Phenix did not include Sling TV in the analysis.)

However, Phenix said the Fox apps were only 23.76 seconds behind. That’s an impressive number considering that live streaming is often 30-60 seconds behind, if not more.

Why was Fox so much better in reducing the delay? Two reasons.

1. The Fox apps were national feeds.
The live streaming services such as YouTube TV and FuboTV streamed the local Fox affiliate feeds; they don’t have access to the national feed. There are more steps involved in transmitting a signal from the national Fox control center to the affiliate and then to the streaming audience via the live streaming service. And therefore, more time is required to transmit it. In addition, as is the case with all live streaming, ‘buffer time’ is added to ensure that any transmission glitches can be removed before the stream is sent to the home.

In contrast, the Fox app feeds came directly from the Fox control center, removing several steps in the transmission process and reducing the real time delay.

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2. Fox invested heavily in reducing delays for the Super Bowl
Aware of the growing viewer concern over streaming delays, the network spent considerable time in the back shop to improve the quality and timeliness of the national feed. Paul Cheesbrough, Fox’s chief technology officer, commented on Fox’s effort yesterday on Twitter after the streaming delay numbers were floated online. (Note: Latency is industry jargon for streaming delays.)

“A lot of work went into massively scaling the streams, outstanding 4K quality and super low latency – not easy to do these 3 things together! Great to see these numbers,” he tweeted.

As more big-time sports head to streaming, the industry knows that it must improve the streaming experience if it wants to maintain current viewership. Fox showed on Sunday that improvements are possible.

Charlie, hope all of that makes sense. Happy viewing and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann