TV Answer Man, I tried watching the March Madness games tonight (Tuesday) and they were a mess on streaming. I tried Sling and March Madness Live and they both had a lot of buffering and freezing. Do you have any tips on how to fix this? — Adam, Evanston, Illinois.
Adam, March Madness, the men’s annual college basketball tournament, started last night with a doubleheader from Dayton, Ohio and I’ve already received several reader e-mails about the poor streaming quality on March Madness Live and/or live streaming services.
While it appears that most people had few or no issues (I personally found no problems with the stream on Sling), buffering and picture freezing can be an occasional occurrence when watching any live streaming service, particularly during a highly viewed event such as a March Madness game. You will be watching a game or show when suddenly the picture will freeze and a small spinning wheel will appear in the middle of the screen. Or sometimes, the picture will just freeze or pixelate for several seconds or longer.
The cause of the problems?
See Amazon’s best-selling electronics!
The Internet. It’s not exactly an ideal infrastructure for delivering live video. If the speed of your home Internet network dips below the minimum requirement needed for a consistent picture, it can cause picture buffering (aka the dreaded spinning wheel). And if the streaming service has a temporary delay on one of its servers, that can cause it.
Welcome to the joys of streaming.
Fortunately, live streaming services have improved their delivery systems in recent years so it’s less noticeable than it used to be. (Home Internet services have also increased their speeds and efficiencies.) But it’s still a problem.
If your streaming picture is consistently marred by buffering or freezing, you can try the following steps to fix the issue:
See Amazon’s best-selling electronics!
1. Update the App
Online programmers frequently issue software upgrades so you want to be sure your app has the latest update. If you’re using an app that’s not been updated, it can trigger numerous performance issues. You can check if an update has been posted at the Google Play store on your Android device, or the iTunes store on your Apple device.
2. Get a Better Internet Service
Some cost-conscious consumers use their mobile Hotspots to stream video rather than pay for Internet service from a cable or telco company. However, a Hotspot’s speed can vary greatly depending on how much data you’ve used (companies reduce your speed if you exceed pre-set limits) or the number of people using the Hotspot. If your streaming picture consistently freezes or stutters, you might want to upgrade to a better Internet service. And if you already have a cable or telco Internet plan, you might need to upgrade to a faster one.
3. Test Your Internet Speed
Which brings us to step #3. Many streaming services say you need a minimum download speed of 10 Mbps to get a consistent picture. (It’s 25 Mbps for 4K programming.) That doesn’t mean your Internet plan delivers speeds up to 10 Mbps; it means that it averages 10 Mbps and above. You can test your service’s speed at numerous sites, such as Netflix’s Fast.com.
4. Restart Your Device
Whether it’s a mobile device, or a streaming set-top such as Roku, technology products sometimes stall based on data overloads or other issues. Try re-setting your device by turning it off and/or unplugging it for 30 seconds. Then, turn it back on and wait for it to reconnect to the Internet. A simple reset will often resolve any buffering issues.
5. Try Another Device
If the reset didn’t resolve the problem, try watching the game on a different device in your household to see if it buffers as well. If it does, the problem is probably with your Internet, or the streamer’s servers. If it doesn’t, the problem is probably with the first device.
6. Try a Wired Connection
If you notice the streaming picture still has frequent hiccups, you might want to try connecting your Internet cable directly into whatever device you’re using to stream to your television. (Note: You can also do this with your computer.) You can do that by running an Ethernet cable from your Internet modem to the streaming device.
So, how can you tell if the signal is stronger with the direct Ethernet connection? Most streaming devices have a feature that allows you to test the speed of your Internet connection.
Go to the player’s Menu and look for a Internet Speed Test feature. Try it a few times with the wireless connection and then a few times with the direct, Ethernet connection. The higher the number, the faster the signal.
If there’s a dramatic difference in speed between the two, the direct connection may be the way to go, particularly if you notice that your picture seems more consistent. I won’t guarantee that it will end buffering for good, but the faster speed will certainly keep those annoying interruptions at a minimum.
7. Tell Everyone to Log Off
If other people in your home are using the same network, ask them to temporarily pause their activity. This will allocate as much bandwidth as possible for streaming the games.
Adam, hope these tips help. Happy viewing and stay safe!
Need to buy something today? Please buy it using this Amazon.com link. This site receives a small portion of each purchase, which helps us continue to provide these articles.
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at firstname.lastname@example.org Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann