Sports Streaming Has Room for Improvement in 2019

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Streaming live sports on mobile devices continues to be a major part of how people consume their favorite events. Total mobile video streaming has risen by about 100 percent each of the last few years. Because streaming live sports continues to be extremely popular, teams, leagues, and brands need to remain devoted to providing high-quality streams in the new year.

“The streaming-versus-cable wars continue, but consumers still depend on traditional TV to watch major sporting events,” said Mike Milligan, senior director of product and solution marketing at Limelight Networks.

In Limelight Networks’ 2018 state of online video report, one issue that people have streaming sports on a mobile device or a laptop is delayed streams. We’ve all had that moment where we’re watching a game only to have the next big play spoiled for us by looking at Twitter. Limelight Networks’ research shows that 60 percent of global consumers would watch live sports online only if the stream was not delayed from the broadcast.

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Lagging streams also remain an issue for sports fans on mobile. Included in Limelight’s report is the finding that video rebuffering remains the top online video frustration for 43 percent of global consumers. Two-thirds of viewers will even stop watching a video after two rebuffers. Additionally, poor video quality is reportedly the top frustration for 32 percent of fans streaming sporting events.

“The risk of quality issues like a blurry picture or rebuffering completely disrupts the game,” explained Milligan. “This is particularly challenging for viewers on mobile devices who may not have a robust and consistent internet connection.”

Fans who live in rural areas, in particular, may face this issue when trying to stream sporting events.

Since sports usually need to be seen live to be truly appreciated, all of these things could explain why sports is currently still the fourth most-watched type of online content behind movies, television shows, and news — all of which are enjoyed in their taped/pre-recorded form and can even be downloaded when the user knows that they are going to an area where WiFi or their data plan will be unreliable.

For what it’s worth for digital and social media strategists, live sports is only narrowly above professionally produced social media content in that category.

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Sports fans will continue to find ways to continue enjoying live sports, though. It helps especially with bigger events that fans can find streams in multiple languages to fit their preference or even see the game from different camera angles for a unique experience. As technology improves, we can expect that sports streams and broadcasts will do so as well.

“There is finally technology available to let fans stream the big game live in high quality on any device — in real-time,” Milligan stated. “This lets broadcasters deliver real-time interactive fan experiences with live chat, the ability to select camera angles, and even wager on the action in real-time. Now, the online fans can have a more robust and engaging experience than those watching the broadcast. In 2019, we can expect sports broadcasters’ online streams to continue improving quality and offer greater online experiences.”