Some Paramount Plus users complained the service's Super Bowl livestream didn't work Sunday night.
Paramount acknowledges there were problems that affected "a very small number of subscribers."
Big live events continue to pose problems for streamers — even as more of them do more of it.
Super Bowl winners, a partial list: The Kansas City Chiefs. Taylor Swift. Paramount, which broadcast and streamed the game to what was probably the biggest audience in the game's history.
Super Bowl losers, a partial list: The San Francisco 49ers. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who had to apologize to his family for an ad promoting his presidential campaign. And Paramount, whose Paramount Plus livestream conked out for some users, who took to the internet to complain.
Paramount won't get into details. But it did acknowledge, through a statement, that it did have some problems Sunday night: "The vast majority of users experienced an uninterrupted stream but we are aware that a very small number of subscribers experienced an error due to a technical issue with one of our partners, which was quickly rectified."
Without more detail from Paramount, it doesn't make sense to speculate about the cause of Paramount's problems.
What we can say, with confidence, was that Paramount was hoping a lot of people were going to use the service to watch the game, and was hoping it could use the event to sell more subscriptions.
And we also know that when a lot of people want to watch the same thing, at the same time, on the internet, there can be problems.
See, for instance, ESPN's livestream of the World Cup in 2014. Or SlingTV's March Madness stream in 2015. It doesn't even need to be a livestream to cause headaches for the streamers: HBO had problems showing "Game of Thrones" and "True Detective" back in 2014.
And while streaming tech should have improved over time, it's still not foolproof, even from Big Tech companies that ought to be really good at this stuff. Like Netflix, which struggled to show a live episode of "Love is Blind" less than a year ago.
It is possible that part of the problem is simply the architecture of the internet itself, where data is broken up into "packets," which are routed on different paths and then reassembled when they get to their destination. That works well for email, less well for live video, as Roger Lynch, who was running Sling TV in 2015, told me back then.
"The internet was designed for what I'd call non-real-time traffic," said Lynch, who now runs Condé Nast. "It's a big traffic-management system."
Then again, last month, Comcast's Peacock streamed a live NFL game that reached some 23 million viewers, most of whom were on the internet, and that one seemed to work just fine.
And if the big new mega sports streamer from Disney, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery is going to work this fall, it's going to have to convince users that they can reliably hit a button and watch whatever game they want, whenever they want, without having to worry about the technical setup that's making it happen. The same goes for Netflix, which is paying $5 billion to show live wrestling starting next year. So we'll see.
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