Streaming the Super Bowl? Expect some delay compared with Twitter and the cable TV feed
Past Super Bowl streams lagged between 30 seconds and nearly a minute behind the action on the field.
Eli BlumenthalSenior Editor
Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
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Looking to watch the Super Bowl online over a streaming service? Expect the action on your TV to lag a few seconds behind the notification of a big play that pops up on your phone -- or the cheers from next door as your neighbor watches via cable. As more people cut the cord from traditional cable and satellite providers, streaming is often a great way to save money throughout the year. It does have a trade-off when it comes to live sports, however: a noticeable delay.
, the broadcaster for this Sunday's
55, last aired the big game in 2019, the fastest way to watch was with the CBS Sports app, according to data from Phenix, a technology company that provides the infrastructure for real-time video feeds. Even with that app, the lag behind what was happening on the field was roughly 28 seconds, and other apps were worse: nearly 33 seconds on NFL.com and over 36 seconds on the Comcast Xfinity app, CBSSports.com and
. CBS All Access and Yahoo Sports were each over 46 seconds.
In comparison, the delay between on-the-field action and cable, satellite or antennas is significantly less. Most of that is due to a "broadcast delay" of about five seconds to allow for broadcasters to prevent unsavory content from appearing on TV.
The streaming delay was even worse for the 2020 Super Bowl broadcast on Fox. Phenix found that the NFL stream was the fastest for last year's big game at 44 seconds, nearly 34% slower than its 2019 performance. Xfinity came in second at 45 seconds, followed by
(now known as AT&T TV) at 46 seconds and the Fox Sports app itself at 47 seconds.
FuboTV, YouTube TV and
Live TV weren't great either, clocking in at 49 seconds, 51 seconds and 52 seconds respectively.
At issue isn't necessarily the internet speeds themselves but latency, the time it takes to transfer what's happening in the real world back to your screen over the internet. In the past, some streamers have also tacked on a few seconds to ensure a clear picture and smooth experience rather than have you see pauses and buffering on your end.
There are a variety of ways to stream Super Bowl 55, including for free on CBSSports.com and on the CBS Sports app for smart
, or on the NFL, Yahoo Sports or CBS Sports apps on mobile devices. Live TV streaming services such as YouTube TV, FuboTV, Hulu Plus Live TV and AT&T TV will also stream the game, as will CBS All Access, CBS' $6 per month streaming service.
Watch this: Big game tech to get the best at-home experience
In anticipation of this year's game, CBS Sports has focused on improving performance. Because of the pandemic, the company aborted plans to stream this year's Super Bowl in 4K HDR, as it needed more remote operations. The company has made lowering latency a key focus and it expects to have a much lower latency compared to the 2019 game.
Even so, fans worried about being a few seconds behind and having the game spoiled by messages from friends or notifications from apps may want to choose another method to watch. The Super Bowl on CBS is available in most places for free, and in high definition, with an over-the-air antenna. Antennas are cheap and work with pretty much any TV, and we have a complete guide for setting one up.