Once Again, Super Bowl Latency Numbers Are Staggering

From The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post to Forbes and Sports Business Journal, a lot has been written over the past few years about live streaming delays and low latency video streaming for sports broadcasts.  

Super Bowl latency is a particularly hot topic, because it’s the highest profile event of the year. Comparing latency, or the delay sports fans see between what happens on the field and when it shows up on their device of choice, remains inconsistent due to the nature of the technology used for live streaming today. 

At Phenix, we’ve been performing our own real time sports latency study for the past several years. Our 2023 Super Bowl latency study averages 200+ data points from fans around the country by measuring the delay sports fans observe from the field of play to an end-user’s device. 

We have people at the game each year so we get an accurate measurement of real-time sports streaming from the field of play to the various cable and over-the-air (OTA) sports broadcasts. This year, OTA sports broadcasts averaged 18 seconds behind the field and cable had a 28 second delay sports fans had to tolerate. Then we measure the streams from cable and OTA sports broadcasts to a streaming provider.

This year, we measured real-time sports streaming latency for: 

  • NFL+
  • YouTubeTV
  • Hulu
  • DirecTV Stream
  • FOX Sports
  • fuboTV

Our most recent Super Bowl latency study found The FOX Sports mobile app delivered the best results by far, averaging a 23.9 second live streaming delay behind the field of play. Unfortunately, the drift for the Fox mobile app averaged 70 seconds - this measurement is taken from the user with the fastest stream to the user with the slowest. 

Interestingly, two of the live streaming platforms closest to the NFL, NFL+ and YouTube (YouTube recently signed a long-term deal with the NFL to stream the Sunday Ticket package), had disappointing results. 

The NFL+ app averaged a 60.7 second live streaming delay behind the field of play, and YouTube TV averaged a 53.6 second delay.  

Other key takeaways from our latency research over the past several years include:

  • The discussion of low latency streaming has grown immensely in the video streaming engineering community, yet overall latencies for major sporting events like the Super Bowl have NOT improved
  • Average Super Bowl streaming latencies have grown from between 42-46 seconds in 2021 to 54-76 seconds in 2023 (excluding FOX Sports)
  • The FOX Sports app has been the outlier, having improved this year’s overall latency to under 25 seconds which is 30+ seconds better than all other streaming providers
  • For the first time, several of our streaming participants observed lower latency viewing the FOX Sports mobile app than on their OTA broadcast (Hats to the FOX video engineering team!)

Several other organizations measure streaming delays for the Super Bowl including SSIMWAVE and The Streamable. However, their data differs from the Phenix study for two reasons:

  1. The latency measurements are taken from the sports broadcast - either cable or OTA - to the user’s device and NOT from the field of play.  This is significant because it doesn't fully account for the fan’s experience with the myriad of spoilers that can come from any direction.
  2. The number of data points are too low to give us an accurate latency measurement.

Regardless of latency testing methodology, imagine if you were watching the game on one of these apps - or any of the streaming providers for that matter - and heard about the game-winning field goal 50+ seconds BEFORE you actually saw it happen! This is a terrible experience for sports fans.

It’s quite common for sports enthusiasts to enjoy the game using a variety of sports broadcasts and game data from mobile apps while watching a game. With Super Bowl latency this high, you have to turn off your notifications or your experience is ruined. Taken to another level, imagine if you were betting on it!