In a nail-biter of a Super Bowl where every play mattered through every quarter and even into overtime, Paramount Plus never fumbled – and, it seems, the streamer carried the show through the end zone for most US subscribers.
At least that was my story.
There’s a solid chance that the majority of Paramounts Plus’ 63 million subscribers tuned into the live sports event that kicked off officially at 6:40pm ET, but started many hours before with multiple pre-game shows and countless commercials.
In a world where fewer and fewer people watch live television of any kind, live sporting events (and some awards shows) are among the few things that draw people back to broadcast-style TV. By some counts, more than half of Americans no longer have cable or broadcast television, a fact that doesn’t matter much when you can watch anything you want at any time through a multitude of streaming services.
However, no one wants to be the person who has no idea what Taylor Swift’s team did during the most-watched sporting event of the year. There are bets to be had, conversations to conduct, and socials to share. If you’re not watching the Super Bowl live, what’s the point?
Why stream the big show
I’m not even a sports fan, and I can admit without shame that I didn’t watch a single football game during the regular season before the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl, though, is not just a game; it’s an event, every part of which, from the pre-game warmups and interviews to the national anthem and, of course, all those commercials, are analyzed and dissected. Doing all that is a sport in itself.
Having recently cut the cord, this was my first year watching the Super Bowl through Paramount Plus. I subscribe to the version of the service with commercials; I guess, if I subscribed to the premium level, I might have switched to the cheaper tier just to see the Super Bowl commercials (otherwise I might’ve missed Ben Affleck rapping – and been done with the whole game in 60 minutes).
With so many people streaming at once, though, I worried that my local ISP, and/or Paramount Plus, might not be up to the task.
Cursory glances online, especially, as the game was about to get underway, were not encouraging. Some on X (formerly Twitter) reported the app not loading and blue screens. There are some indications on DownDetector that it struggled significantly at the start of the game, and then managed okay through most of the rest. When I checked Threads and X again later I noticed more posts reporting a trouble-free experience, combined with a few grumbles about the losing team.
I guess I was lucky. For the majority of the game, one in which the two teams were rarely more than three points apart, the service held up. At one point my wife remarked on the visual quality, which, while apparently still not 4K, did look excellent on my 65-inch TCL TV.
I know that streaming platforms can sometimes be a few seconds (occasionally far more) behind live broadcasts, but based on Threads I was posting and the instant reactions, I think we were about as real-time as you could get. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if Paramount Plus had been a minute or so behind on the over-time game-winning touchdown by Patrick Mahomes.
It was not issue-free. While the stream never broke, it did on a few occasions speed up. I never saw the stream stop, but I counted three or four brief moments where the game action was running at double-speed (its was like hurry-up play action that no one could control). It only lasted a few seconds and, to my surprise, the audio remained in sync without speeding up.
After the game went into overtime, and Taylor and I had both resorted to biting our nails, Paramount Plus decided that perhaps I wasn’t there watching anymore, and asked if I was still around or if it should end the stream. I panicked and almost fumbled the remote as I raced to press the “Yes, I’m alive and still watching button.”
The last misstep of the evening is actually a feature of most streaming platforms. When the game was officially done but the trophy ceremony had yet to occur, Paramount Plus tried to start a countdown to launch the new season of Halo. I once again jumped to get ahead of Paramount Plus’ proactive game action.
Overall, it was a good test for Paramount Plus, though I wonder if it’ll be ready for next year, when even more people will be streaming the big game through its platform.
As for me, I’m trying to game out how I’ll stream the next, big, live event: The Oscars on ABC. I’m not even certain which platform will stream it, but I hope it’s got its game face on.
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