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Super Bowl LIV Draws Average Streaming Audience of 3.4M

The live stream of Super Bowl LIV pulled down an average-minute audience of 3.4 million, a 30% boost over the stream of last year's championship game (2.6 million) and 103% greater than Fox's stream of Super Bowl LI in 2017 (1.7 million), Fox Sports said, citing data from Adobe Analytics.

Fox Sports also provided a free, upscaled 4K/High Dynamic Range (HDR)stream of Super Bowl LIV -- a 31-20 victory by the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers -- to Amazon Fire TV and Roku platforms. Apple TV 4K devices had access to a UHD/standard dynamic range stream as that platform does not support HDR at 60 frames per second. But the sports network did not break out the percentage of consumers that opted for the UHD feed, which required a bit rate of about 20 Mbit/s.

Fox Sports said its streaming total was tabulated from an audience that accessed the live feed using Fox-backed websites (FoxSports.com and FoxDeportes.com), the Fox Sports, Fox Deportes and Fox Now apps; the NFL's various digital properties; Verizon Media mobile outlets (including the Yahoo Sports mobile app); and mobile properties from the Chiefs and 49ers.

Fox's free stream of the game was also delivered via a batch of TV-connected platforms, including Roku devices and Roku TVs, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV devices, Samsung smart TVs and Xbox One gaming consoles. Several OTT-TV providers, such as YouTube TV, Hulu and fuboTV, also carried the game but were not included in Fox's streaming total (those viewers are lumped in with the broader TV audience figure).

Aside from some minor, temporary issues, there were no reported widespread outages of Fox's free stream, an indication that platforms that deliver live, widely-viewed tent-pole sporting events via the Internet are increasingly able to handle the load.

Prior to kickoff, Dan Rayburn, principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan and chairman of the Streaming Summit for NAB 2020, determined that the Super Bowl streams were being delivered across a mix of third-party content delivery networks, including Fastly, Verizon Media, Akamai, Limelight Networks and Amazon Cloudfront. "FOX Sports looks to be ready," he wrote in a live blog of his experience streaming the game across a combination of 50-plus platforms.

Rayburn reported that Fox's stream experienced "very minor issues" during the game. However, he did find some inconsistencies with respect to latency between the traditional live TV broadcast and the OTT streams, as well as the volume levels between platforms:

Phillip Swann, a veteran TV industry watcher who runs The TV Answer Man site, viewed the game in 4K on a Comcast device and a Roku player and gave an edge to the quality delivered on Roku's platform. But he also found that Roku's feed lagged about 25 seconds behind Comcast's feed. However, both of those 4K streams were between 30 seconds to a minute behind the regular HD signal of the game.

"Overall, I thought the picture was a significant improvement over past Fox 720p HD broadcasts of the Super Bowl, but just moderately better on a 1080i or 1080p display," he wrote.

Fox Sports' 4K/Ultra HD feed of Super Bowl LIV was not delivered in "native 4K." The broadcaster delivered the game natively in 1080p/60 frames-per-second using the Hybrid Log-Gamma HDR standard, and upconverted it to 2160p/60fps for the 4K/UHD version streamed to Fox apps (using HDR10) and via several pay-TV distributors (in multiple HDR formats).

Traditional TV still the platform of choice
Although Fox touted streaming gains for Super Bowl LIV, that audience still trailed the traditional TV audience by a wide margin, as viewership on the Fox broadcast network drew an average of 99.9 million and peaked at 103.5 million.

Across all platforms, Fox said Super Bowl LIV was watched in part or its entirety by an audience of 148.5 million.

According to preliminary results from Nielsen, Super Bowl LIV delivered a 41.6 US household rating and was viewed in an average of 50.2 million homes. Those same early estimates also found that 69% of US homes with televisions in use were tuned into the Big Game, Nielsen said.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner 2/5/2020 | 10:27:37 AM
UHD device clarification I  updated the story to clarify which platforms had access to the UHD/HDR version of Fox's stream (Amazon Fire TV and Roku) and which had access to the UHD/SDR version (Apple TV 4K). Thanks, JB 
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