The Super Bowl. Oh, the Super Bowl

by Colin McGuire. 0 Comments

Because I’ve seen the word “historic” way too many times when describing NBC’s attempt at streaming the Super Bowl (and because I rushed home to make sure I streamed the thing myself in hopes of possibly writing about it this week), we are going to revisit the year’s biggest night in sports television a few days after the fact. Yes. I know it has been nearly a week now. And yes, I am fully aware that the New York Giants have even already marched the streets of New York during their championship parade.

But this was a big deal in the world of Internet television, and completely ignoring it would be a bit irresponsible for someone who touts this whole TV Without A TV thing. So, yes. While I know you are still mourning the death of “House,” I feel it imperative to — at the very least — address this whole Super Bowl issue on a cursory level.

So, cursory it is.

The game set a record — 2.1 million people decided to stream the thing. As I said up top, I was one of those people, though I will disclose right now that I zipped back and forth between cooking dinner, entertaining a visiting friend who was watching the sixth season of “The Office” on DVD in my living room (Kathy Bates is fantastic) and trying the best I could to turn previously homemade salsa into something worth eating (big, old, gigantic failure that was). So I didn’t see every play, and until the final two minutes, I probably didn’t spend anymore than five to seven minutes in the room at one time to really sit with the broadcast.

But it turns out I didn’t have to because the fine people at Streaming Media did just that for me (and you, of course), and as it goes, they pretty much invaded my head and wrote every single word I had to say about what I did see. From Streaming Media …

“The rookie effort by the NFL was more like Tim Tebow’s early season than his later season, meaning it wasn’t ready for its prime time debut, on either the single mobile platform or the Silverlight-based desktop streaming,” the site’s Tim Siglin wrote. “By next year’s Super Bowl, however, the streaming option might end up with a ‘most improved’ award — if it spends the next year in training camp focusing on the basics.”

Yes, sir.

We’ll begin with the one problem that became my biggest issue real quick when finally booting up my computer to see what all the fuss was about: Silverlight. Having just received a brand new, cool-looking, smash-your-face computer, I was certain I wouldn’t run into any such problems while trying to seek out NBC’s coverage. But like Pizza Hut thinking it was a good idea to start offering Wing Street chicken wings, I was wrong.

Before I could even get the words “Tom” and “Bill” out of my mouth, I was told I needed to download and install the program in order to view the game. But that wasn’t even the worst of it. After missing out on the first couple minutes of the broadcast to figure the whole thing out, my machine popped a message up, explaining how unsafe it would be to actually install Silverlight on my brand-new death-defying computer. Three words: Un. Settle. Ing.

This came into focus more when I finally realized what I downloaded the program for. Much like … oh … say, the rest of the world who took to their computers to watch the game, I was mildly disappointed with the quality of the product. As you’ll see if you click over to Streaming Media’s aptly titled “Super Bowl Streaming Fail,” the picture wandered in and out of the “acceptable” zone as though it was looking for Snickers crunch bars (who sells those anymore, anyways? I can’t find them anywhere!).

Even more so, the game lagged a lot more than we had expected. And be “we,” I mean “I.” While it was reported that a 10 second delay might be expected, the game crept up to a minute in difference between real time and Internet broadcast time by the end of the contest. That’s simply just too much. A few seconds, we can all understand, but when you receive text messages about the New York Giants winning the big game as you are watching the Patriots come out of the huddle for that final Hail Mary, you become a little annoyed. And by “a little,” I mean “a boatload.”

Add in the lack of a half time show and commercials — and not to mention the occasional dropped signals prompting me to refresh the page more than I could have ever wanted to — and what you have is a fairly disappointing first go-around for NBC and the people who thought this might be the right time to try such a thing. It’s not that the stream/experience was entirely awful. It was just that I expected so much more from these guys, especially if they figured they had all the kinks worked out enough to make this a successful venture.

Yes, NBC should be applauded for finally diving head-first into the deep end that is Internet broadcast television, but if we are going to start allowing mediocrity to be accepted as the norm, then I should start canning that salsa I made to sell to the masses. And trust me: That wouldn’t be good for anybody.

“As they say in football, everyone starts back on an even footing just after the Super Bowl ends,”Siglin wrote, “And we hope to see a much-improved streaming performance next year.”

Indeed.
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