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Limelight Answers 5 Questions About Super Bowl LVIII. Yes, LVIII
8K football is coming, streamed with sub-second latency. Fans will bet on a variety of small outcomes as they watch, such as how long the National Anthem will last. Limelight gazes into its crystal ball to predict what the 2024 Super Bowl will look like.
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No matter which team they were rooting for, home streamers felt like the real losers during Super Bowl LIII. Their pristine 4K TVs went to waste since CBS only streamed up to 1080p, and the latency was so long (we clocked it at 90 seconds) that joining the Twitter conversation was impossible.

To find out why those problems occurred, we spoke to Mike Milligan (right), senior director at the CDN Limelight Networks. First off, why didn't we see 4K streaming? "Until broadcasters have an economic incentive to upgrade, most content will continue to be broadcast in HD," he said. While CBS could have streamed the game in 4K, that would have added a lot of complexity just to satisfy a small number of online viewers.

As for the giant lag time, high-profile events need to use multiple CDNs for the best experience, he explained, and getting that to work means simplifying or standardizing the workflow to make sure all viewers get a consistent experience. "Implementing HLS and DASH streaming with large segment sizes makes it easier to ensure consistent viewing that reduces rebuffering across different CDNs, but the downside is that it also increases stream latency."

Okay, so Super Bowl LIII wasn't the streaming paradise we were hoping for. Let's jump five years into the future and see how things will change for Super Bowl LVIII. Here's what Milligan predicts.

Will the streaming hurdles of today be solved? What will the top encoding rate be? What will the latency be?

As online viewership grows and sports fans become increasingly unwilling to accept low-quality viewing delayed from the live action, sports rights holders and online streaming service providers will have an even greater incentive to deliver improved live online viewing experiences. Sub-second live streaming will become the standard for major sporting events, with 5G and edge computing technologies providing the bandwidth and power to deliver video at up to 8K picture quality. With continued improvements in encoding technologies, I expect a high-quality, 8K stream of Super Bowl LVIII to be possible at 45 to 50 Mbps.

Will betting be part of the experience? If so, for money or just for fun?

Sports wagering will become an integral part of the online sports viewing experience in the U.S. As more states pass legislation to allow sports betting, fans will watch sporting events not just to see the final score, but for the opportunity to make prop bets during the game in real-time, such as whether a kicker will make or miss a field goal, or even how long it takes to sing the National Anthem before the game. The opportunity to make many small bets of a dollar or less during the game (with the outcome decided quickly) will keep fans engaged until the end, even if the big game is a blowout.

Will we actually see personalization options? If so, what?

Personalization will become an important part of online sports viewing. Fans will be able to develop their own customized viewing experience where they can choose which camera angle to view or which players they want to follow during the game. They will also receive customized real-time data and video feeds about their favorite sports fantasy players. Online viewing of Super Bowl LVIII will allow fans to control almost everything about the viewing experience—except the final score.

How will streaming ads enhance viewing?

Online ads will become more targeted and interactive. Viewers will receive advertisements that are relevant to their interests, with the ability to interact with the advertisements in a way that they are rewarded for their involvement. For example, fans may receive an ad for an upcoming movie. If they click on the ad and watch an extended trailer, they could receive discounted admission to watch it in a theater or download it for home viewing.

Make a prediction: How many people will watch the 2024 Super Bowl via OTA/pay TV? How many will stream it? And who will win the game?

Contrary to some recent trends and predictions about the decline of sports viewing via broadcast and online, the total viewing audience for Super Bowl LVIII will increase. I still think there are lots of primarily older viewers who will continue to watch it OTA and via pay TV. Broadcast viewership will remain around 75 million viewers. However, the number of people watching the interactive 8K online Super Bowl LVIII experience will start to challenge those numbers at 55 million. The winner will be the fans who enjoy an experience like never before. Oh, and a 46-year-old Tom Brady will make a game winning drive at the end of the fourth quarter before finally announcing his retirement.

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