It’s the NFL biggest sporting even Super Bowl Live Stream on the planet, and when the New England Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Sunday, Feb. 5 in Houston, over 100 millions people around the world will likely be tuning in. Cable cutters are used to relying on an antenna for their live sports, but this year’s Super Bowl will be easier than ever to stream.
Roku has announced it’s offering a free live stream Super Bowl LI through the platform’s Fox Sports Go channel, and will include the pregame show starting at 2 p.m. In addition to all the on field action between the Patriots and Falcons, Roku will also broadcast the Lady Gaga halftime show, plus a “Field Pass stream” with additional complementary, plus a “sights and sounds” of the stadium feature. Roku promises viewers will “feel like they’re on the field” for warmups thanks to the unprecedented broadcast techniques this year.
The number of people streaming the Super Bowl each year is growing, which should come as no surprise. Not only are fans watching on more devices than even before, including cell phones and smart TVs, but networks are making it easier to legally stream the game across a variety of devices.
Super Bowl 51’s Media Day — or Opening Night, as they extravagantly refer to it as — is available to the public. You’ll have to buy tickets, but if it’s anything like it was last year, it’s an event that requires attendance for football fans who will be in Houston.
Media Day once started as an earnest event for reporters to gather information from teams mired in pregame preparation. Now, it’s an opportunity for cosplayers and handpuppets (literally) to ask inane questions and record responses. Rhyme and reason exit the stage Monday, instead replaced by German men dressed as downhill skiers and septuagenarians dolled up as team-specific leprechauns.
So maybe don’t expect much real insight from Monday’s interviews with the players and coaches. But if you still want to catch the festivities, Opening Night will air on NFL Network at 8 p.m. ET, with a live stream available at NFL.com/Watch for subscribers to certain cable providers.
The matchup was settled on Sunday, with the Atlanta Falcons facing off against the New England Patriots. This is the Patriots’ record-setting ninth Super Bowl appearance, while the Falcons have made the trip to the season’s final game just once before in 1998. They lost that game, while the Patriots boast four Super Bowl championships — most recently in 2014.
The Falcons’ photo and interview session will take place from 8:10-9:10 p.m. ET, and the Patriots will follow from 10-11 p.m.
The event will pit two different coaches against the Super Bowl Live media. Bill Belichick has traditionally been prickly with the media, mixing non-answers with effectual praise for Rutgers, rants against modern technology, and blatant sarcasm. His counterpart, Dan Quinn, has revealed himself as a master of the corny quip. His success has relied on his players buying in to concepts like “Brotherhood” and “Rise Up!”
Suffice to say, one of those coaches is more likely to handle questions from someone wearing a football as a mask than the other. If history is any indication, even the best-dressed reporters will have trouble getting close to Belichick or Quinn.
Media day will be held at Minute Maid Park, the Houston Astros’ park located in downtown Houston. Tickets for the event are priced at $30 for field level seats and $20 for the upper deck. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. ET.
The “Opening Night” concept was pioneered last year in Santa Clara at Super Bowl 50. 6,000 fans attended, but the larger venue will allow the NFL to double the number of fans.
It’s fair to say Devin Poolman is under a little stress these days, and it won’t let up until next Monday. Poolman is SVP, digital platforms, for Fox Sports, which will live-stream Super Bowl LI without authentication, then up the ante by adding targeted digital ad insertion for 170 of its more than 200 affiliates.
“A little bit bigger,” Poolman jokes, noting that his group has one number it’s anticipating and another, significantly larger number it’s planning for. He’s not giving either number out, but it’s up to him to ensure that the network’s streaming operations run smoothly. That’s partly why Fox will stream the game without pay-TV authentication requirements.
“There’s a little bit of tradition Super Bowl 2017 Live Stream there to go unauthenticated and a belief that the Super Bowl is an event for all NFL fans,” he explains. “We certainly believe in helping the Super Bowl reach the largest audience possible.” But, with special events like this, where scalability and reliability are critical, Fox doesn’t want to take chances with something that can cause issues — which authentication has done in the past.
Fox’s streaming workflow starts with its broadcast feed, which the online team pulls in with built-in redundancy. It encodes a mezzanine file in house, then sends that via dedicated fiber — also with built-in redundancy — to MLBAM, which will provide backend services and final encoding. From there, the file will be sent to three CDNs — Akamai, Limelight, and Level3 — for delivery.
The top resolution that Poolman’s team will receive from broadcast is 720p, so there will be no 4K or 1080p streaming this year. MLBAM will create six renditions of adaptive-bitrate HLS streams. The top rendition is 720p at 60 fps, but that will likely be withheld and used only if there are no traffic issues.
The highest rendition Poolman plans to use is 720p at 30 fps. During the game, he’ll keep an eye on quality, relying partly on third-party partner Conviva to identify congestion or other performance issues. If need be, he’ll remove the top rendition to ease the network burden.
“We’re going to be looking in particular at the Super Bowl renditions we have in service, the different profiles that we’re delivering to clients,” he says. “We’re going to be looking at the performance across CDNs to see if any particular CDN is getting unduly stressed. We’ll be following things like rebuffering rate and stream start time and errors. It can help us as we continue to manage the split between CDNs in real time.”
Fox will mark a Super Bowl streaming first when it offers custom digital ad insertions for 170 participating affiliates. Although most spots will be the same for broadcast and online — online viewers will see the same big-money national ads — online viewers will see some ads that are unique to digital and, in supported markets, ad loads specific to the affiliate.
Fox’s ad-decisioning is handled by FreeWheel’s Hybrid Linear Digital Ad-Scheduler (HyLDA) program and involves both client-side and server-side insertion. Working with new features in HyLDA, Fox creates a new caching layer for ads, which has already been tested on multiple events, including some NFL playoff games. Fox will stream to iOS, Android, Fire, Roku, Chromecast, and Xbox apps, which required updates to support the ad insertions.
In another Super Bowl streaming first, online viewers will get something broadcast viewers won’t. An hour before kickoff, viewers will be able to tune into Field Pass, a lightly produced hour showing the view from the field. Fox first offered Field Pass a few years ago for an NFL Championship game and offered it this year for the Division Championship games. Poolman hints that there might be additional online extras for game day. Wait and see.
Super Bowl Sunday won’t be a beer-and-guacamole day for Poolman, who will spend it in New York studying rebuffering rates and social-network feedback with colleagues and MLBAM partners. But he has a plan to enjoy the Super Bowl in the future.
“I’ve been advocating for a partnership between those responsible for streaming on NBC and CBS, such that we have a rotation: those who can’t Super Bowl Live Stream enjoy the Super Bowl should be able to attend in the off years,” he says. “So I could host my colleagues in Houston this year if I get an invite next year.[source]