This Chicken Little-esque response comes after the Final Four matchup between Kentucky and Wisconsin pulled in the most viewers in the history of Final Four games. As a result, somewhere between 1000-2000 of Sling TV’s viewers lost their streams for a few moments.
Since then, Sling TV has apologized via Twitter and started making moves to ensure they are ready for massive traffic next time (which will likely be the HBO NOW premier of Game of Thrones season 5). They’re updating software and setting things up so that they automatically switch to a backup provider when traffic spikes.
We’re sorry some basketball fans saw errors tonight due to extreme sign-ups and streaming. Engineers rebalanced load across network partners
— Sling Answers (@slinganswers) April 5, 2015
Still, it wasn’t enough to prevent a flood of articles swearing that you should hold onto your cable subscriptions because internet streaming can’t handle big live events.
I’d like to cry media sensationalism.
One such example is the Wired article, “The Internet’s Clearly Not Ready to Stream Big TV Events.” The article discusses the problems Sling had, also pointing out similar issues ABC had when streaming the Oscars and HBO GO had with the season 4 premiere of Game of Thrones.
However, the truth is that many huge live events have already successfully streamed online. For example:
- Wrestlemania 31–1.3 million people watched a live stream of Wrestlemania 31 via the WWE Network, an event that broke pretty much every previous Wrestlemania record.
- Superbowl XLIX—The 2015 Big Game also found approximately 1.3 million people streaming via NBC’s website.
- 2012 Summer Olympics–The Summer Olympics boasted over 159 million streams and no reported issues.
- 2015 MLB Opening Day—In a recent press release, MLBAM announced that they successfully “delivered a record-setting 60 million live and on-demand video streams to baseball fans on Opening Day,” a 60 percent increase from the previous year (Incidentally, MLBAM powers HBO NOW, HBO’s new streaming service).
- The Royal Wedding–During the royal wedding, YouTube ran smoothly as 72 million people watched the royal nuptials.
If you’re going to ask if live streaming is ready for big events, you’ve got to lay out all the facts.
Now to be fair, the article does mention the first two successful streams, but it quickly glosses over them to return to quotes like “frequent flame-outs make it hard to embrace,” and “You’d just as soon buy a shovel that disappears whenever a blizzard passes through,” and “live streaming’s going to remain a dead end.”
I think the title, along with these statements, are a big stretch. And I’m not just picking on this one article–there were countless out there. Just do a quick Google search to see for yourself.
The technology for live streaming big events is there, as evidenced by all the successes mentioned above. Newer streaming services just have to work things out early on to make sure they’re properly equipped to handle the traffic.
Is Cord Cutting STILL the Way of TV’s Future? (Spoiler: Yes, Live Streaming is Ready!)
They’re called growing pains. Everyone goes through them. But does one small hiccup prove that a company can’t hack it? Absolutely not. You live and you learn. Just ask Sling TV, who is upgrading their system in preparation for Sundays big Game of Thrones event.
So is live streaming ready to take on TV’s biggest events? Can companies like Sling TV and HBO NOW really replace cable? Yes, I believe so. And I think the premiere of Game of Thrones season 5 will prove it. Of course, you can find out for yourself–just sign up for the free 7-day Sling TV trial and see how it goes.