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Four live-streaming lessons NFL can learn from cricket

September 7, 2015

Brian Morris   

Blog contributor

The NFL preseason, now over, is seen as the ultimate test run — the time for fine-tuning on both sides of the ball and evaluating rookies in live games, with no impact on win-loss records before the official season kick off on September 10.

However, I see the boldest test run for the NFL coming during the regular season — October 25 to be exact. This test run will be an opportunity to broaden the game’s global audience and signifies an evolution in how the world consumes live media.

On that day, the Buffalo Bills will face the Jacksonville Jaguars in London as part of a three game, back-to-back International Series for the NFL. Distribution rights have been sold exclusively to Yahoo!, marking the first time a regular-season NFL game will be exclusively available for live streaming globally.

There have been reports calling this live-stream an experiment, but I would argue that it’s not. This is a test run for the future. If the system fails, if there are glitches in the stream, this game will offer opportunities to make adjustments and, ultimately, deliver flawless broadcasts in the future.

As live streaming takes hold as one of the top methods of content consumption, broadcasting an event of this magnitude presents a particularly unique set of challenges, from reliability to global scalability. Think back over the past year when the world witnessed catastrophic live streaming letdowns during the Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.

So, what do organisations such as Yahoo! and the NFL need to know before plunging into the world of live streaming? For that, I’ll share a live-streaming lesson from a sport famous for tonks over touchdowns: cricket.

As one of the leading portals for on-demand and live cricket content, Cricket Nirvana was one of the first sports websites to experiment with global live streaming. Its owner, Nimbus Communications, the largest broadcast company in India, needed a strong service provider with enough global reach to match their audience. They called on Tata Communications’ content delivery network (CDN) service to sustain exponential surges in traffic while maintaining a cost-effective budget.

Based on our work with Nimbus Communications, here are four key considerations for ensuring a seamless and entertaining experience for NFL viewers around the world:

  1. Keep it close to live. Think about times you might have watched a game on a smartphone and you were a few plays behind a desktop broadcast in the background. If not handled appropriately, the processing of live-streaming video can add a significant delay across multiple devices. In our experience with streaming cricket matches, we focus on delivering live transcoding for multiple viewing formats.
  2. Increase reliability. To ensure a consistent, lag-free performance, Yahoo! and the NFL must focus on the end-user’s bandwidth availability, ensuring no compromises on performance while supporting all protocols and devices. They also need to create a fail-safe measure in case the stream goes down. Given the game will be global in nature, catering to the unique delivery demands in emerging and developed markets will be extremely essential.
  3. Maintain scalability. Great fans equal great responsibility. During NBC’s live stream of the 2015 NFL Super Bowl, 1.3 million viewers tuned in to the stream, and the most common complaint was the intense lag behind the live telecast. With an estimated 2.5 billion cricket fans around the world, traffic spikes are impossible to predict during matches, so Tata Communications has taken the necessary steps to ensure we can scale up quickly to meet viral content demands.
  4. Fans have no boundaries. There’s only one thing worse than lag, and that’s complete unavailability. Yahoo! and the NFL will need to think about positioning their content delivery strategy for growth and deliver content—in any format—to audiences both at home and abroad.

How do you plan to watch the game? Share your viewing experience in the comments section below. And if you are heading to IBC in Amsterdam (September 11-15), find us there at