Live sports streaming frustrates fans

Yankee outfielder Aaron Judge has tied Babe Ruth at 60 home runs, and is one long ball away from tying Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 in a single season.

Why it matters: While he’s chasing baseball history, fans Friday night must have Apple TV+ to see it — a situation which has not only caused a bit of drama in the New York market, but also illuminates the messy realities of watching sports through streaming.

Catch up quick: Streaming services are snapping up larger pieces of the sports landscape, and increasingly larger games.

  • But as it does so, it’s turned a traditional “turn on the tube and watch” experience into one that involves multiple apps, reliable internet service and a memory stable enough to keep track of which games are playing where on any given day.
  • It also presents limitations on where — and how — fans can watch and interact with games.

State of play: Most bars and restaurants don’t have streaming services on their TVs, which would require upgrading their video systems.

  • When Amazon Prime won exclusive rights to stream NFL Thursday Night Football for $13 billion, it also signed a deal with DirecTV to carry it to its business customers, muting an outcry from bars around the country.
  • At home, the need to download various apps — let alone stream them through televisions — has frustrated less tech-savvy fans, and in some cases made it impossible for them to watch.

The big picture: Latency — or the delay in getting live action to screens — is one of the biggest hurdles for streaming.

  • A traditional cable broadcast will typically deliver game action to a viewer’s screen in 6 to 15 seconds. Live sports streaming, by contrast, can take 45 – 60 seconds — in some cases even a couple of minutes, according to MediaKind.
  • That delay is enough for fans to hear about a big play over text or social media before seeing it on their screen.
  • It also means the same game could be streaming out-of-sync at the various TVs in the same establishment.
  • Meanwhile, streaming’s delays can present problems for the growing number of fans making fast, in-game bets.

Pete’s thought bubble: Apple TV+’s fortunate timing in having this game tonight is a huge win for the company — exactly the kind of moment that it needs to attract a national audience (and to drive app downloads).

  • But it also puts Apple on the national stage at a time when live sports streaming might not be quite ready.

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