While FOX Sports’ presentation of Super Bowl LI (51) on FOX Sports Go won’t be the first time it has offered a live and unauthenticated stream of the big game, it will be the first time viewers will see local advertisements as part of FOX’s Super Bowl stream. The insertion of local ads “will make commercials even more relevant for viewers and help make this year’s game even more of a personal experience for every fan,” said FOX Sports President, COO and Executive Producer Eric Shanks in the announcement.
To learn more about the technology and innovation behind the Super Bowl LI live stream on Sunday, Feb. 5, we spoke with Clark Pierce, SVP of TV Everywhere and Special Projects at FOX Sports; and Devin Poolman, SVP of Digital Platforms at FOX Sports.
The differences between Super Bowl LI and Super Bowl XLVIII
FOX Sports live streamed Super Bowl XLVIII (48) in 2014 on FOX Sports GO, but the product has evolved since then. While Super Bowl XLVIII was available on iPads, Android tablets and PCs, Super Bowl LI will be available on iPads, Android tablets, PCs, Amazon tablets, Microsoft Surface devices, Windows 10 PCs and connected devices (e.g., Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and Xbox).
FOX Sports GO also has seen improvements to its overall performance and stability, which is resulting in longer user sessions.
The biggest difference between the Super Bowl XLVIII live stream and the Super Bowl LI live stream, of course, will be the insertion of local ads in this year’s stream.
About the local ads
“We will replace the linear TV ads with digitally served ads for both national and local ad inventory,” Clark said. “For Super Bowl XLVIII, we ran separate national ads in FOX Sports GO and did not support local station ad insertion. For Super Bowl LI, we’re working with 170 of our local affiliates to serve their local ads.”
The insertion of live ads into the Super Bowl LI live stream, a first for a Super Bowl streamed by FOX Sports GO, will be seamless for viewers.
“This is a big technical effort involving several internal groups as well as a few of our partners,” Clark said. “We have over 200 FOX affiliates around the country, and 170 have uploaded local ads for us to traffic for viewers in their markets. This is a big deal.”
Inserting local ads in FOX NOW vs. the Super Bowl live stream
“Fundamentally, FOX Sports GO and FOX NOW support local affiliate dynamic ad insertion in a similar fashion, but we’ve put a unique configuration and workflow in place to help handle the unique scale of the Super Bowl,” Devin said.
This includes custom caching configurations for each affiliate and pushing each ad to three content delivery network (CDN) partners ahead of the game. This unique ad configuration also ensures that live stream viewers will get an ad experience that closely matches the one in the linear broadcast for both national and local ads.
“This is a big win for viewers not wanting to miss out on the great TV ads,” Devin added.
Preparation and execution
Planning for the insertion of local ads into the live stream for Super Bowl LI started nearly a year ago. Since then, there have been many cycles of testing.
“We are expecting a streaming audience that is multiples higher than even Game 7 of the World Series, so we also do load testing against the platform to better understand scale and capacity,” Devin said.
The results of the load testing will inform expectations for streaming traffic, which will be handled by a combination of pre-scaling and smart auto-scaling across the FSGO platform. During the big game, the stream and delivery metrics will be actively monitored to ensure the best viewing experience is delivered.
A big year for FOX Sports GO
The upcoming Super Bowl live stream kicks off 2017 in a big way and builds on an achievement-filled 2016 for FOX Sports GO. Last year’s highlights include:
- A 349 percent increase in streams
- A 540 percent increase in minutes streamed
- A 243 percent increase in unique streams
- Game 7 of the World Series, FOX Sports GO’s first authenticated live stream event to tally over 1 million unique streamers
In 2017, FOX Sports GO will stream regional and national MLB coverage and tentpole events like the U.S. Open and two major soccer tournaments (the FIFA Confederations Cup and the CONCACAF Gold Cup).
“We’re always busy at FOX Sports GO,” Clark said.
Go to FOXSportsGO.com to see what’s currently live streaming. The Super Bowl stream on Sunday, Feb. 5, will not require users to enter their pay TV credentials for viewing.