If setting the TV to CBS to watch Super Bowl LIII wasn't an option, American football fans could still tune in through other services. But as viewers found out the hard way, some proved less reliable than others.

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During the biggest US sports event of the year, and what is possibly one of the most watched broadcast events, some viewers reported glitchy streams that dropped the game altogether, apps that crashed forcing them to restart their devices, and unresponsive services that acted up at the most inopportune time - in the final minutes of the match.

In statements to The Washington Post on Monday, CBS and ROKU said, "A subset of Roku users experienced intermittent issues with the CBS Sports app during the last few minutes of the game."


Football fans, as one might expect, described the situation in more dire terms on Twitter.

Among the reported issues was a repeatedly crashing app that never seemed to correct itself, with desperate fans trying to reconnect and catch the game's final moments.

CBS and Roku did not say how many users faced technical problems.

On the bright side, fans left in the dark didn't miss all that much, according to coverage of the game, which was the lowest scoring Super Bowl in history and featured a halftime show that critics have characterised as forgettable.

Nielsen is expected to release Super Bowl ratings figures Monday afternoon.

How streaming services boosted the NFL's viewership remains a key question, as the league's games have seen declining audiences until this year.

In addition to the shifting demands of an increasingly cord-cutting population, the ratings slide of the NFL has also come amid players protesting police brutality and racial injustice, questions about player safety, and President Trump's criticism of the league. He has urged his supporters to boycott the NFL in response to player protests.

But this year may have marked a turning point in viewership, with spectacular play - record-breaking scoring and historically closer games - boosting audience numbers.


According to the NFL, average viewership for regular season football games has increased 5 per cent over last year. Every network that broadcast games saw bigger audiences. And 46 out of the 50 most-watched shows on TV this season were NFL games.

The Super Bowl game was televised on CBS and was available to watch on CBS Sports's website and through the CBS Sports app.

Spark's burden

The collapse of Super Bowl streams served as another stern warning to Spark that delivering glitch-free stream of a major sporting event is easier said than done.

Last year, Spark acquired the rights to broadcast the 2019 Rugby World Cup, promising to deliver the content via an online streaming platform.

However, recent events in the sporting world do not inspire confidence that everything will flow as smoothly as Spark hopes it will.

In addition to the recent NFL streaming mishap, Optus also provoked the ire of Australian football fans during the FIFA World Cup when the stream died during the Socceroos opening match in Russia.

Spark managing director Simon Moutter previously told the Herald that the Spark team visited Optus in Australia after the World Cup meltdown and learned a lot about what went wrong.

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Spark is also working on a number of contingency plans that will come into effect, should its streaming service collapse in the middle of a game.

Moutter has not been explicit on the details of this plan, but it will likely involve Spark's broadcast partner TVNZ stepping in to offer standard TV coverage.

Spark will hope it doesn't come to that.

- Additional reporting from Washington Post