Paramount Plus Super Bowl fail proves why sports is a big problem for cord-cutters

Paramount Plus logo
(Image credit: Future)

Super Bowl 2024 has come and gone and this year, and there's a good chance you used a streaming service or cable alternative to watch the big game. And if you used Paramount Plus, there's a chance that Jake Moody's missed PAT isn't the only thing that caused you to yell out the TV.

That's because a lot of people reported having issues with Paramount Plus live-streaming the Super Bowl. Sean Keeley from Awful Announcing even reported that they gave up on watching the game on their TV because of Paramount Plus, opting to watch the rest of the Chief's victory on a laptop — though that still managed to have a fair amount of issues.

And they weren't alone. A basic search on Twitter (X) produced plenty of complaints of buffering issues, glitches and more problems that rendered the game unwatchable.

Unfortunately, I have bad news. This, while disappointing, shouldn't necessarily be a shock. By the very nature of bandwidth concerns, server requirements and other aspects of the very technical side of streaming live sports, these Super Bowl woes are just further evidence that cord-cutting isn't necessarily the optimal way to watch live sports. 

Paramount Plus isn't alone in streaming struggles

Super Bowl 2024 streaming service lag times provided by Phenix.

(Image credit: Phenix)

While Paramount Plus didn't exactly cover itself in glory based on the online outcry, it's not alone in having streaming issues. Just about every streaming service or cable TV alternative suffers from outages or transmission issues at some point or another, several of which we've reported on in the past.

This is the fifth year we’ve conducted our Super Bowl latency study, and unfortunately nothing has changed - the industry has yet to catch up with consumer demand to provide a real-time experience.

Roy Reichbach, CEO of Phenix

And that's not even the only concern — you also need to account for lag time. Phenix, a company that focuses on "delivering interactive video" provided us with some streaming lag time data and the results are eyebrow-raising, even though streaming services lagging behind live events is a relatively well-known fact at this point.

Shockingly, Paramount Plus was one of the better cord-cutting options when it came to lag times, though that's small consolation for those who couldn't even get the service to work. It had a lag time of just 42.76 seconds, well ahead of me watching on YouTube TV (55.54 seconds) or even watching on cable, which suffered delays ranging from 50.40 to 79.92 seconds behind real-time.

For his part, Phenix CEO Roy Reichbach doesn't think you should expect streaming to get noticeably better when it comes to lag in live sports streaming. "This is the fifth year we’ve conducted our Super Bowl latency study, and unfortunately nothing has changed - the industry has yet to catch up with consumer demand to provide a real-time experience."

Solution — buy a TV antenna for live sports

Cord-cutters shouldn't start searching for local cable providers just yet — though Verizon Fios and its mere 29-second lag time is intriguing. As someone who is a cord cutter, I greatly prefer my experience with YouTube TV to my past experiences with cable and Fios. Between the price, features like multiview and catching up to live with key plays, there's a lot to like about using the cable alternative even with lag times and occasional streaming issues.

Besides, for at least some games, there is a workaround for cord-cutters to ensure you don't suffer from lag times — buy a TV antenna for live sports.

Even if the problems with streaming sports will always be there — and they will — I'd rather have the benefits of a streaming service or cable alternative than have cable and still suffer from lag time.

Yes, those antennas that you thought were gone the way of the dodo? They're still around, and you can get them for indoors or outdoors. The newer models look a bit sleeker than their predecessors, to say the least, though they're not necessarily cheap. Our top-rated TV antenna, the Mohu Leaf Supreme Pro, will set you back $69.

Still, these antennas are growing in popularity for watching games that are broadcast over the air like the Super Bowl. According to Phenix CMO Jed Corenthal, these antennas are "making a comeback in 2024" as people get sick of the lag time and issues inherent in streaming live sports.

So if you're a cord-cutter and this Super Bowl has you ready to consider cable again, consider an antenna first. I personally am fine with how using a cable alternative has been for me but I'd gladly pay up for a TV antenna before going back to cable TV. Even if the problems with streaming sports will always be there — and they will — I'd rather have the benefits of a streaming service or cable alternative than have cable and still suffer from lag time.

More from Tom's Guide

Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.

  • Random_Tech_Guy
    I agree that streaming sports is bad, but for different reasons. In general the video quality is poor, with low resolution, blurring and stuttering. I'd be interseted in more info & discussion of which services (if any) provide better video quality.

    IMHO a modest amount of latency (perhaps less than 1min?) by itself is not particularly a problem.
  • Phyllostachys
    Not a tech guy and don't play one on TV. Part of buffering issue might be Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP — known as DASH for short. You can disable DASH support, but then some high quality options will be ignored by the HTML5 players. This is due to high memory requirement of these streams. Basically loading the entire video on high quality (like 1080p) requires too much memory. I know that those new Tablos have a single h.264 video stream at one bitrate, but I've not really looked into one of those since I'm not a sports fan. Not sure if the antenna thing would be a good solution either since from what I understand the whole ATSC 3.0 thing is still up in the air and some stations are implementing DRM on the signals.
  • Lehjr
    It wasn’t just streaming. Spectrum had issues with the Super Bowl even over traditional cable and it’s not their first time. It’s important to consider that traditional cable is going away leaving streaming or an antenna as the only 2 viable options.
  • Aggrophobic
    Never had an issue watching sports through Youtube TV, Paramount +, Peacock or ESPN +.

    I have never had a situation where part of the game was missed due to buffering issues - so that's new. Didn't happen to me though, I watched via CBS on Youtube TV.

    Obviously if you start streaming any content - not just sports - on multiple devices, there is always going to be at least a second or two difference between each of them. There's absolutely nothing that can prevent that, no matter how fast your connection is or how low your lag is between the device, your router, possibly a cable modem and then your provider.

    Personally I find the ability to watch when and were I want, with DVR controls, pausing when needed and the overall lower cost far outweighs tiny inconveniences like a few seconds delay. At least 1/2 the games I watch aren't live anyway - I'm not getting up at 5am on a Saturday to watch Liverpool. I'm going to watch that on demand in my own time. And I'm not going to try to watch European games mid-week during my lunch, I'll wait until I get home.

    It is possible to not look at social media or sports websites for a few hours. You'd be surprised at how painless it is, plus bonus, you get to do something worthwhile with your time instead.
  • Ancient_Mariner
    Because I have 4K capability on my Internet and TV, I chose to watch the Super Bowl on Paramount+. You Tube TV wanted an additional $4.95 per month to watch their streams at 4K. I suffered the identified glitches and lost pause and rewind capabilities on P+ so I returned to YTtv and forgo any 4K viewing experience for the Super Bowl.