Twitter Live Stream of ‘Thursday Night Football’ Reveals Delay-of-Game Flaw
In the debut of an N.F.L. plan to live stream “Thursday Night Football” games on Twitter, the entire experience could have benefited from an accompanying #spoilers hashtag, as the instantaneous nature of Twitter ran headfirst into the speed-related flaws still inherent in streaming video.
It was a Week 2 matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Jets that drew the first Twitter simulcast, and in perhaps the most stark example of the biggest flaw, the flood of posts coming in about Revis Island having become a welcoming resort for wide receivers started several minutes before the accompanying video showed Marquise Goodwin streaking down the field past a stumbling Darrelle Revis for an 84-yard touchdown.
The video quality was high, but as soon as the stream went live, fans noted how delayed the action was compared with the broadcast on CBS.
The disparity in the speed of posts by fans and the Twitter video itself was immediately mocked by a user who goes by @griebin, who said: “Coming in crystal clear but should be interesting to see the delayed twitter reaction. On twitter.”
Another user, who goes by @RyanG73, noted that various devices were at different levels of delay, saying, “Dude sitting next to me is watching and his stream is 3-4 seconds faster than mine so this is awkward.”
The experiment by the N.F.L. will involve 10 “Watch Thursday Night Football” games simulcast between NFL Network, Twitter and either CBS or NBC, depending on the week. The move will test whether live sports, often cited as a reason for prospective cable-cutters to stay connected, can thrive in an environment that is slightly less real-time.
“This is about transforming the fan experience with football,” Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter, said in a joint statement with the N.F.L. in April. “People watch N.F.L. games with Twitter today. Now they’ll be able to watch right on Twitter.”
When fans arrived at TNF.twitter.com, using computers, cellphones and supported devices like Apple TV and Xbox, they were delivered a streaming video along with a running list of tweets that served as a chat room.
A common complaint among people using the chat function was that there was no option to view their personal Twitter news feed alongside the video. But the conversation continued all night, moving in waves, from pregame debate about whether to start Bills receiver Sammy Watkins in fantasy football leagues, to discussion of the video quality, to expressions of sympathy for Jets receiver Brandon Marshall when he went down hard after a big hit in the second quarter.
Viewers posting comments on the chat often noted where they were watching the stream, with some saying they were on planes or trains or, in a disturbing reality for employers on the West Coast, their offices.
Twitter and the N.F.L. will get a shot at improving the service next week when the Houston Texans travel to New England to face the Patriots and the Tom Brady substitute Jimmy Garoppolo. The open questions are whether the N.F.L. can close the gap in timing, and whether fans, receiving a high-quality video for free, will care.