World Cup streaming: Why BBC iPlayer and ITV live feeds are delayed online – explained

iPlayer and ITV Hub are up to two minutes behind TV coverage

Anthony Cuthbertson
Monday 18 June 2018 18:08
World Cup Opening Ceremony

Online viewers of the FIFA World Cup have found themselves lagging behind people watching TV by some time.

World cup viewers in the UK have noted that games being broadcast through BBC iPlayer or ITV's website are up to two minutes behind the actual coverage.

This means online viewers often learn about goals or other major events in the game through social media first.

While it may be frustrating, this is true for all live online streaming compared to a live TV broadcast, and there is more latency in the process.

This is because online streaming content has a longer way to travel than that of live television broadcasts.

For example, a game playing on BBC iPlayer needs to come from the venue, to the broadcaster, then to the content delivery network and then to the home.

TV broadcasts, on the other hand, skip the content delivery network part of the process and so it’s inherently faster.

Content delivery networks are a system of distributed computer servers that deliver web pages and other online content to internet users.

It is something that has been noted by online viewers before, such as during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea earlier this year.

The issue has even meant that some people have missed the countdown for New Year's day.

All of the World Cup's 64 matches will be shown on either ITV or BBC, both of which will also stream them online. This year, the BBC will stream in 4K for the first time – though only to a select group of viewers.

Fortunately, as a BBC spokesperson told The Independent, the issue may soon be a thing of the past.

“Currently, live broadcast coverage is quicker to get to people’s homes than coverage streamed live over the internet," the spokesperson said.

"There are many factors that affect this but, at the moment, live online video goes through a process that introduces greater latency when compared to the more direct TV broadcast. While this is normal today, innovation in online streaming technology is driving continuing improvements, including reducing the delay.”

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