It’s no secret that the Super Bowl is one of the largest and most anticipated live sporting events in the country. And Super Bowl LVIII is already breaking ticket price records as the reigning Kansas City Chiefs go up against the San Francisco 49ers in a rematch of 2020. The game, which will be broadcast on CBS and streamed on Paramount+, is also likely to break streaming records, as a growing audience watches the NFL games online. Music fans will be tuning in to see Taylor Swift root on her beau, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, as well as the halftime show headlined by Usher, who will be releasing new music for the first time since 2016.

In 2021 when Paramount+ launched, George Cheeks, who led CBS Entertainment Group at that time, told Fast Company: “Paramount+ will be the leader in live sports. Bottom line, everything sports fans love on CBS . . . all of this will be available on Paramount+.” Since then, the platform has only continued to grow its live sports offerings. (Paramount+, which streams live CBS local-market NFL games, earned its most-streamed NFL regular season ever, recording double-digit year-on-year growth.) The result of these efforts will be on display for all to see on February 11.

Vibol Hou, chief technology officer at Paramount Streaming, is the one spearheading the technological efforts to ensure everything goes smoothly on the big day. Hou spoke with Fast Company about what goes into preparation for streaming a game as large as the Super Bowl and how Paramount+ is working to stay ahead of the competition amid the shifting landscape of the streaming era. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you take us through some of the preparation that goes into the Super Bowl live stream?

There are over 500 team members across five offices around the United States that are all working together to ensure that everything goes smoothly from the cameras in the field, game day operations in the control rooms going out to the trucks, and where the handoff goes [from the broadcast] to us in streaming. We’re all working together to make sure that the stream that’s coming from the field is making its way into our customers homes—and doing so in fashion so our customers have a great time viewing the game without buffering.

One of the things we’re introducing in this Super Bowl [broadcast] is an HDR [High Dynamic Range] signal, which is something that enables us to transmit more color from the field than we otherwise would be able to. We’re expecting that to make the game look better on the screen. It took quite a lift from all of our teams to be able to work through to get that signal to all of our customers through our Paramount+ applications. So we’ll be transmitting some very good picture on game day. It certainly brings a whole other dimension into the living room. The game is a real live game, so we’re making sure all of the colors of the game make it through to the house, and I think that’s a vital part of the experience.

What’s the game plan for avoiding technical difficulties during the live stream?

As with all broadcasts, there are many control rooms that are in operation on game day.  On our side, we call them war rooms because we’ve got team members on site monitoring a plethora of dashboards, monitoring all of the network feeds, monitoring the bandwidth, all of our concurrency numbers, and other things to ensure we are aware of anything that could happen. We’re able to react in real time as the games are happening, so that is something we are doing for the Super Bowl. We do that for many games, but this is a special occasion. We have several war rooms that are set up in San Francisco, Burbank, New York, and other areas of the country to help us monitor and react to the things that are happening on the ground.

[We’re also doing something else] that doesn’t often happen for general games. Normally the internet is first come, first serve. Everyone comes through those pipes, you get your data as it comes through. But we get a place in line if we reserved capacity so all of our programming for game day for the Super Bowl is going to get first dibs in terms of making its way through to households. Through that effort, we are working to ensure that customers have the best experience they can on game day without those issues.

There’s a lot of research showing that younger consumers are moving toward streaming and away from broadcast cable. Is that what you’re seeing?

Customers want choice. They want flexibility. I think something worth mentioning is that you can watch the Super Bowl on your mobile phone. With terrestrial broadcast cable, you actually have to sit in the living room. For Gen Zers, like the younger audiences that are more accustomed to watching via phones, it’s available to them through that medium.

Is there a difference in what goes into bringing the Super Bowl live stream on a customer’s phone as opposed to large-screen TVs?

We actually have systems that ensure that we’re routing the best quality signal. We have streams that are purpose-built for different devices so that we’re maximizing the capability of the device. It’s not exactly one stream for everything. If we did that then a mobile phone that has limited bandwidth through the cellular networks might experience a little bit more buffering than normal.

Is there anything about this year’s Super Bowl in particular that you think will make this stream special?

I would say, every year that we’ve done football games, the amount of viewership that shows up to these games, through our streaming platform, is just continuing to smash records. The Chiefs and Ravens game was one of our most streamed live events ever on Paramount+, and we expect the Super Bowl to smash that record.

One more feature that we’ve introduced to help our customers really enjoy the game is what we call Key Moments Highlights. So if someone misses a key play and they have to step away, they’re able to come back and watch that highlight. Or if, for some unfortunate circumstance, someone started the game late, they’ll be able to catch up through all the key highlights up until the live gameplay. So we’re looking forward to seeing how our customers enjoy that feature.

Live-sports streaming is predicted to grow even bigger this year. How is Paramount+ planning to stay ahead of competitors?

Live sports has been the top driver for subscriptions for us for a very long time now, so I suppose everyone’s trying to get in the game that we are quite familiar with ourselves. We have a leg up on that because we have a lot more experience figuring out how to weave the experience between live sports and the content that we show on our platform. One of the features that we’ve introduced is what we call our live end-card capability. At the end of the game, what we would do is go back and show our customers a piece of content. Now, if it’s a new customer, we’re going to show them Halo because we’re launching season two of Halo, a very exciting franchise for us. If it’s an existing customer, we actually offer up a recommendation based on our customers’ viewing patterns and what we believe our customers want to see. It’s part of how we see the future of our experiences: weaving together content so that customers are able to lean back and enjoy what we have on their service, and we’re going to see a lot more of that in the future.

There are two groups in our organization that cooperate to build the things that you see: Our product and technology group is responsible for tech, but we’ve recently combined the product and tech organizations. One of the things that we’re going to take a look at is doubling down on how we weave experiences together—within Paramount+, within and across Paramount+ and Pluto TV. By the way, Pluto TV has a Super Bowl Classics Channel that’s been running 24/7 playing every single Super Bowl, from Super Bowl III all the way through to LVII. So it’s a one-two punch going out the door for us. We’re setting up for a pretty big game.

Super Bowl LVIII airs on Saturday, February 11 on CBS and Paramount+.

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