Facebook Declared Winner in Presidential Debate Streams


The final U.S. presidential debate is over, and we can declare a hands-down winner: Facebook. No, the platform didn’t throw itself into the ring as a candidate for office. But it did clearly display that it’s able to deliver what the people want, when they want it—streaming that’s faster than cable or satellite broadcasts.

This is the year of unprecedented firsts when it comes to the election—including how the candidates are leveraging streaming media to reach citizens. So while many people tuned in to evaluate the two major parties’ options for president, the team at Wowza was evaluating the live streams of the debate.

The team’s methodology used an over-the-air (OTA) stream—NPR’s radio broadcast—as a benchmark for comparison, and compared satellite, cable, and Internet streams to determine the number of seconds of latency across various broadcasts. This included comparisons of Facebook, Twitter, Fox News, CNN, NBC’s YouTube feed, PBS’s YouTube feed, Bloomberg, and Reuters.Tv. Each of these streams was compared using Windows and Mac laptops, as well as iOS and Android smartphones.

Almost 300,000 concurrent viewers chose to watch the candidates spew vitriol on Facebook Live. And the service didn’t even bat an eye with lag, stability, or quality issues. Facebook delivered its stream with an average 10-second delay compared to the NPR radio broadcast benchmark. However, when comparing against the satellite and cable feeds, the Facebook feed was often faster than the traditional broadcast signal.

On average, cable TV showed a 12-second delay and satellite neared 20 seconds behind the radio. Notably Reuters.tv, a Wowza customer, aired just 27 seconds behind NPR. The overall slowest stream was from Bloomberg; it averaged 56 seconds of latency, and in some cases took over two minutes to buffer before finally delivering the high-latency stream.

Latency, much like a candidate’s personal or professional history, cannot be ignored. With Facebook delivering live content faster than traditional broadcasters are, the cable and satellite providers have to be concerned. After all, when streams are delivering identical content, audiences will consistently turn to the source that gets the content to them first.

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