Super Bowl 50 was a milestone for several reasons, one of them being the actual delivery of the game. The big game was offered via live stream on CBSsports.com, which gave viewers the opportunity to watch on practically any device including laptops, tablets, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, and Xbox One.

This obviously wasn’t the first time the game was available to view over the Internet, however it is the first time that commercials were aired live on the stream, which could be a game-changer for both CBS and advertisers. Airing commercials live over the stream makes paying for ad space even more enticing to advertisers, who are willing to pay as much as $5 million for one 30-second cable slot.

At first, this would appear to be great news for CBS because it adds more value to the already coveted ad spaces, however this also adds an entire avenue of risk associated with the stream, which piques the interest of web performance aficionados like us.

The Potential to Fail

We’ve preached about the importance of delivering great online customer experiences many times before, but very rarely has the customer experience been the actual product. But that is exactly the case when a high of 15.5 million people are all viewing the same program at the same time. A total of 3.96 million unique viewers can be attributed to the CBS live stream, which is a significant increase over last year’s reported 1.3 million on NBC. If live stream viewership increases year over year, the high traffic volume has the potential to create major performance problems if the network isn’t properly prepared.

Performance is also a big factor in SLA management. It hasn’t been confirmed if any of the advertisers had an SLA with CBSsports.com regarding the live stream performance, but if they did (and it’s pretty likely), the network stands to lose a lot of money if they can’t meet the service levels.

It’s safe to assume that all service levels were met this year, but it’ll be interesting to see how the network will hold up if the live stream with ads continues each year, and if viewership begins to shift even more towards it. An increase in viewership may lead to an increase in advertisers, which could make maintaining service levels more of a challenge. Regardless, CBS did a near perfect job this year in delivering the stream without any major failures or outages, making performance a priority and their customer experience the product.