March Madness: How to stop streaming errors during games

March Madness: How to stop streaming errors during games

TV Answer Man, I tried to watch the March Madness games tonight (Tuesday) and they were a mess on streaming. I tried Sling and March Madness Live and they both had a lot of buffering and freezing. Do you have any tips on how to fix this? — Adam, Evanston, Illinois.

Adam, March Madness, the annual men’s college basketball tournament, kicked off last night with a doubleheader from Dayton, Ohio, and I’ve already received several reader posts about the poor streaming quality of March Madness Live and/or live streaming services.

While it seems like most people had little to no issues (I personally found no issues with the stream on Sling), buffering and freezing of images can be an occasional occurrence when watching a live streaming service, especially during a high set event as a March Madness game. You’ll be watching a game or show when the image will suddenly freeze and a small spinning wheel will appear in the middle of the screen. Or sometimes the image will just freeze or pixelate for several seconds or longer.

The cause of the problems?

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The Internet. It’s not exactly an ideal infrastructure for delivering live video. If the speed of your home network drops below the minimum required for a consistent image, it can cause image buffering (aka the dreaded spinning wheel). And if the streaming service has a temporary delay on one of its servers, that could cause it.

Welcome to the joys of streaming.

Fortunately, live streaming services have improved their delivery systems in recent years, so it’s less noticeable than it used to be. (Home Internet services have also increased in speed and efficiency.) But it remains a problem.

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If your stream is consistently corrupted by buffering or freezing, try the following steps to fix the problem:

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1. Update the app
Web developers often issue software upgrades, so you’ll want to make sure your app has the latest update. Using an app that is not up-to-date can trigger a number of performance issues. You can check if an update has been posted in the Google Play Store on your Android device, or the iTunes Store on your Apple device.

2. Get a better Internet service
Some cost-conscious consumers use their mobile Hotspots to stream video instead of paying for Internet service from a cable or telecom company. However, the speed of a hotspot can vary widely depending on how much data you’ve used (companies throttle your speed if you exceed preset limits) or the number of people using the hotspot. If your stream consistently freezes or stutters, you may want to upgrade to a better Internet service. And if you already have a cable or telecom subscription, you may need to upgrade to a faster one.

3. Test your Internet speed
Which brings us to step #3. Many streaming services say you need a minimum download speed of 10Mbps to get a consistent picture. (That’s 25 Mbps for 4K programming.) That doesn’t mean your Internet plan delivers speeds up to 10 Mbps; that means it has an average of 10 Mbps and above. You can test your service’s speed on a number of sites, such as Netflix’s

4. Restart the device
Whether it’s a mobile device, or a streaming set-top like Roku, technology products sometimes stop based on data overload or other issues. Try resetting the device by turning it off and/or unplugging it for 30 seconds. Then turn it back on and wait for it to connect to the Internet again. A simple reset will often resolve any buffering issues.

5. Try another device
If the reset didn’t fix the problem, try watching the game on another device in your household to see if it also buffers. If it does, the problem is probably with the Internet or the streamer’s servers. If it doesn’t, the problem is probably with the first unit.

6. Try a wired connection
If you notice that the streaming picture still has frequent hiccups, you may want to try connecting the Internet cable directly to whatever device you’re using to stream to your TV. (Note: You can also do this with your computer.) You can do this by running a Ethernet cable from the Internet modem to power unit.

So how can you tell if the signal is stronger with the direct Ethernet connection? Most streaming devices have a feature that allows you to test the speed of your Internet connection.

Go to the player’s menu and look for an internet speed test feature. Try it a few times with the wireless connection and then a few times with the direct Ethernet connection. The higher the number, the faster the signal.

If there is a dramatic difference in speed between the two, the direct connection may be the way to go, especially if you notice that your image seems more consistent. I won’t guarantee that it will end the buffering for good, but the faster speed will certainly keep those annoying interruptions to a minimum.

7. Ask everyone to log off
If other people in your home are using the same network, you can ask them to temporarily pause their activity. This will allocate as much bandwidth as possible for streaming the games.

Do you have questions about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at [email protected] Please include your first name and hometown in the message.

-Philip Swann

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