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Fiasco For Sky’s Now TV As Service Fails First Major OTT Test

by David Mercer | 4月 08, 2013

Live televised football games don’t come much bigger than the top two teams in the English Premier League facing off at 8pm on a Monday night. Sky’s over-the-top TV service, Now TV, chose this game to offer 5000 free day passes (normal price £9.99) as a promotional tool.

I settled down at 7.45 having claimed my free voucher earlier in the day, with some very friendly assistance from Now TV’s online chat service (I had tried to use the voucher via the Xbox app but it wasn’t enabled so I was charged the full amount – I have been offered a refund).

Initially video quality was surprisingly good (I had heard that video quality on the recent Now TV Sky Sports trial was not entirely satisfactory). The main problem tonight was lip sync: audio was running ahead of video markedly for both studio and advertising material. But that’s not a problem you’ll notice for live sports so everything was looking good…

… until 7.55pm when my Xbox app shut down the video and presented an error message. After several attempts to restart the service the error message kept appearing. Checks at www.xbox.com/status suggested Xbox had resolved earlier problems at 7.35pm with Now TV but clearly that wasn’t the case. That message had disappeared by 8.30pm and Xbox claimed the Now TV app is “up and running”. I supposed that is true because the app opens. It just won’t run any video.

Checking Twitter it appears Now TV acknowledged problems specific to the Xbox app which they have tried to resolve. But there is a steady stream of complaints from Now TV users about the service failing, on multiple devices, including users who have paid £9.99 for the service and are demanding refunds. There are also reports that users of other Now TV channels (eg movies) are seeing a deterioration in service.

At 8.43pm Now TV’s Community Manager posted the following comment on the community notice board:

“We’re really sorry, but we have been experiencing some issues this evening which will obviously have impacted your viewing of NOW TV.

“As a result, we’ll be issuing a full refund tomorrow to all customers who had an active Sky Sports Day Pass during this time, and will email you to confirm this has happened.

“For those of you using a free pass, we will be contacting you with another free pass for you to use at any time.”

As I write at 9pm the stream of complaints on Twitter continues. This looks like being a major publicity disaster for Sky’s Now TV service. I will try to get official explanation of events in the morning. In the meantime this fiasco is confirmation that OTT TV is a long way from prime time when it comes to live sports, which was always going to be the most challenging genre, even when major powerhouses like BSkyB are behind it.

David Mercer

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