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YouTube TV Goes Down, But Live Streaming Goes On

News Analysis
YouTube TV yesterday suffered an outage during a World Cup game between England and Croatia, leaving subscribers unable to watch the semi-final contest, which was won by Croatia, 2-1.

The live streaming service apologized for the interruption which lasted much of the second half.

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“Hey everyone. Sincere apologies for streaming issues with YouTube TV. The timing is horrible but we’re working to be up and running again ASAP!” YouTube TV’s customer service team wrote on Twitter.

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As longtime readers here know, this is not uncommon with a live stream, particularly during an event that is watched by a relatively large number of people, such as the World Cup.

Other live streaming services such as DIRECTV Now, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and Hulu Live have also suffered frequent technical problems during such popular programs as the Academy Awards, the Super Bowl, World Series and Game of Thrones. And YouTube TV was hit with an outage in May during the NBA Playoffs.

But it’s not just the big events that give live streaming subscribers a headache.

There are very few live streams of a multiple-hour show or game that are not marred by at least one or two short technical blips. And sometimes, the entire event is unwatchable because of various issues that last from beginning to end, such as login issues, system outages and other technical gremlins.

Also see: Does Live Streaming Have a Bad Picture?

By now, anyone who watches live streaming on a regular basis knows that it’s simply not ready for primetime. Unlike Netflix, or another subscription Video on Demand streaming service that is able to upload its stream so you rarely feel the technical pothole when it comes up, live streaming is, well, live. If a technical problem occurs in the delivery of the stream, it will likely show up on your screen. The live streaming service doesn’t have time to correct the issue before you experience it.

Live streamers try their best to handle this problem by delaying the action as long as possible. That’s why you may notice that a live stream of a game may be a minute or so  behind the real-time action. The streamer tries to build in time to correct any technical issues before they reach the home.

But it’s often not enough to prevent any errors, although you would certainly see a lot more if they did not delay the stream.

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So here we are with live streaming, an increasingly popular but still technically inept way to deliver video.

And what’s wrong with that sentence?

Why is live streaming increasingly popular? Why are so many people subscribing to live streaming services such as DIRECTV Now, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Hulu Live and YouTube TV when we know that their picture will frequently have issues?



Why do we do it?

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I ask myself that question every day when I see the hundreds of streaming complaints on social media sites as Twitter and Reddit. People are so angry about their picture going awry every night that it’s unfathomable that they continue to subscribe.

But they do, or at least, they say they do.

Are they hoping that, somehow, the technology will suddenly transform, delivering a consistently reliable picture the next night, and the night after that?

Well, even streaming’s most ardent advocates acknowledge that 5G, and other emerging Internet technologies that could improve things, are a few years away of having any real impact.

So what you see is what you get. For now, at least.

So why do we subscribe? Pay good money for bad product?

Based on user comments, my only explanation comes in two parts.

1. The media has done a poor job of informing people of the ups and downs of live streaming so many are subscribing without knowing what they are getting into.

Why the media isn’t doing a better job is subject to interpretation, but it says here that many journalists are striving for more page views because live streaming is a hot topic, particularly with millennials who are more likely to reach online articles. Their page views will decline if their stories cast a negative spin on live streaming. Ergo, journalists, particularly online journalists, are usually very upbeat about the technology.

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2. The pay TV operators may offer a reliable picture and a more varied lineup. But they have raised prices so many times, and delivered poor customer service so many times, that people are so fed up that they will try any alternative, even a technically frustrating one.

Seriously, the idea of spending just $35-50 a month for TV — and not paying for those infuriating fees such as broadcast fees and regional sports channel fees — is very powerful. Plus, you can cancel anytime you want, unlike your arrangement with a cable or satellite operator which sometimes feel like you’re seeking parole when you try to cancel.

I suspect many of the most frustrated subscribers to live streaming services are not ready to go back to pay TV because they still have scars from their experience as pay TV customers.

So that’s why people keep paying for an inferior service, and will likely continue to do so. It’s not a good situation for anyone, but it’s the television we have today.


— Phillip Swann

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About TV Answer Man (1684 Articles)
The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.

1 Comment on YouTube TV Goes Down, But Live Streaming Goes On

  1. I received an e-mail today from YouTubeTV indicating I will be receiving one week of credit adjusted off my next payment. Not bad for such a minor issue. I estimate that will equate to around $10.00 USD off the next month of service. I happened to be watching the game, but that is why I have an antenna backfeeding theoughout all of the old coaxial that used to be Spectrum. Just changed over to over-the-air FOX to continue watching. When I dropped Spectrum TV, I went and identified which outlet served my Internet, connected that room directly into the Spectrum service drop. Then I placed a small UHF antenna inside the housebox, and with the help of a splitter, fed the antenna into five rooms as a backup when things like this occurr.

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