Q. You wrote yesterday that DIRECTV Now had an outage for several hours. Is that normal? If I subscribe to an Internet plan like DIRECTV Now or Sling TV, will my picture be okay or will it have a bunch of outages? — Roger, Nashville.
Roger, you are right. DIRECTV Now on Monday of this week suffered a significant outage which prevented most, if not all, subscribers from watching the service for several hours. The timing of the technical glitch was particularly irksome because there were two Major League Baseball playoff games on.
But to your question: Is this normal? Do multi-channel, live streaming services such as DIRECTV Now, Sling TV, Hulu Live and YouTube TV experience outages all the time.
Well, not all the time.
As longtime readers here know, I have written frequently about live streaming services having technical difficulties, particularly during shows and sporting events that have a high viewership. The picture will sometimes buffer, freeze, or go completely blank if more people tune in to watch than the live streaming service expected.
Think of it like your home’s WiFi Internet network. If one person in your household is using the Net, the Internet speed is usually pretty good. But if everyone in the house is using it at the same time, your speed will likely decline, making surfing the Net less enjoyable.
My coverage of live streaming’s glitches has been cited in numerous publications, which, for better or worse, has probably made me the best known critic of television’s new distribution method.
Consequently, my next paragraph might surprise a few folks:
The technical performance of the live streaming services has improved over the last several months. Generally speaking, there have been far fewer outages than there were before. In fact, there are even fewer cases of buffering and picture freezing than there were several months ago.
That’s not to say that a live streaming service such as DIRECTV Now is more technically reliable than DIRECTV, the satellite TV service, or Comcast, or any other traditional pay TV service.
But it does say the live streaming services have learned how to better manage the complex infrastructure that’s required to send multiple TV signals over the Internet at the same time to a large number of people.
Companies behind live streaming services, such as AT&T (owner of DIRECTV Now), are investing heavily in improving the technology, and it’s showing up on the screen.
So, Roger, I can’t tell you that you won’t encounter technical problems while watching a live streaming service. The live streaming infrastructure is still a work in progress.
But based on recent experiences, I can tell you that the chances of frequent technical interruptions is lower than before. And that’s progress.
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— Phillip Swann