Sling TV Struggles During Final Four

Apologizes for Errors During ‘Extreme’ Period of Sign-Ups, Streaming (Updated)
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Sling TV apologized for technical issues that bubbled up during the Saturday’s men’s college basketball semi-final matchups, blaming errors on a rush of sign-ups for the over-the-top service and a resulting surge in streaming demand.

“We’re sorry some basketball fans saw errors tonight due to extreme sign-ups and streaming, Engineers rebalanced load across network partners,” @SlingAnswers tweeted on Saturday night (April 4).

Update: Sling TV issued the following statement Monday: "Despite our best planning, we experienced an unprecedented combination of new customer signups and high levels of viewership. These factors stressed our systems. While the viewing experience was spot on for the vast majority our customers, we were able to rebalance traffic loads for those who were affected and improve the experience for the remainder of the evening. As always, we continue to improve how our system performs, including its stability during peak loads." 

On Saturday, some Sling TV users took out their frustration on Twitter, with several asking if the company was going to issue refunds for the hiccups that occured during the highly anticipated games.

“Service is off the charts bad tonight,” said one customer noting that Sling TV was buffering despite getting download speeds to an Xbox One console of more than 54 Mbps.

Another customer noted that glitches are to be expected “but they have to be read for big sporting events like this.”

“I still love Slingtv, despite the hiccups, but they are annoying,” wrote another.

Sling TV problems on Saturday highlight the issue faced by any OTT service that relies on a best-effort broadband connection. But the popularity of the contests evidently only amplified the issue.

The semifinal games turned in big numbers on regular TV, with the match between Kentucky and Wisconsin averaging 22.6 million viewers, breaking a cable TV record for college basketball, while the Duke/Michigan State game averaged 15.3 million. The games were broadcast on TBS, TNT and truTV (Sling TV offers TBS and TNT in its core $20 per month package; truTV is part of Sling TV’s Lifestyle Extra package, which costs an additional $5 per month).

Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch told Re/code that the streaming issues affected about 1,000 users, and that the OTT provider is rolling out new software to help with spikes in demand.

Sling TV dealt with similar issues soon after its national debut on February 9.

The next likely big test will come later this month when Sling TV begins to offer HBO for an additional $15 per month in time for the April 12 season five premiere of Game of Thrones. Sling TV will offer  subs access to one live stream of HBO, plus access to the programmer's VOD library.

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