Diary Of A Cord Cutter: Variables Of Failure

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 11.4.2018

It’s not very complicated. If you want people to adopt your service, it needs to be easy and it needs to work. It sounds simple but it’s really not especially when when you only control a portion of the environment you service needs to run. ESPN, YouTube TV and others are making some interesting products and services but they have a ways to go before they can truly be user friendly.

On Saturday, I was watching the Tennessee vs Charlotte game (cause I’m a very proud Tennessee alumni) via the ESPN app on Roku. All of a sudden the feed got decrepit and eventually went out. There was no change to the environment. Internet was working fine. One minute it was working and the next it wasn’t.

After a quarter and a half, the feed came back (luckily the game was terrible so I really didn’t miss much). However, it seems pretty unacceptable to have a feed just go out in the middle of a game. Below are some steps I took  during that quarter and a half:

*Deleted and reinstalled app.

*Checked feed on other devices (iPad) only to find same result.

*Tweeted @espn and @espnapp multiple times to no avail.

*Finally found streaming support on ESPN.com.

*Chatted with support person only to have them tell me, ‘well it works on my machine.’

Here is the takeaway; Google, Dish, AT&T and others don’t own the end-to-end environment. For example, Dish owns the app but doesn’t control the router and device while AT&T controls the app and possibly the bandwidth but not the router or the device. To troubleshoot an issue is tough because there are so many variables.

All cord-cutters have experienced problems like this. One of the more frustrating parts is just finding a customer service. Once you do, With so many variables, the customer service rep is usually at a loss and seems to always recommend  the following: A) Reboot of the device B)Delete and reinstall the app or C) Reboot the router. These are viable options but you generally don’t run into these issues when you have a cable or satellite setup.

In order to keep prices low where consumers will adopt these cord-cutting one of the sacrifices is the customer service. It’s outsourced, hard to contact and generally pretty useless.

It use to be that you’d call the cable or satellite company when your service went out. Now, twitter may be your best option of getting a hold of a customer service rep. Even that can be iffy because of the amount of variables involved with the issue.

Cord-cutting is cost effective and generally a pretty good option. It does have draw backs due in part to the lack of customer service and the various points of failure that are out of the providers hands. Don’t know how to fix it but it is something that needs to be addressed.

Advertisements

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Zero Rating

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 11.5.2016

A week or so ago Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch did his first ever Periscope live broadcast. While he couldn’t talk about specifics (partially because A) why would you and B) Dish was entering a quite period for it’s next earning release) he did point out that Sling TV sees new users every month but a major event like the Olympics triggers bigger pops in the user base.He also mentioned that he didn’t think that going to a ‘zero rating’ was a good idea.

With the recent announcement of AT&T purchasing Time Warner and another AT&T subsidiary DirecTV launching their OTT option this month with a ‘zero rating’ it makes you wonder which path we’ll go down.

‘Zero rating’ is when the backbone provider (AT&T, Century Link, Verizon, etc) allow certain types of content without having it content against you’re bandwidth limit. Now T-Mobile already does a version of this but in their case the content provider (Netflix, MLB, MLS, etc) have to except a lower quality stream in order to keep other content moving through the pipe. In AT&T’s case, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, they say this will increase competition because anyone can pay DirecTV to have a ‘zero rating.’

So what does this mean to you and your ability to watch the Nebraska at Ohio State game on ESPN via an OTT application? Well it means that you have more options to watch the game depending on your device and application. It also means that there is a chance, however remote, that you could not have the ability to see the game.

Being a sports cord cutter for about a year now, I have come close but have not reached my data limit with my ISP. It would be nice if commercials didn’t count against the data cap but that is a technological innovation that isn’t very sexy to build. Not sure how many customers hit the 300GB limit most ISP’s are putting on their user but I would presume that it’s not a lot.

If AT&T wants to go down the road of having outfits like Netflix, MLB and others pay them so consumers won’t have their data caps maxed out then I think they are in for a rude awakening. There is nothing stopping AT&T or their subsidiary DirecTV from raising the price on the content provider and the customer in the name of meeting quarterly earnings. I would venture a guess that this is there plan.

Why is someone like Lynch against this, because it’s not a sustainable path. ‘Zero rating’ is essentially an end run around net neutrality. It would make, by default, the ISP’s the revenue winners in this future of video viewing. It puts the ball clearly in the backbone company’s court and invites a ‘pay to play’ model down the line.

Now back to that Nebraska at Ohio State game. If the backbone companies are able to initiate this ‘zero rating’ then if you are a Verizon customer, there is a chance that Disney (ESPN’s parent company) didn’t want to pay Verizon’s fee and therefore you cannot watch the game. I think that chance is slim but well within this model is a lower quality stream. In other words you are in the back of the bus viewing wise and there would not be much you could do about it.

‘Zero rating’ is not a really fair model for the user or the content providers or distributors. The backbone companies like AT&T are going to make their money because they are a necessity to modern living and they have the ability to put on caps which could also lead to revenue grow however inconsistent that may be. This is not the business model of the future. New models need to arise and they will as more consumers cut the cord, but the ‘Zero rating’ is not it.

Not Mastering their Domain

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

The Masters is arguably the biggest golfing event of the year. Like March Madness, it is one of the sporting events that crosses over with sports fans and bleeds into the business day during it’s first 2 rounds. The Masters, like March Madness, makes everything available online but The Masters waits to air content on TV.

The Masters

When The Masters started it was immediately available to watch at masters.com. The same content was not available on TV even though DirecTV had been advertising 8 channels of coverage. DirecTV did not begin broadcasting golf until 3pm Eastern when ESPN began their coverage. Golf’s biggest star, Tiger Woods, had already teed off and was several holes into his round by the time The Masters was available on TV. Doesn’t really make a lot of sense especially when you consider that The Masters is not an official PGA event. It is by invitation only. The Masters sells it’s own advertising and makes it’s own TV deals. In other words, they can almost do as they please.

The Masters has limited commercial time. They do have some massive sponsors though in AT&T, ExxonMobile and IBM. One would think that showing more golf would drive up the viewership and the price for ads. The have very subtle and elegant ads online so you know they have thought about this. The revenue on TV vs online is substantial so why not start the broadcast on TV at the same time as online?

Part of the reason maybe the broadcasters themselves. When they have pre and post shows they can sell ad time during this and they get to keep it all. As mush as we hate to hear the so called ‘experts’ yap and over analyze we’re probably stuck with it for now.

The Masters does make the entire event available on virtually every device you can think of so the fans can watch when they want and where they want. Yet The Masters doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t push the envelope. It is in a position where it has enough credibility to be truly innovative and dictate to the TV folks that every second of every round has live coverage. This is truly a unique position. Time will tell if they ever take advantage of it. Considering that only last August did they finally extend memberships to women I wouldn’t hold my breath.