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

NFL To Sling TV

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


SLING TVSling TV just did a mic drop today for cord cutting sports fans. They added NFL Network and NFL RedZone to their list of channels. Let that sink in for a moment. NFL RedZone is now available for an extra $5 a month and you can truly watch it anywhere on any device. Sling TV just hip-checked AT&T/DirecTV into the boards right in time for football season.

A few months ago the NFL Network was off of DISH (Sling TV’s parent company). Like many DISH negotiations, this one ended up being fought in public. The two sides settled and you can bet that part of that settlement was getting the NFL Network and NFL RedZone onto Sling TV.

NFL is not new to the OTT game. They have NFL Now (which I honestly can’t tell you what it’s supposed to be) on various devices but no NFL RedZone and no NFL Network. RedZone is really the key here. That is 17 weeks of live game footage without commercials during the season without having to spend a car payment for NFL Sunday Ticket on DirecTV.

Sling TV OptionsSling TV will continue to add channels but bagging the NFL is a game changer for the cord cutting sports fan. It’s an economical choice and one that they can take everywhere. This should force AT&T to make NFL Sunday Ticket a stand alone service (they already do in some place). Make no mistake, this is a game changer in the OTT-land of sports.

Fixing ESPN

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


After pointing out the things wrong with ESPN, it is now time to point out how they can right the ship. Righting a ship that generated $10.8 billion in revenue in 2014 seems like an odd thing to say but it’s true. While this scenario does fall under the ‘disruption’ banner, there are some simple things ESPN can do to find some of the mojo again.

John Skipper is a smart guy. While there will be doubters out there after the whole ‘Bill Simmons incident’, you don’t become the head of Disney’s cash cow by being a moron. As he pointed out at the Code/Media Conference about why ESPN has been losing subscribers (which accounts for over 60% of it’s revenue), ‘cord cutting and some trading down from some larger packages to lighter packages’, which goes to show that Skipper is not turning a blind eye. He recognizes what is happening and has already begun to steer the ship into more favorable waters.

The ESPN family of networks is already on Sling TV which I have written about many times on this blog. Sling TV is cord cutting and ESPN is right there in the thick of it. ESPN needs to capitalize on OTT providers like Sling and sell it’s package outside of the satellite and cable providers (yes I do see the irony in that Sling is owned by Dish). ESPN needs their WATCH ESPN app to be stand alone and offer is on places like Amazon.com where you can get Starz and Showtime for $8.99 a month. They also need to offer is on platforms like Hulu, who is coming out with a live TV package,  XBOX, and Playstation. ESPN needs to break from the shackles of cable and stand on it’s own.

Crazy? Not if you read Clayton Christensen’s ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma.

ESPN’s situation is a cross between sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation. In the sustaining innovation model, ESPN has to figure out how to create better products that they can sell for better profits to their customers. They own rights to just about every major sport so it’s clear that they have the inventory to do this. All it takes now is the will which it sounds like they do.

They are also battling disruptive innovation but they can win here too. TV was once complicated and expensive and to a degree it still is. However the OTT providers are disrupting this model and making it affordable and in some ways simpler. Like I mentioned a moment ago, ESPN has to stop dipping it’s toes in the water and just dive in. Yes it will upset existing contracts and partners in the short term but in the long run, it will be the right decision.

adcontentThere is some of the lower hanging fruit that ESPN can pick and start to develop some wins. One of these is to improve their ads on ESPN.com. This playing of 30 second ads on their website in front of a piece of content that is only 33 seconds is just mind boggling. This is a damn ‘if/else’ statement in the code. It’s not rocket surgery. Yes you have to make money selling ads but you can also drive away your viewers away in the process. They have to find a balance and a better way to present advertisements online.

 

They also have to develop new talent. A lot of play-by-play and color commentators have walked out the door in recent months but that doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare. They still have Jon Gruden, Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas, Todd Blackledge, Steve Levy, Kirk Herbstreet, Rece Davis, Chris Fowler, Scott Van Pelt and Bob Ley among their talent pool. They need to add to it along with continuing to find innovative bloggers and reporters or people like Nate Silver.

ESPN is taking some hits but they are not denying it. They do not have their heads buried in the sand. Changes to OTT, developing talent, and creating new products takes time. The first step in identifying the problem is recognizing you have one. Skipper recognizes it and is taking steps to right the ship.

A Breakthrough For Streaming Live Sports?

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The fact is that sports have been live streamed online for a long time now. So is DISH Network recent announcement that it will live streaming ESPN and ESPN2 via Sling TV for $20 really that big of a deal? Yes and no.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Currently there are a few legal ways to live stream ESPN platforms. All of them come down to having your subscription authenticated at some point and if you are a DirecTV subscriber you are SOL until later this year. 

With Sling TV you won’t need to have a cable or satellite subscription. Your experience won’t be the same either but at least you can spend a mere $20 a month vs $100 plus for a bunch of cable channels you’ll never watch.

F1 RACE IN BAHRAIN
Live streaming of the F1 race in Bahrain on NBCSPORTS.COM

NO!!!!!!

The fact of the matter is that the cable or satellite companies are going to get their money somehow. That ‘somehow’ is going to be with the data-usage fees. The country’s biggest cable provider, Comcast, currently gives you 300 GB a month with a $10 charge for every 50 GB over that. Seems like a lot until you add in the multiple devices per user and services like Netflix and Xbox One. Add Sling TV to the mix and you’ll be over the limit after the first weekend of College Football.

Live streaming has also been hindered by the experience itself. Bandwidth is not unlimited. If your neighbor is streaming a movie, your kids streaming music or playing online video games then your basketball games streaming quality will go in the toilet. With a cable or satellite subscription, everyone can watch without a signal downgrade. It also isn’t as reliable as your traditional connection. Just ask those trying to stream the Rose Bowl on the Watch ESPN app. 

While $20 is cheaper than $100, when you add that to the Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and future HBO App subscription, your spending close if not more a year.

Conclusion

The fact is that this is a long time coming. While a lot people were hacking their way towards this solution for years it will be nice to get it without the hassle. This application for only $20 a month is a good first step but it’s not the solution. Others will follow and  this service, along with it’s consequences, will make people more aware of issues like net neutrality. Eventually we’ll see more applications like Sling TV but it may be a ways off.