NBC Sports Gold suffered its worst outage of the season today when the Premier League Pass paid-subscription service crashed, causing soccer fans across the United States to miss valuable minutes of seeing their team in action. As a result, soccer fans stormed to social media to vent their anger at NBC Sports.
Last weekend, NBC Sports suffered a similar outage that caused Liverpool fans to miss precious minutes of their game against Burnley, which was only available on NBC Sports Gold. And with Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United all playing during the same 10am-Noon ET window today, NBC Sports Gold crashed again when paying subscribers tried to watch Southampton against Manchester United, which was only available via the Premier League Pass service.
The flaws in NBC Sports Gold have been apparent from the early days of the Premier League season. Complaints about log-in errors and the platform crashing were at first isolated and then more widespread when Spurs hosted Burnley in a Sunday clash on August 27. That match was the first big test for the product with a top six side being shown via the online-only pay product rather than on NBC, NBCSN or CNBC. Every new product has its bugs initially, but our patience has run out after today’s debacle, six gameweeks into the season.
Within minutes of today’s 10am-Noon ET kickoff of Premier League games, Twitter exploded. Initially, I cautioned angry viewers that perhaps the first few minutes of the match were experiencing some technical issues but that it would likely be sorted quickly. But by minute 15 of the Southampton-Manchester United game, it was apparent a massive glitch had occurred at the very worst time for NBC Sports.
One NBC Sports Gold subscriber received this message in the first half of today’s match when trying to log-in to watch Southampton-Manchester United:
“This is a server-side error delivered by your content provider, not a Flash Player issue, although we or the browser may have cached a bad token or something that’s causing the problem to persist beyond the window in which the problem occurred. Given that it’s happening on multiple devices, it’s more likely that you’re going to have to talk to your cable provider.
“You can try accessing the page in private browsing mode to see if it works there. That gets you around any data that might have otherwise been cached. If it works there, you can try going to Control Panel > Flash Player > Advanced > Delete All, and/or clearing your browser’s cache and cookies.
“If private browsing/incognito mode doesn’t help, the issue is most likely beyond your control, and will require intervention from your cable provider.”
The suggested remedy in this error message didn’t work for any of the readers that contacted us. When it was suggested that those having trouble should switch over to NBC Sports.com to watch Goal Rush, audio problems with that programming were reported.
Meanwhile, NBC Sports were aware of the problems and were scrambling to fix them. Suddenly early in the second half of today’s 10am ET kickoffs, NBC Sports Gold matches were streaming for free on NBC Sports.com . But it took until minute 82 of Southampton-Manchester United for audio to be working properly for all viewers of Goal Rush on the NBC Sports.com app.
NBC Sports has done a remarkable job of making the Premier League far more accessible for fans of soccer in the United States. But after four seasons of giving unlimited access to every Premier League match if you were an NBCSN subscriber via cable or satellite, the network made a radical departure this season by putting roughly 35% of the matches behind a pay wall. While many complained about this change and some Premier League fans have not subscribed to the service, NBC Sports Gold has been able to sell subscriptions to fans across the country who don’t want to miss a minute of action from the world’s most popular sports league.
Having embarked on a new course for delivering Premier League matches to fans in the United States, and one that was costing each fan more, the expectation was that soccer fans would be able to get a product that was just as good as NBC Sports Live Extra (now NBC Sports App) that we’ve been using for approximately four years. Instead, six weeks worth of frustrations boiling over today when the product didn’t deliver the most basic service. Given NBC’s ability the past four Premier League seasons to offer its Premier League Extra Time package of spillover games for free (if you are an NBCSN subscriber) with minimal fuss via TV or streaming platforms, the inability to deliver the same content at premium prices is a major public relations black eye for the network.
NBC realistically has two choices after this debacle. Work with the partner they outsource some of the work they do to get things right before next weekend’s set of matches, or refund all money and do away with the premium package for this season. Given that the network is almost certain to opt for the former, we will remain vigilant here at World Soccer Talk monitoring the reliability and efficiency of this pay service.