July 28, 2014

Verizon Suffers NFL Mobile Failures on Opening Day

Did you have problems connecting to the Verizon NFL Mobile app Sunday? If so, it’s not your phone — it’s Verizon, which once again proved that it wasn’t ready for the opening day of the NFL season.

As a Verizon customer and a longtime NFL Mobile customer as well, I’ve experienced much frustration over the past couple years due to glitches with the app and programming for it. When it works I am amazed at the ability to watch live football on my phone. But how can two companies, the NFL and Verizon, which make billions in profits each year, have such consistent failures? Does anyone there care if the app actually works or not?

On Sunday I downloaded the new version of the NFL Mobile app, then tried to connect to watch RedZone for the afternoon game endings. I got an authentication failure, which surprised me since I had done everything possible beforehand (turned on all location services, turned off Wi-Fi) to make sure Verizon knew where my phone was.

After going through a half-hour of support hell waiting (including, ironically, a Drew Brees commercial telling me how great NFL Mobile is) I finally got a technician to tell me that because “so many people” were using the NFL Mobile app, Verizon’s network basically went kablooey, and that massive amounts of NFL Mobile users weren’t able to connect. Imagine that! People wanted to watch the NFL today! That’s like not stocking Elmo toys the week before Thanksgiving, or any similarly stupid move. The Verizon rep also told me that “because of high call volume” Sunday there weren’t enough technical reps at work to handle the NFL Mobile outage.

I will give the Twitter reps at NFL Mobile customer support a small bit of respect for finding my tweets and trying to respond, but really — this just shouldn’t happen. Not when the NFL itself says that more people are going to its websites via mobile than via desktops. The biggest app for the biggest sport simply shouldn’t have network failures. And reps shouldn’t be whining that too many people are trying to use it as the reason why it failed. Unless we all get a month’s credit on our Verizon bills.

Is “hiccups” on a server a new technical term? Is there a “hiccup reset” button?

As of 5 p.m. Pacific Time, it still wasn’t working for me. But the support folks found time for humor.

So — Verizon can pay the NFL a billion bucks for NFL Mobile rights, but can’t keep enough engineers on staff on Sundays to make the thing work? That’s fail with a capital F. Which is the grade we give Verizon for its performance on what is probably the sports world’s most-used app. And they’re locked in for four more years. Now I know what a Cleveland Brown fan must feel like.

UPDATE: At 5:42 p.m. Pacific Time NFL Mobile finally authenticated my device. Just in time to watch Tony Romo be Tony Romo.

Comments

  1. NFL Support says:

    Hi Paul.

    We monitor blogs and other social sites as well and this caught our eye. We understand your frustration and angst in connecting today for live Sunday game coverage via NFL Mobile. As lovers of the game, we feel your pain.

    We’re working hard to improve the experience and promise to take steps so that this doesn’t happen again. And, as is our job to monitor things, our team also appreciates that you mentioned our Twitter coverage. We’re online 20 hours a day 7 days a week monitoring the social web and are here anytime you need us via Twitter & Facebook.

    This post will be shared with the team and please let me know if we can do anything else for you throughout the ’13-’14 season.

    • NFL Support you guys should think seriously about refunding everyone for one month of NFL Mobile fees. From looking at your Twitter page it was clear I wasn’t the only one frustrated today. And simply, I can’t understand why a company like Verizon which has billions in resources and has run NFL Mobile for years both A) suffered what appeared to be a simple outage but B) didn’t have resources ready to respond. That’s like a stadium concessions manager forgetting to order enough beer. Or worse. “feeling my pain” and “understanding my frustration” doesn’t satisfy me, as a customer who pays for premium Verizon 4G services plus the extra fee for NFL Mobile. Today, I simply didn’t get what I paid for, and I like others feel there should be monetary retribution, not excuses.

      • NFL Support says:

        Hi Paul. Thanks for the feedback. We can’t weigh in on a global refund. That’s an issue that goes higher than a small team that handles tech support.

        Since my work involves helping our customers with technical issues and not billing, understanding what you went through goes far in us taking the issue seriously and working to correct it. So I’ll be up front with you here since that’s part of how we believe technical support should be approached. The issue was not universal meaning that only a small number of our customers were affected. Even 1% of our customer base is a lot though. Most of Sunday’s football fans could view the games, play by play and scores with no problem. Many that were already activated with Verizon (activation went live 6 weeks ago) opened the app and connected. We received a lot of positive feedback throughout the day and continue to see positive feedback even now at 3:30AM.

        That doesn’t mean that we ignore the negative but this was not some issue where we close up shop and determine this was a catastrophic failure that deserves nothing short of $5 refunds to football fans around the world.

        We’re not going to provide to you any more excuses since that won’t satisfy you. If nothing short of $1.25 in your bank account for the failure of week 1 games to your device will help us earn your trust, please contact the billing department. We’re working to improve the service and look forward to delivering NFL to your Mobile for the rest of the season. If you have technical questions, reach out to us and our team will work quickly to get things resolved.

        I’ll check this form continually to ensure there are no technical complaints that come in but I simply can’t address monetary refunds on this blog-comment stream. Thanks for understanding.

  2. Phil Harris says:

    I downloaded the new app when it first became available, and successfully used it multiple times both during the preseason and to watch NFL Network live just this week. Yet, today it apparently dumped the info it had on me being a paying Verizon customer and I spent time notifying customer service at both Verizon and NFL app of my frustration instead of watching games. I asked the Verizon rep, who was nice but uninformed about the problem, about being credited the $5. I was told, “We can’t make that decision. They make the decision and tell us if it is an issue we can credit your account for.” I think it would be a good show of apology to credit everyone the $5 fee for one month. I’m still amazed this issue took at least 12 hours to address (I began having the issue this morning at 8 a.m. when I tried to connect to watch NFL live this morning talking about the games coming up today). Thanks for covering the issue in your blog!

  3. Frustrated RedZone Fan says:

    My RedZone channel was purchased yesterday, yet at no point today has it been broadcast to me (Fios customer in MA). All I got all day was a message of, “Your order has been accepted and is in queue. Please wait up to one hour while your order is being processed.” I’ve been waiting for 10 hours. For what did I just pay $60? That $10 increase from last year surely hasn’t gone to anything that helps consumers. I bet that payment will go through.

    After waiting 25 minutes on the phone for customer service, the rep told me there were widespread problems and there was nothing he could do (and that the billing department was being overloaded).

  4. Hi just signed up and looking for reasons I can’t connect I get a 4102 error shoul I stop trying reading what was posted earlier

    • Well, the games are over so you can’t get live action but you may want to keep trying before Monday night. Mine finally authorized around 6 pm Pacific. It’s supremely bogus that they aren’t telling anyone exactly what happened or at the very least, putting out messages on Twitter or Facebook that errors are Verizon’s fault, not yours. Guessing there were millions of lost hours on support lines today.

    • NFL Support says:

      The 4102 Error affected a small number of users yesterday and was related to server load. This error was resolved around the time Paul indicated.

      We did indicate often that the issue started at 1PM and was related primarily to server congestion / load.

      • As of 9-19-2013 at 4:46 pm I am still getting the 4102 error when I try to connect to the NFL network live feed.

  5. I just want to listen to radio broadcasts on the app. However, I have not been able to figure out how to get that working. The app advertises live game audio, yet I can find no link within the app to access this. Am I looking in the wrong place? Are there hoops I need to jump through?

    • I think you have to go to a team page to find the audio. I used it several times last year, works great in areas where Verizon is weak on 4G coverage. Will check it out tomorrow during MNF to see if I can find it. But I seem to remember last year it was team by team (and you could pick which team’s broadcasters to listen to)

    • NFL Support says:

      Paul is correct regarding audio streams. The option to listen to audio broadcasts only becomes available when a game is live. So you won’t see it until then.

  6. Thanks for the replies, NFL Support. But I will stand by my opinion that doing damage control afterwards like this doesn’t help as much as upfront transparency could when things are actually not working. Since your crew is obviously adept at social media, why not have a “troubleshooter window” or some such device somewhere on the Verizon or NFL.com site that could convey messages?

    If I’d seen such a message saying something like “if you are unable to authenticate please be aware we are having regional server problems affecting approximately 1 percent of the U.S. audience in xx region. We hope to have this problem fixed by xx p.m.” I would have felt like NFL Mobile cared to treat its fans intelligently. Random tweets about “server hiccups” doesn’t cut it. Lots of us with smartphones are more than a bit technically savvy, and know all about servers and wireless reception. Lots of us have grown up with the technology and are ad hoc troubleshooters, which is why we go mental when faced with the standard phone-support decision tree (“have you cleared the cache/restarted your phone,” etc). Give us a rational clear explanation of what is going on. It’s wireless, which we understand doesn’t always behave well. But having no info or subjecting us to half-hour waits on the phone… understanding gets tough at that point.

    • NFL Support says:

      Great ideas. A status system was proposed by a handful of users on Sunday and was sent “up the ladder” as an addition to support. A note to affected users would make our job easier as well since it’s proactively alerting our customers of an ongoing issue with a resolution ETA.

      Thanks for recommending this.

  7. I too upgraded to the new NFL app and was able to watch up until Sunday, and now can’t login. It runs for a second then says Invalid username or password. So. I can’t do anything. Very frustrating. Before update everything was good.

  8. I am also suffering from NFL Mobile being down.. keeps giving me ERROR_accountmanager_failed_load. I’ve tried everything with no luck. I’d hoped to watch PHI at 1 but it seems ill have to catch the recap once i get off.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] on the mobile football-viewing application front. For the opener there was the (still unexplained) meltdown of Verizon Wireless’ NFL Mobile app, a snafu that probably caused millions to miss live coverage that they had paid for on their [...]

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