Sunday Sermon: More Support and Execution Needed for Mobile Sports Apps

So far this NFL season, we’ve had two weeks and two big failures 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 phones.

This weekend, we’re still not sure of the extent of the problem (or whether it was something NBC knew about) but I was unable to view NBC’s Sunday Night Football game on the web, even though as a Comcast subscriber and a Mac user NBC’s own site tells me that I can. Attempts to watch in Chrome or Firefox met with error messages pointing me to Safari. And while some of our readers said that disabling an ad-blocking extension allowed them to use Safari to watch SNF online, even using Safari I wasn’t able to connect and neither were other readers. The bigger question is, why, in 2013, is a major network restricting access to different browsers and OSes? Aren’t we past all that?

Apparently not. The bigger problem, I think, is that there’s too much money and attention being spent promoting online and wireless sports-viewing apps, and not enough spent on the coding and technical support. When I finally got through to a Verizon support rep on opening day that person tried to say that errors couldn’t be fixed because “high call volume,” as if that’s a believable phrase anymore, was taking resources away from tech support. And even the NFL Mobile support’s efforts to pass off Verizon’s errors as a “server hiccup” are lame. Verizon makes something like $40 billion a quarter, and can pay $1 billion just for mobile NFL rights. But they can’t keep their phone banks staffed or their biggest sports app working on opening day? That is a priority decision that is a head slap to the users who pay $5 extra a month for NFL Mobile. But it’s apparently about the norm for mobile sports viewing apps.

NBC’s apparent decision to alienate Macintosh users is harder to figure out. At the very least, if they are going to take money from Microsoft and that is behind why NBC is “enhancing” things for Windows viewers online, be honest and tell Mac users upfront that you’re not going to get access.

If I can send any advice to teams thinking about putting in stadium apps, it would be to make sure you also have budget for technical support. I know it’s not easy to design an app or a web service that works with the dizzying amount of client devices and software install versions out in the world today. But when the biggest companies out there now are falling down on the job, it’s not a good sign for the industry overall. More support for mobile apps, please — before users stop trying them out of sheer frustration.


  1. I was able to get further on NBC on my android phone than my Mac or iPad. I hope they fix this by next Sunday.

  2. Add DirecTV and its Sunday Ticket package to the mobile app fails:–170700007.html

    According to some of our readers, problems persisted this past weekend as well. Anyone else out there having problems with DirecTV online viewing?

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