Verizon, NFL fumble opening-day live video for NFL Mobile app — for the 2nd year in a row

Screen shot of the message NFL Mobile users are getting used to seeing on opening day. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR.

Screen shot of the message NFL Mobile users are getting used to seeing on opening day. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR.

It’s not a streak you want to continue, especially if you are the NFL, Verizon Wireless, or one of the frustrated customers who weren’t able to see live video using Verizon’s NFL Mobile application during Sunday’s season-opening games. But just like last year, when activation servers for a new version of the app got overwhelmed, issues arose again on Sunday, making live video — one of the premium features of NFL Mobile that makes the app and service so attractive — unavailable for most of the day, including the large slate of early games.

Verizon executives who spoke with MSR Monday declined to comment on the NFL Mobile issues, instead referring all questions to their partner, the NFL media team. Verizon wireless support was also apparently offline on Sunday, leaving the task of responding to the many irate messages and tweets to the small but valiant NFL Mobile Support team.

Alex Riethmiller, vice president of communications for NFL Media, said the issue once again was due to high traffic overwhelming the authentication servers, which (putting it simply) identify whether or not a customer is a Verizon subscriber, and whether or not that customer has access to the premium content. Some of the additional traffic may have been due to two changes Verizon made in NFL Mobile subscriptions from last season; one was to give free premium access (which lets you see live action) to all customers on a More Everything data plan, and the other was to charge all of those More Everything viewers another $1.99 a month if they wanted to also watch the NFL’s RedZone channel, one of the more attractive features of the app (since RedZone gives you lots of live action, even on games that might otherwise be blacked or not viewable for other reasons). Verizon customers who are not More Everything customers must pay $5 a month for access to the NFL Mobile premium content.

Theoretically, you should be able to order RedZone from this "settings" page of the app. But it didn't work when we tried to click the button.

Theoretically, you should be able to order RedZone from this “settings” page of the app. But it didn’t work when we tried to click the button.

For many NFL Mobile customers, yours truly included, any live video at all was not available for long stretches of Sunday, and after a brief 2-minute “preview” period the RedZone content was also unavailable, and the app was not allowing it to be purchased. As of Monday afternoon, the MSR official testing lab still couldn’t get the RedZone box to work — clicking it kept taking us to a page explaining the charges but not offering a way to add it to our bill.

“NFL Mobile requires a number of backend systems to ensure only Verizon customers can get live NFL video,” said Riethmiller, in a prepared statement. “We experienced issues with one of the systems that validates customers, and it took longer than anticipated to resolve because of tremendous demand. We are confident we have addressed the issue going forward.”

Kristin Rooney, Verizon Wireless director of sponsorships and branded entertainment, would not comment on the NFL Mobile outages in a phone interview Monday morning. However, Rooney was happy to talk about the new features in NFL Mobile this season, including the ability to watch local games live, even if they are out of the traditional prime-time window NFL Mobile has access to. In addition to the local games, NFL Mobile premium customers are supposed to be able to watch live games on Sunday nights, Monday nights and Thursday nights, and also have access to RedZone broadcasts during the day. That is, when the servers are working.

BUY... MORE... SERVERS

BUY… MORE… SERVERS

Another unclear option is what happens to RedZone access when NFL Mobile customers visit NFL stadiums — while Verizon blocks access to RedZone at some stadiums, at others it allows it, usually through a partnership with a team’s stadium app. Rooney, however, did not have a list of stadiums where NFL Mobile customers could watch RedZone broadcasts during a game; most famously, the service was blocked at last year’s Super Bowl in MetLife Stadium.

Rooney also declined to say just how many customers Verizon has for its NFL Mobile app, though the Google Play store says the app has between 10 and 50 million installs. However, since a non-premium version of the app is available to customers with contracts from other carriers, it’s unclear how many “premium” members were overwhelming Verizon’s servers. It’s worth noting that Verizon is no stranger to large numbers of single-day activations, as its systems support more than 100 million wireless subscribers, nation-wide.

In a related note, NFL Mobile wasn’t the only streaming product having issues Sunday. According to a report at TVPredictions.com, the DirecTV streaming service for NFL games also suffered outages Sunday, also for the second straight year.

Comments

  1. Interesting comment left on last year’s story:

    I received “sorry, there are no videos to display for the selected channel at this time.”. I have used the feedback in the customer support page but have yet to hear back. This is my third year on NFL Mobile premium and each year I miss opening weekend due to some “update”. I cancelled my subscription last night. It is a shame. I really did enjoy the app once it would start working. But to have to fight with it every year and talk to endless support techs for hours is not how I want to spend my time and money. I work for an automaker. If our cars worked like this app, I’d be fired. This was one of the last reasons I am a Verizon customer. There is really nothing to loose going to another provider.
    On the bright side I did not get nearly as mad as I did in previous years. I expected it to happen this time.
    Paul Butterfield
    Droid RAZR
    Webberville Mi

  2. UPDATE: NFL customer care says RedZone purchase won’t be available until Friday, Sept. 12 — no explanation as to why. Full email below. I love it when people call me Paula.

    Hello Paula,

    Thank you for contacting NFL Mobile Customer Care. Last Sunday we had some network issues that may have affected the ability for you to purchase NFL RedZone. NFL RedZone will not be available for purchase till Friday. When it is available you can either click on the NFL RedZone image on the homage page or Tap on the Live Stream Menu (upper right corner, red play button) and click on the NFL RedZone link on that page. If you have any issues purchasing NFL RedZone please update this feedback and let us know what error message you are getting when you try and make the purchase.

    Sincerely,

    LINO

    NFL Mobile Customer Care

  3. NFL is starting to crush under its own weight. Technology fails. PR (Ray Rice) fails. Mark Cuban prediction is so crazy anymore.

  4. UPDATE 2: It appears that the problem is now being caused by a Google Play outage. We are trying to get more info… here is a thread that is related to the problem:

    http://forums.androidcentral.com/google-nexus-5/433573-google-play-services-outage-rpc-s-7-aec-0-error.html

    The problem is, you can’t purchase the RedZone access because the mechanism to do so goes through Google Play. Apparently this is only affecting “More Everything” customers who need to buy the $1.99 RedZone upgrade.

    Anyone else having other problems, chime in…

    • I am still having a very hard time trying to purchase RedZone. It is like there is no option to do this.

      • Sean, according to the NFL Mobile folks there is no option but to wait until Google fixes the problem. They say it is only affecting a small number of users, which to me is no consolation when you are one of that group (as I am). Will post an update if/when the problem is fixed.

  5. Red Zone worked fine last year, but I believe I had to go directly thru Verizon. The main reason I downloaded the NFL Mobile App is to get access to Red Zone. What’s changed since last year??

  6. Make that 3 years in a row! I purchased the $1.99 red zone upgrade and it isn’t working. It worked for about 5 minutes, then the app crashed. Now, when I log back in and try to view it prompts me to purchase again. When I try to purchase, it says you already are subscribed and yet it still just sits there at the prompt instead of showing Red Zone. What a disappointment Verizon is.

Trackbacks

  1. […] on the More Everything plan you need to pay an additional $1.99 a month, a new process that helped mess up Verizon’s NFL Mobile access earlier this season. Non-Share Everything customers who pay the $5 a month fee have RedZone […]

  2. […] all its customers free access to the schedule of live NFL games available via the NFL Mobile app, eliminating a $5 fee that used to be charged to non-premium plan […]

  3. […] it may get tricky — and NFL Mobile and Verizon have a history of things not going quite as planned — is when it comes to customers on Verizon’s new “unlimited” plans. The […]

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