Streaming service promises fixes to wary NFL fans
DAZN taking measures to enhance quality after rocky start last weekend
TORONTO Online streaming service DAZN says Canadian football fans should expect improved viewing experiences this weekend after it fixed technical snarls that led to incomplete reception during the season opening games.
DAZN, pronounced “da zone,” is the exclusive platform where Canadian sports fans can watch every single National Football League game after its billionaire backer Len Blavatnik purchased the rights from the NFL.
But its debut last weekend as a replacement for cable TV had some fans longing for their old remote controls. Lag times, extended buffering, mysterious error messages and mismatched sound led to a flood of customer service requests and an apology from the NFL, which said it is monitoring the service closely.
In a statement, DAZN said there were “no excuses” for the rocky start. It blamed human error for some of the bigger audio problems and said it put in a series of checks to prevent a repeat. It is making technical fixes to improve picture quality for viewers with slower connections, a process that will lead to incremental improvements over the next couple weeks, and working with manufacturers to optimize quality on different devices.
DAZN managing director Alex Rice said in an interview Friday that DAZN will “never say our problems are completely gone away” given the fact that playback quality depends on individual internet connections and devices.
But he said the measures taken to improve quality, particularly for subscribers with lower-speed connections, show the service is taking steps to win back consumer confidence.
“We recognize last weekend wasn’t good enough,” Rice said. “We’re listening and we’re putting in the measures to make sure fans feel they’re being treated responsibly.”
That said, Rice acknowledged the experience won’t feel exactly like cable, where fans could switch between channels without lag time. Time lags of up to 30 seconds are normal for streaming services.
“They’re slightly different experiences … change is change,” Rice said.
While many NFL games are still available via traditional television packages, DAZN holds the rights to the rest, the games diehard fans and fantasy football players would deem essential watching.
It’s the first time streaming is the only option for Canadians who want to watch live sports on a screen. While Rogers Communications Inc.-owned Sportsnet has an online streaming service, the games are also available on cable. Fans aren’t convinced the NFL made the right choice in going online only.
Calgary resident Ian Gillies said he’ll give DAZN another chance, but will cancel the service if reliability doesn’t improve due to the “miserable” game watching experience. “It’s especially important to have a good NFL viewing experience given all the ancillary games that go along with the actual game such as fantasy football,” he said. “If I were the company I would definitely be offering some incentives to stick with it during its growing pains.”
In an email to subscribers Friday, DAZN CEO James Rushton apologized for the problems and said the company will be “reaching out to everyone early next week with more detail on compensation.”
DAZN is a private company. It does not disclose how many subscribers it has in Canada.
DAZN apologized for technical difficulties during NFL games streamed last weekend. The online streaming service partly blamed human error and said it was establishing a series of checks to prevent a repeat. It added that it will contact subscribers early next week “with more detail on compensation.”