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YouTube experiences technical glitches with NFL Sunday Ticket programming

Customers complained of buffering, other issues while trying to watch Sunday morning and afternoon football games.

Customers complained of buffering, other issues while trying to watch Sunday morning and afternoon football games.

(Courtesy image)

YouTube’s debut of the NFL Sunday Ticket package late last summer proved to be a hit with subscribers, with football fans praising the relative ease of accessing games from their favorite out-of-market teams coupled with unique features like multi-view and key stats.

But this past Sunday, anything that could go wrong apparently did go wrong for YouTube.

Things started early Sunday morning when fans complained of significant buffering issues that caused serious delays with live games aired on CBS and Fox affiliates, as well as a number of other channels. Other glitches, included low resolution video and an inability to connect to feeds at all, were also reported among customers.

The problems seemed to impact streamers watching football games through YouTube’s streaming marketplace, Primetime Channels, as well as YouTube’s $73-a-month live TV service sold under the YouTube TV brand.

Around 2 p.m. Eastern Time, officials at YouTube acknowledged the issues, saying their engineers were “aware and working on a fix” and promising to offer more details through social media channels once the problem was resolved.

As of Monday morning, YouTube has not issued a follow-up statement, but the problem seemed to be fixed in time for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”

YouTube, a subsidiary of search giant Google and owned by Alphabet, is betting big on the NFL Sunday Ticket package drawing customers to its YouTube TV service and YouTube Primetime Channels. The company is reportedly spending around $2 billion per year for the exclusive distribution rights of the package, which provides live access to games aired on CBS and Fox affiliates beyond a viewer’s home area.

Estimates from Morgan Stanley and research firm Antenna put the number of NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers somewhere between 1.3 million and 1.5 million, which earns YouTube slightly more than $560 million at the moment. Researchers seem to agree that NFL Sunday Ticket is actually costing YouTube money each year it’s offered, and will probably remain the case through the 2029-2030 football season, when the rights to the package are up for renewal.

Still, YouTube appears to be using NFL Sunday Ticket as a gateway into its numerous other products, including third-party streaming subscriptions sold through Primetime Channels, the commercial-free YouTube Premium plan and YouTube Music.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).