Showtime’s recently launched over-the-top video streaming service, a competitor of sorts to HBO NOW, hit its first snag last night when the Showtime apps on Apple and Roku devices experienced a brief outage. A number of Showtime viewers reported being unable to stream titles on demand via these apps beginning around 11 PM EST on Tuesday, though the apps’ live feeds and the Showtime web site remained functional at the time.
In addition, those viewers who were already playing titles weren’t affect – it was only those who were attempting to stream select titles who encountered problems. The issue was also addressed in under an hour, we understand – which is a bit of a better performance than, say, Sling TV managed when it live-streamed HBO’s “Game of Thrones” premiere earlier this year. At that time, Sling TV customers found they were unable to load the app on their Roku devices, and had to catch up with the show at a later time.
Given the demand for HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Showtime’s downtime was of less consequence, perhaps. Plus, the premieres of Showtime top dramas “Ray Donovan” and “Masters of Sex” actually took place on Sunday, not last night, scoring higher ratings than their prior seasons.
But the issues with the new streaming service’s instability – however quickly they were addressed – could still impact consumers’ willingness to cut the cord with pay TV as these types of problems continue to occur, across a variety of services. After all, though it’s rare to hear about Netflix or Amazon Instant Video outages these days, it seems that with every launch of niche, standalone streaming offerings, there are always reliability issues at hand.
Sling TV, for instance, not only faltered with “Game of Thrones,” it also stumbled when a horde of subscribers tuned in to watch the Final Four. And HBO GO, the network’s app for cable TV providers, was affected during the “Games of Thrones” premiere, too, when users complained of issues watching via their Xbox One consoles. And that certainly wasn’t the first time HBO GO had this sort of problem, though at least its track record seems to be improving. (HBO NOW, for what it’s worth, stayed online for the premiere this year.)
Showtime isn’t directly commenting on its own outage, though its Twitter account was responding to viewers and apologizing for the issues last night.
Yesterday’s downtime was also limited to Showtime’s new app, not its website, as noted above, and not through its partners – meaning Hulu. The network is notably the first premium streaming service providers to be distributed through Hulu’s platform, potentially paving the way for a whole new “add-ons” ecosystem to pop up on Hulu in the future. If that’s the direction Hulu chooses to go, then these one-off outages will become less consequential to the networks’ bottom lines in the future – especially if Hulu continues to subsidize the services as a means of new user acquisition, as it’s doing with Showtime. Hulu’s service, after all, seems to be more stable than some of the newer contenders. And if it’s selling premium services at a discount, then it’s possible more of those networks’ users will buy via Hulu rather than directly.
There’s no word on what, specifically, caused the Showtime outage last night. But given the fact that Showtime’s over-the-top play is only days old at this point, it’s not likely to have impacted many viewers. However, as cord cutting and over-the-top streaming continues to eat its way into traditional TV viewing – and already it has climbed to account for over a quarter of TV watching according to new reports – consumers’ tolerance for downtime will likely be impacted as well.