YouTube TV's NBA Glitches Show Service May Not Be Ready for NFL

(Image credit: Getty)

As YouTube TV’s profile as the most popular virtual multichannel program distributor in the U.S. rises, so do concerns from sports fans about the service’s ability to handle high-profile live sporting events. 

Such concerns came to a head May 17 when the streams “froze” for many users near the end of the Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics game, the first matchup of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals on TNT. The same glitch occurred the following night between the Nuggets-Lakers game, albeit not affecting as many viewers, according to news reports. 

The problems were not restricted just to YouTube TV however, some fans reported the same problems with Sling TV as well over the weekend. However, with the launch of YouTube TV’s upcoming NFL Sunday Ticket package coming up this fall, the pressure is on the service to fix whatever issues caused the glitches in the first place. 

The company attributed the issue to  “elevated rebuffing rates” which resulted in viewers seeing an endless loop of a promotion for the upcoming Disney flick “The Little Mermaid.” A YouTube TV engineer posted a short comment on a Reddit board last week saying they were aware of the ads buffering/freezing issue and were working on a fix. 

Some speculated that the glitch was the result of a feature that would prevent viewers from fast forwarding through the promotion, however, the problem wasn’t isolated to the TNT channel; other channels on YTTV also suffered the same issue. Still others think the problem was a result of TNT's use of digital ad insertion during commercial breaks. 

No problems issues were reported during this past weekend NBA games.

Buffering issues have long been a concern among vMVPD providers such as Hulu+ and Sling TV. However, many pundits warned that YouTube TV may be taking on more than it can handle when it rolls out its NFL package this fall—with NFL games comprising more than 80% of TV’s 100 highest rated programming, bandwidth problems could damage its reputation as the most popular service of its type. 

NFL games shown on Amazon Prime over the past two seasons have also suffered from quality issues as well, according to digital trends. And with last week’s announcement that Peacock would broadcast the first ever NFL playoff game next season—when viewership will skyrocket past the already massive regular season numbers—the pressure is on to resolve such issues before the fall. 

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (, the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.