Baseball fans were left gripping their remotes in frustration as Hulu, a popular cord-cutting service, botched the transmission of Saturday’s World Series Game 4 matchup between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The trouble began in the third inning, when Hulu’s live-stream crashed, displaying a “Playback Failure” message that invited users to “Retry.” Those who did saw a loop of a single pitch before the service crashed anew.
The service was finally restored around two hours later, at which point most of the game was over. In the interim, fans took to Twitter to voice their frustration with Hulu:
The social media team at Hulu, meanwhile, apologized to users on Twitter, but this did little assuage frustrated fans:
The World Series whiff comes as a black eye for Hulu’s new $40-a-month live TV service, which offers users a way to watch popular networks like CNN and Fox on various devices, and has been touted as a lower-cost alternative to cable.
The streaming struggles, however, may cause some potential cord-cutters to think twice about giving up on cable. As this Twitter fan notes:
Hulu has yet to provide an explanation of the failure. But streaming a major sporting event is a major challenge — from a technical perspective, cartoons are the easiest form of TV, while live sports are the hardest.
Unlike YouTube and MLB.TV, which have had years to fine-tune their service for big events, Hulu has little experience streaming sports, which suggests its system simply buckled under a flood of World Series fans trying to catch the game.
Hulu will have another opportunity to prove it is up to the task on Sunday night, when the Dodgers and Astros face off again in Game 5 of the World Series. Still, the challenge may be harder still as the buzz around this year’s World Series is attracting a large number of viewers. (Disclosure: I’m one of those trying to watch the World Series games on Hulu).
Hulu, which is owned by a consortium of media giants, did not respond to a request Sunday for comment about the source of the problems or whether it will provide any compensation or refunds to customers who missed the game.