DIRECTV NOW’s Buffering Is Getting Better But Is Far from Solved

At the start of January 2018, DIRECTV NOW had very bad week: Two separate long outages and a sudden spike in buffering.

AT&T never came right out and said what caused the spike, but it seems a perfect storm happened. First, college football bowl games and playoffs all happened at once. Next, a flood of new subscribers hit DIRECTV NOW from their Apple TV deal.

These two events on top of a stressed system as DIRECTV NOW beta tests a new app and DVR all brought the service crashing down.

Over the last few weeks DIRECTV NOW has once again been returning to normal, but it is still far from perfect. While there is no official statement from AT&T, what we are hearing is the service is dealing with two issues: First, handling a flood of new subscribers and, second, preparing the back end of DIRECTV NOW for a move to their new app and DVR.

Why do live TV services struggle with outages and buffering more than on-demand services?

You may have noticed that live TV services see far more outages than on-demand services. There are many reasons that on-demand services are more stable.

First, on-demand services can install multiple servers around the country and world. This network of servers means even if one set goes down only a small number of people will experience an outage until they can switch over to a backup server farther from your home.

Live TV means it all must come from a limited location. This is done to cut back on the delay and because the servers need to be connected to the content companies 24/7. This makes live TV. Unlike with on-demand servers that have a stored copy of the show or movie, live streaming means the server must be pulling a copy of the feed from the content companies 24/7.

Second, with live TV everyone is watching the same thing at the same time. Typically the number of people watching a show or movie at the same moment from the same server is far lower than the number of people trying to watch a major sporting event at the same exact second. That puts a far higher demand on the server.

We could keep going, but these are the two main reasons live TV is more difficult than on-demand TV. With that said, live TV services are far more stable than they were a few years ago. Look for them to continue to improve in quality in the months and years to come.

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