Should you be worried about streaming TV outages?

Last night, DIRECTV NOW suffered a 3-hour-long outage. It seems to have been caused by a switchover in login accounts that took longer than anyone expected. Whatever the cause, a few million people who use DIRECTV NOW as their primary TV service were totally down. If you’re curious about that, Jake Buckler has a good article about it.

The service is back up now and I have confirmed it is working. If you do have problems logging in, it may be due to your login being older than most and you can contact AT&T about that.

An outage like this one brings back one of those old chestnuts, something cable companies used in the past to attack satellite TV:

Cable outages are very local, but a satellite or streaming outage affects everyone.

Yes, that’s true. No denying that. But is that really a problem? Let’s take a look.

National outages happen.

Let’s be honest. Nothing is 100% reliable. It’s rare to see, but other web sites like Amazon and Google have suffered outages too. So have DIRECTV or DISH. The good thing about a national outage is that it attracts national attention. You’re going to see all hands on deck getting it fixed. An outage that affects 16 people in Des Moines might not get that kind of attention.

National outages don’t require truck rolls.

What do I mean by that? If your cable gets cut, someone needs to come to the house and fix it. If DIRECTV NOW goes down, it’s going to come back up on its own. Of course, if it’s down because your whole internet is down that’s another story but you can’t blame DIRECTV NOW for that. That’s the fault of your internet service provider.

These outages are rare and getting rarer.

Yes, it’s true that some of your favorite haters out there have plastered news of this outage all over their blogs. I can’t control those guys, believe me I wish I could. The real truth is that streaming service outages are very rare and they’re getting even rarer. Unlike cable or satellite, streaming TV takes advantage of the very structure of the internet. It’s as redundantly designed as it can be. There are a lot of server farms and a lot of ways the information can get to you. Most of the problems you find today, including the one from last night, are what you would call teething pains and they’ll go away soon.

Cloud DVRs usually aren’t affected by service outages.

There have been a lot of rumors about DIRECTV NOW adding a cloud DVR. Buckler has written about it a few times. When that service rolls — and it looks like it will be soon — a network outage shouldn’t affect whether or not the DVR service works. It’s possible there could be a massive server failure that causes your programs not to be recorded but that’s got to be a very rare occurrence. If there’s a network failure, then your cloud DVR shows should be available as soon as you can get back in.

What’s the best way to avoid an outage?

There isn’t much you personally can do to deal with a national service outage but you can be prepared with other options. Even if your internet is completely out, you can get live TV with an antenna. Solid Signal has the best selection and if you’re looking for something to act as a backup, a small flat indoor antenna is an inexpensive way to make sure you don’t miss out. Antenna TV works even when the internet is out and it’s always free. Of course, depending on where you live you may want an outdoor antenna, but a lot of people do just fine with an indoor one. If the only goal is to find something live to watch, most small antennas will get at least a few channels even up to 40 miles away.