Inside Sling TV's March Madness meltdown: 'We weren't even aware of it for the first few hours'

SAN FRANCISCO--Among programmers, Turner Networks is known as an early proponent of TV Everywhere, VOD stacking and other digital trends. But being a pioneer entails adventurous times.

Jennifer Mirgorod, executive VP of brand distribution for Turner Broadcasting System


Speaking at the TV of Tomorrow conference here, Jennifer Mirgorod, executive VP of brand distribution for Turner Broadcasting System, recalled the epic April 3 March Madness Semifinal showdown between Wisconsin and Kentucky, which provided one of the only turnovers to an otherwise spotless debut for Dish Network's Sling TV OTT service.

Sling's live stream of TNT experienced wide-reaching failures, with the just-launched service breaking under early viewer demand that hadn't been anticipated. "We didn't even know it had gone down for several hours," Mirgorod conceded on an afternoon conference panel focused on OTT distribution.

While conscious to monitor its own streaming platforms, Mirgorod said her team simply didn't account for Sling, which had surprisingly grown enough of a user base early on to crash itself. 

"It was growing by huge percentages," noted Mirgorod, speaking to FierceCable after her panel. Like virtually every other speaker at the TV of Tomorrow event, Mirgorod was highly complimentary of the overall Sling TV service. "It was their one glitch, but it's good that it happened. We now have systems in place to watch for those kinds of things."

Indeed, Dish Network's Sling TV OTT service counts around 250,000 paying subscribers, according to a Re/code article this month citing unnamed industry executives familiar with the company's operations. That would be an increase from the 100,000 sign-ups that Sling TV counted in March, according to Re/code.

Earlier, when another panelist suggested the outage wasn't "life or death," Mirrored noted, "It was if you were a Kentucky fan."

Responding to the technical glitch in April, Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch said: "We made updates to a variety of core systems to improve user experience from account creation to service delivery. We also distributed updates to the app across all of our platforms starting late last week. These updates helped in load management and delivered new features, like parental controls."

Separately, while speaking alongside another top cable TV programmer, Mark Garner, senior VP of distribution and business development, analytics and marketing for A+E Networks, Mirgorod said network brands still matter in an age in which a programmer's shows are widely distributed across myriad platforms. 

"The network associated with the show is still important to the consumer," she said. "It lets the viewer know what the show is about."

"Brand still matters," concurred Garner. 

Related articles:
Comcast: Networks have 'stacked' 550 series on Xfinity On Demand
TV Everywhere still an inconsistent experience plagued by 'rickety' tech, Fox exec says
Sling TV glitches on Roku reported during 'Game of Thrones' premiere