'It's ruining my NFL experience': Canadians fume about new streaming service
Canadians who want to have access to all NFL games must use DAZN, which has had hiccups since launching
During the NFL's season opener between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots last week, a lack of audio during the first quarter for people tuning in from Canada using the streaming service DAZN resulted in an uprising of online anger. And it hasn't let up.
Audio problems, trouble connecting, poor video quality and some delays of more than a minute compared to cable TV have left many Canadians feeling underwhelmed and furious at the on-demand sports streaming service.
"I want to be able to watch everything live in true HD. This is something DAZN does not offer. It offers time-delayed [games] and with a far, far inferior picture and sound quality," said Sean Meade, of Port Coquitlam, B.C.
New streaming service
The U.K.-based DAZN — pronounced Da Zone — secured the exclusive digital broadcasting rights to all National Football League games beginning this season. People who sign up for the service can watch any game live.
In the past, Canadians could sign up for a TV package known as NFL Sunday Ticket, which would give them cable or satellite access to all games, or sign up for the NFL's Game Pass, another streaming program.
But DAZN's exclusive five-year contract means that's no longer available. Fans can still watch some NFL games airing on TSN, RDS and CTV, as Bell Media still holds Canada's television broadcast rights. But those looking to watch every live game will need to subscribe to DAZN and access the games through a web-connected device, like a smart TV, smartphone, tablet or gaming console.
A DAZN subscription in Canada costs $20 a month, or $150 annually, after a free 30-day trial period. (NFL Sunday Ticket, by comparison, was about $35 a month or $200 annually.)
Kenneth Conrad, who lives in Halifax, said he's experienced some of the issues that have plagued other DAZN users, but said it hasn't been enough "to make the experience unwatchable."
However, Conrad said he wasn't impressed with the way DAZN handled the online furor when the audio wasn't working for the Chiefs-Patriots game.
Thinking of getting <a href="https://twitter.com/DAZN_CA">@DAZN_CA</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLCanada">@NFLCanada</a> fans? DON'T. No audio commentary and, well, this. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DAZN?src=hash">#DAZN</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NFL?src=hash">#NFL</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PatsVsChiefs?src=hash">#PatsVsChiefs</a> <a href="https://t.co/Yl6PJfuYbC">pic.twitter.com/Yl6PJfuYbC</a>—@Whisky_Jean
"I feel like had they got out in front of it and said early on, 'Yes, we're experiencing an issue and we expect it to return soon,' that would have been better than just letting it linger and having comment after comment after comment saying 'I hate this service, there's no audio, I'm going to cancel, this is a scam,'" he said.
Meade was so infuriated by DAZN's service that he started a Twitter account with the handle @DAZNSucks after the Chiefs-Patriots game.
In the week since then, he's been airing his grievances and retweeting the complaints of others, many of which have included sharing videos of the issues they've experienced, such as a game being shown vertically.
Sign up for <a href="https://twitter.com/DAZN_CA">@DAZN_CA</a> if you want to experience The <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL">@NFL</a> like this... <a href="https://t.co/wS7leYwJj2">pic.twitter.com/wS7leYwJj2</a>—@shauntomko
In another case, most of the first quarter of a game between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills was actually showing a game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins.
DAZN's debut 'did not go as planned,' says company
In a written statement, Alex Rice, DAZN's managing director of rights and strategic development, said the issues many subscribers faced last weekend have been resolved.
"Our debut in Canada did not go as planned. No excuses — it is not how we wanted our journey to start in a country of such passionate fans," he said.
Rice said the audio issue with the Chiefs-Patriots game and a late start to another game were the results of human errors, and additional checks and measures have been put in place to prevent the problems from recurring.
"It shouldn't have happened," he told CBC News in an interview. "It should have been resolved quickly to minimize customer impact."
Rice admits DAZN has faced "some unique challenges" in Canada, but said he's "confident" they'll be fixed in the next few weeks.
While the audio problems during the Chiefs-Patriots game netted the highest volume of complaints, Rice said the company is currently focused on reducing lag time for Canadians — an issue identified during beta testing over the summer and into the NFL's pre-season games as they figured out which devices are most popular in this market.
"One of the challenges we've faced [is] not everybody is experiencing the same experience," he said. "This is a bit more complex than a set-top box and the program feeds that run through them; these are multiple devices."
Rice also noted while most viewers are connecting to DAZN in HD, some have been unable to due to connectivity issues. Some solutions will be put in place this weekend, he said, and further enhancements will be made down the road.
DAZN is reaching out to affected customers and will be offering some refunds, Rice said, and the company will also be extending its free trial period.
"We're hopefully going to be a welcome addition to the Canadian broadcast landscape," he said. "Hopefully, the patience that some of our users have given us to date, we'll be able to repay that with a really strong and solid service in the coming weeks and months."
As a fantasy football fan, one of Meade's biggest beefs with the service is that time lag; he says he's learning about what's happening in the game from his fantasy football app, not the game he's actually watching.
"It's not only spoiling the surprise, it's ruining my NFL experience," he said.
CBC News contacted the NFL for comment, but did not receive a response.
With files from Amy Husser