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Sling TV slips during final four, springs back too little too late

If you were counting on Sling TV to watch the NCAA semifinals this past weekend, chances are good you wound up disappointed and frustrated as you missed most of the two big games.

By Sling TV’s own admissions, unusually high levels of new user sign-ups and sheer streaming traffic was simply more than the service could handle, and resulted in service interruption for some viewers. Many who wanting to watch Duke take on Michigan St. and/or Wisconsin vs. Kentucky instead received stuttered feeds, buffering icons, or nothing at all.

As the first major sporting event since its launch in January 2015, this was Sling TV’s first real stress test, and if user reactions on Twitter are anything to go by, it appears to have failed. However, the service was reasonably quick to respond, as its traffic load was quickly reworked for better balance among its network partners. Unfortunately, as some subscribers noted in their replies to Sling, the effort was “too little, too late.”

But was the issue as widespread as the vocal minority would make it seem? A statement by Sling TV issued to Digital Trends indicates that not to be the case:

Despite our best planning, we experienced an unprecedented combination of new customer signups and high levels of viewership. These factors stressed our systems. While the viewing experience was spot on for the vast majority of our customers, we were able to rebalance traffic loads for those who were affected and improve the experience for the remainder of the evening. 

As always, we continue to improve how our system performs, including its stability during peak loads.

Related: We tried Sling TV, and if you hate cable and love sports, you should too

Part of Sling TV’s appeal as a Web TV product is that it offers access to a wide array of sports programming for just $20/month. In addition to the highly coveted ESPN, Sling TV also delivers ESPN2, TNT, and TBS as part of its core package. A $5 sports add-on package offers nine more sports networks from ESPN, NBC and Univision, among others. Sling TV is available on a wide array of devices, including Amazon Fire TV and Roku set-top boxes, the Xbox One gaming console, and iOS and Android mobile devices.

Related: PlayStation Vue hands-on review

At a time when IPTV services like Sling TV and the competing PlayStation Vue want to prove they’re ready to compete with big cable, it is important that they perform well under high demands. Indeed, the 2015 NCAA semifinals represented a huge demand, not just on Sling TV, but across all platforms. According to the NCAA, the two games pulled in 41.7 million total viewers for an increase of 24% over last year.

Unfortunately Sling TV won’t get a chance at redemption for a while. The NCAA final game airs tonight on CBS, a channel Sling TV doesn’t carry (yet). Instead, we may have to wait until the NBA finals start heating up in early May, 2015.