After Celtics-Heat Catastrophe YouTube TV Can't Afford Another Failure

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game One
Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game One / Adam Glanzman/GettyImages

Last night the Miami Heat took Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals by slamming the door shut on the Boston Celtics in the final five minutes, forcing four turnovers (including two on Jayson Tatum) and giving up all of seven points. Jimmy Butler made a wild, bouncing three-point shot to put the game away officially. It was great theatre as the eight-seed Heat continue to inexplicably make all their shots and make exactly the right plays at exactly the right time to win games.

It sure sounds like it was cool to watch! But anybody who had YouTube TV missed out. After a timeout was taken around the five-minute mark, any viewers watching TNT via the YouTube TV app were stuck watching the same eight-second loop of an advertisement for The Little Mermaid. It crashed at the absolute worst possible time and they were unable to fix it before the game ended. It ended up taking four hours to solve the issues.

It was immeasurably frustrating for viewers, most of whom didn't have an alternative to turn to. This writer was forced to listen to the Game 1 radio stream on the ESPN app which was somehow even further behind than the standard YouTube TV stream. It was also nothing short of a disaster for YouTube TV. Missing part of any game is unacceptable in the eyes of viewers but not the worst thing in the world in the eyes of advertising and broadcast partners. But missing the last five minutes of a playoff game? Featuring two pretty big markets? And it was a pretty close game? Everybody is going to be pretty upset about that.

It's also a significant issue for a streaming service trying to carve out a place as a key partner to rightsholding networks and the leagues themselves. The biggest move of YouTube TV's relatively short life so far was acquiring the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket earlier this year. They'll debut it in September. It's a very big deal and this debacle will inspire doubt in potential customers, and perhaps in the NFL as well. If YouTube TV thought basketball fans got angry wait until a Steelers-Patriots broadcast goes dead in the fourth quarter.

This very well could never happen again. I'd even consider that the likely scenario. But thousands and even tens of thousands of viewers will only remember the time YouTube TV crashed and didn't show the last five minutes of a close playoff game. Those impressions matter, both to the YouTube TV subscriber count and the leagues whose products are being showcased. And if it does happen again when NFL Sunday Ticket launches, this will become the moment where everybody realized how wrong it could go. All this coming a month after they jacked their subscription prices isn't good, either.

YouTube TV can't afford a screw-up of this size again during the playoffs.