Australian pay-TV operator Foxtel has issued an apology after what it described as “technical issues” caused its online and on demand services to crash during the much-awaited Season 7 Game of Thrones premiere. Amid much negative social media chatter, Foxtel issued the following statement, which suggested that the technical problems were more widespread than just Australia:
Tonight’s global premiere of the new season of Game of Thrones has caused technical glitches around the world, with online sites crashing in the United States, Latin America and Australia.
The show’s producer and US broadcaster, HBO, reported its technical systems could not cope and in Australia, the surge of demand for Foxtel’s recently-launched online product, Foxtel Now, also experienced customer meltdown.
Foxtel spokesman, Bruce Meagher said tonight, “We are devastated that some customers experienced technical issues tonight. As was the case in the US and Latin America, the unprecedented rush for a subscription just prior to the telecast, crashed the system. Foxtel engineers are working through the night to resolve the issue.
“It’s most unfortunate and we apologise to those affected. We are committed to resolving the technical faults immediately and together with our broadcast partners around the world, we are giving this the same degree of priority. We assure anyone impacted that they will be able to watch the first episode of Season 7 either On Demand or via one of our encore screenings throughout the week. We will continue to communicate with affected customers to ensure they are fully informed,” he said.
Foxtel subsequently revealed the source and scale of the glitches, effectively as a result of a surge in demand that it should have, but did not, predict. According to Foxtel, the number of Australians subscribing to Foxtel Now leapt by 40 per cent in the 48 hours prior to Monday night’s screening of episode one. “The combination of new Foxtel Now customers signing up and existing customers upgrading to get the Drama Pack so they could watch the show put unprecedented pressure on our technical operations,” it said.
According to Foxtel, the issue resided in its identity management (IDM) system, which verifies a customer is entitled to view the content they are seeking to access. Normally, the IDM handles around 5,000 requests a day, but on Monday, it was hit with 70,000 transactions in just a few hours. “Unfortunately, due to this massive surge in demand, a significant number of customers experienced difficulty logging in to Foxtel Now and the Foxtel app,” the company said. “The system was unable to verify some customers’ entitlements. We are unable to say exactly how many customers were affected because the system is unable to separately identify customers who have a problem logging in but later successfully manage to do so.” Foxtel admitted that while it had anticipated massive interest in the series return, “the traffic that eventuated far exceeded expectations”.
Prior to the premiere, executives at HBO and content delivery network (CDN) specialist Level 3 highlighted the latter’s role in delivering the HBO blockbuster to millions of viewers over its global content delivery network with Diane Tryneski, Chief Digital Officer, HBO, advising that the service’s viewers expect a high-quality, seamless viewing experience across all of its platforms, regardless of device or location, suggesting that Level 3 had been pivotal in its ability to stream Game of Thrones and other HBO programming to its customers.
According to Laurinda Pang, Regional President, North America and Asia Pacific, Level 3, with increasingly higher bitrates, and more viewers and devices accessing HBO GO content, the importance of relying on a network optimised for media delivery cannot be overstated. “Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows in the world, and HBO’s use of Level 3’s CDN for the HBO GO platform will enable millions of people to enjoy the show anytime, anywhere, on any device,” she added.
Following the online problems, a spokesperson for Level 3 said: “The outage was unrelated to Level 3’s CDN delivery of the premiere.”