Fox Soccer Channel Delivers Lousy Streaming Video, Indifferent Customer Service

The great thing about the revolution in streaming video is that we can subscribe to niche services that supplement or replace cable TV. The problem with such services is that when they fail, you only have one option for that content. John, a fan of England’s Premier League, subscribes to a service through Fox that streams games not broadcast on the Fox Soccer Channel. The streaming service is on its second year, and the quality is noticeably worse than last year. He could cancel his subscription, but that would leave him with no soccer at all.

I’m a big fan of the Premier League, the English soccer (or football, for you non-Yanks) league. Last year, Fox Soccer Channel launched its own streaming web service, where they broadcast the games that are not airing on either of the cable channels they have (Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Soccer Plus). I subscribed last year and while there were hiccups, I was impressed with it for a first-year service.

Sadly, they’ve taken a huge step back this year. The service is all over the place, with the big problem being a timeline that’s trickier to follow than the last few seasons of LOST. A game at the 34 minute mark will jump back to 23 minutes, then soon ahead to 28, then to 30, only to double back to 25. This goes on and on: it will sometimes be straightened out by the end of the match. The only other workable, but tedious, alternative, is to refresh the page every time it begins to skip around like this, but since it happens approximately every 1-5 minutes (depending on how severe it is that instant) this is pretty silly and not worth my effort, let alone the money I’m paying for it ($14.99/month).

I’ve had little success dealing with customer service. I started writing them cheerfully, but have been pretty clear in recent weeks that I want some sort of refund if they wish to retain me as a customer. I’ve never received a reply to this request — not even a denial. Instead, I’m asked to tinker with Adobe Flash settings that have no effect, or I’m told “It’s all better now,” usually after the match I’ve been watching is completed.

Obviously, the easy answer to “What should I do?” is leave the service, which I plan to do if I’m not able to watch a match without this issue next weekend. But since so many sports, and other entertainment services, are streaming on the web now, what should I reasonably expect from the company? Netflix seems to do it right, although they can just refund the amount for whatever time of day they’re down. Does a service like FoxSoccer owe me more when they fail to deliver my team’s matches? Right now they’re not offering me anything.

What do you think? Does Fox owe John anything, or should be be grateful to have the service at all?