DirecTV Misses the Mark on Timely Crisis Response

DirecTV bobbles NFL Sunday Ticket response when platform fails

During the football season, NFL fans take their Sunday viewing options seriously. Particularly if you live outside the market of your favorite team, partake in legal gambling or participate in a fantasy football league.

That’s where NFL Sunday Ticket comes in. DirecTV streams all NFL teams. The cost ranges from $294 to $396 per season. 

Yesterday (Sept. 18), fans put the heat on DirecTV after experiencing a second week of non-existent or choppy viewing. Unhappy customers took to social media to troll the company, responding to DirecTV branded posts about Sunday Ticket. 

The customer service response on social was not what users were looking for, further igniting the situation.  

 The Verge contacted DirecTV for comment yesterday. It reported receiving the same canned response customers found on social media. Other major media outlets received the same response. 

“Today’s NFL Sunday Ticket games have returned for streaming,” DirecTV said. “We will continue to monitor, apologize for the inconvenience and thank our customers for their patience.”

Timeliness is Everything

In a PR crisis, there's a delicate balance between taking time to get messaging right, while delivering that message promptly. DirecTV failed to do either Sunday.  

The mishap holds an even greater importance because this is the last season that DirecTV has the NFL Sunday Ticket contract. Deadline reports Apple and Google are pursuing NFL streaming rights.

For years, Sunday Ticket was DirecTV's top item. Without it, the company will need to shore up its reputation if it wants to retain customers for its regular TV packages. 

Gene Grabowski, partner, kglobal, says it's important the company issue a public apology. In addition, it should give automatic pro-rated refunds to all Sunday Ticket subscribers—even before customers ask. Grabowski says DirecTV should then publicize the action through the trades and news media.

“Without taking such strong and deliberate action, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the service to regain credibility with current and prospective subscribers of either NFL Sunday Ticket or even the basic service,” he says.

Shaping the Narrative

Hinda Mitchell, president, Inspire PR Group, says DirecTV initially failed its brand by letting the issue get ahead of it. 

“A primary rule of crisis management is to not let others define your crisis for you,” Mitchell says. The statements provided for customers lacked consistent updates and relevant information about what the company was going to do about the outages. 

"The right way to address concerns is acknowledge the frustration folks are feeling and commit to swift resolution,” she says. “An inability to manage expectations of customers will lead to even more outrage—and thus even more posting on social media and negative media coverage."

She adds that a statement should provide context for “why,” “when” and offer understanding of the customer situation.

“DirectTV put out a nothing statement that did not build confidence. NFL Sunday Ticket is a premium service—and subscribers should have a premium response.”

Fortunately, this afternoon (Sept. 19) DirecTV issued an apology on social media and agreed to reimburse customers for the missed service.

A DirecTV spokesperson told USA Today Sports, "We will begin to reach out to our customers who were unable to stream some of the games on Sunday to let them know we will automatically reimburse them for (Week 2). We apologize to our customers for their experience and for the inconvenience.”

Nicole Schuman is a senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her: @buffalogal