DirecTV Now initial growth caught AT&T engineers ‘flat-footed,’ top company tech says

DirecTV Now HBO (AT&T)
AT&T’s top engineers initially told the public that the myriad technical issues experienced by users early on were in line with expectations.

While DirecTV Now’s first-month growth burst to a self-reported 200,000 subscribers left investors for parent AT&T pleasantly surprised, the company’s top techs now admit they weren’t ready to handle the initial scale. 

“It ramped up a lot faster than we ever thought it would, which is a great thing but also caught us a bit flat-footed on a couple things,” said Bill Hogg, president of technology and operations for AT&T, speaking last week at the Jeffries 2017 Technology Conference in Miami. (The Dallas Business Journal was one of the media outlets covering the event.)

“Our teams have been working through capacity, have been working through authentication issues, streaming issues,” added Hogg. “What we’re seeing is the error rates are declining pretty fast and that the platform is stabilizing.”

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Hogg’s concession marks an evolving position for AT&T’s top engineers, who initially told the public that the myriad technical issues experienced by users early on were in line with expectations.

Indeed, in early January at CES in Las Vegas, AT&T Entertainment Group CTO Enrique Rodriguez said that, although DirecTV struggled through a range of early technical issues, including complaints of inaccessible services and problems logging in, the overall introduction of the service went more smoothly than he expected.

“Absolutely there were problems … the problems were not as big as I expected,” he said. “I’m so proud of the quality we delivered.”

By March, however, Tony Goncalves, senior VP of strategy and business development for AT&T Entertainment Group, conceded that the user volume gave AT&T engineers problems.

"We saw more activity in one day than most (cross-platform streaming video services) see in a lifetime. This is the first live TV experience at scale,” Goncalves said, speaking to FierceWireless at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Spain.