There are few things better on Sundays than the RedZone channel. Football fans in markets not showing the Redskins game yesterday were able to tune in to watch Robert Griffin III’s highly successful and stunning debut in highlight form. Every throw, touchdown and key play presented in a neat little as-it-happens package.
Unless you are a Verizon customer, in which case you likely missed it.
Customers all over the country who use Verizon for their cable service were getting error messages and splash screens instead of live football action. I reached out to Verizon’s area public relations rep, Sandy Arnette, to find out what was going on. This was the initial response, via email.
“To view the NFL RedZone channel this season, customers simply need to tune to channels (335/835) on their set-top boxes and activate the service by selecting the ‘OK’ button and following the prompts. We contacted customers last month to let them know about the activation process. If customers are experiencing trouble with the NFL RedZone channel, they should turn off the set-top box and then turn it back on. That usually works.”
If I had a dollar for every time a technician on the phone told me to turn my set top box off and then turn it back on to fix a problem... It’s the equivalent of blowing into an NES cartridge. It usually works, but in this case there was a bigger problem.
The tales on Twitter and on a 46 page message board thread on Verizon’s website were all similar. Some people who attempted to activate the channel per Verizon’s instructions were shown an error page, with a customer service phone number to call. That phone number led to even more problems, and in the meantime, still no RGIII action for out-of-towners.
“Called the number in the message on the screen, followed the prompts and selected option for service issue,” reader Mark Chase told me via email from California. “Apparently their system tried to transfer me to someone, but the system says something like ‘the party did not answer, this call is being disconnected.’”
Joel Goldstein in Arlington, who was obviously in market but wanted to see how the other rookies were faring, had a similar result.
“After answering a human-sounding robot’s questions (which constantly kept saying ‘Just a second!’ to my great annoyance) I was then transferred to a message that was spoken so quickly and I was disconnected,” he explained. “I think it was along the lines of ‘No one is available, goodbye,’ or something of that ilk.”
I was sent other stories by readers who had the same issue. Waiting on hold, being transferred and then disconnected. Some who were lucky enough to reach a live person were told there was an “outage” or an “error.”
Obviously the initial response from Verizon didn’t begin to cover this issue, so I asked Arnette to address the error messages, customer service issues and disconnections. After almost 24 hours came this official Verizon response.
“We apologize for the inconvenience FiOS TV customers experienced Sunday (9/9) while trying to access the NFL RedZone channel. We tried to ensure a smooth activation process by notifying customers last month to activate NFL RedZone. Unfortunately, due to the volume of new activations just before kickoff on Sunday of Week One, many customers experienced a delay in the activation process.
“The good news is that everyone who now has activated the channel should be fine going forward. For those who have not yet activated or ordered the channel, they can do so now. We will send reminders to customers again this week. The activation process is simple: Customers can tune to channels 335/835 on their set-top boxes and activate their service by selecting the “OK” button and following the prompts.
“We know many of our customers are big NFL fans, and we want to ensure they enjoy all the action this football season on FiOS TV.”
It’s a small consolation for those fans who missed RGIII’s live NFL debut, his 320 passing yards, two touchdowns and one iconic touchdown celebration. Arnette told me that she is unaware of any credit being offered to customers who missed out.
“The main loss for me was being limited to watching only the Jets,” New Jersey Verizon customer Derek Brown told me. “And learning from my Twitter feed that I was missing the RGIII breakout.”
Twitter 1, Verizon 0.