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ITV Hub England semi-final fail makes me so grateful for BBC and iPlayer

Terrible streams, a broken app and no HD (let alone 4K!). ITV Hub must up its game or surrender the rights to a broadcaster worthy of huge sporting occasions, argues Chris Smith. Thank God the final is on BBC!

It’s a familiar feeling for ITV, having to apologise for its pitiful ITV Hub online player. On Wednesday night the service partially collapsed under the increased demand of a nation wanting to watch the England vs Denmark Euro 2020 semi-final.

Viewers watching on Apple TV, Fire Stick, Panasonic and Samsung smart TV apps (among many others) reported missing up to 14 minutes of the second half on Wednesday night. Others said they were forced to constantly restart the app or deal with incessant buffering and low-quality streams, as England eventually marched onto the Euro 2020 final.

The commercial broadcaster issued an embarrassing apology during the game.

Twitter users posted images of laptops plugged into tellies as a workaround. Others said they were only able to stream the game in a small window within the app interface, more complained that the deluge of ads the company shows via the service streamed perfectly, but the football itself? Not so much.

When the stream dropped out, some users said they had to go through the rigmarole of watching the pre-roll ads all over again. What a horrendous experience on a night when nerves were already jangling!

Only acknowledging the Apple TV issues, the company said: “Unfortunately we’re experiencing issues with Apple TV – please bear with us while we fix this. Apologies for any inconvenience.”

Inconvenience makes it sound like this was a Coronation Street repeat. This was the most important football match this country had attempted to witness in 25 years. Inconvenience doesn’t really cover it, lads.

You’d have thought ITV might have thrown some extra resources at its online streaming platform to might ensure you can handle anyone beyond the TWENTY-FIVE MILLION people who were watching via traditional analogue TV sources. But no, we were left with the same old complaints about ITV Hub falling down under the pressure yet again. Heaven forbid the broadcaster sorts this out before the tournament and the new series of Love Island starts.

All of this will make online viewers even happier the final is on BBC One and the iPlayer this Sunday night. And not just because of the embarrassing cheerleading fest from professional commentators at ITV on Wednesday night, who gleefully abandoned any credibility, but I digress.

Not to tempt fate, but iPlayer viewers can expect no such snafu from the BBC when enjoying the final against Italy on Sunday night. Some of them will even be able to watch the game in 4K HDR, thanks to the Beeb’s continued and admirable investment in emerging technology throughout its history. That’s despite continued budget cuts and pressure from the government and no income from ads upon ads upon ads.

4K on ITV? The ITV Hub struggles to get near HD streaming at the best of times, which should be a bare minimum at this point, regardless of whether it’s a free or paid service.

However, if you’re entrusted with the biggest sporting event the nation has seen in a generation, you have an obligation to provide a solid and reliable viewing experience on all of the platforms you offer. At an absolute minimum. Otherwise, don’t offer it and tell people to get to the nearest place with a TV aerial they can find.

On TrustPilot the ITV Hub has. 1.1 rating. The 2,000 plus complaints about the service stretch back to the beginning of the tournament and beyond and they’re staggeringly varied. ‘Stream went backwards every two minutes’, ‘stream dropped and repeated pre-roll ads’, ‘low bitrate footage for when the stream actually worked’. Some said the adverts streamed in UHD, while the football itself maxed out at about 360p. Of course, some of this is anecdotal, but the sheer number of complaints speaks volumes about ITV Hub’s fitness for purpose.

It’s absolutely unacceptable for a streaming service to perform this badly during such a major event. If ITV can’t sort this out in time for the World Cup next summer then the entire tournament should be aired on the BBC.

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