When Streaming Media Doesn’t Stream

Earlier this year SiriusXM made some changes to its service that impacted dozens of our clients. Firmware updates were required to get the service working on media servers across the industry, and some older media servers, I am told, couldn’t be upgraded and therefore wouldn’t work with SiriusXM anymore.
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Earlier this year SiriusXM made some changes to its service that impacted dozens of our clients. Firmware updates were required to get the service working on media servers across the industry, and some older media servers, I am told, couldn’t be upgraded and therefore wouldn’t work with SiriusXM anymore.

For our company, thankfully, we were able to do most of the updates remotely since we own most of our client’s networks and could VPN in to make the changes. We did, however, have some legacy projects out there that required or will require rolling trucks to make the upgrade on-site or to replace hardware that could no longer support the service. I can’t imagine how difficult it has been for integrators who had the business model we had five years ago, where nothing was accessible remotely and every client would have required a truck roll. Many middle market jobs can’t afford a $1,000 router and the thousands of dollars for control systems and media servers that allow reliable remote and changes.

This got me to thinking about all of the calls we get for issues with streaming services. For example, sometimes Netflix just craps out on my AppleTV. A reboot doesn’t always work, as it appears to be a connection problem between Netflix and Apple (I assume). When this happens to a client, we get the call complaining that the system or network isn’t working and they want someone to come out and fix it. We typically have them check other services, and if those apps work fine, inform them that it is likely a Netflix/Apple issue, and that there is nothing we can do about it other than rebooting the AppleTV. Ninety-nine percent of the time the client understands and goes on their merry way until the issue works itself out.

It is the modern day equivalent of the frozen cable box. Remember those days (you should; they still happen a lot!) when a client’s cable service stopped working and even though you did nothing with the cable box other than plug it in, they’d call you first? I can see why they call us first. We pride ourselves on customer service. Who would you rather call, a company with a customer first attitude or your cable provider?

Similar to those days of having them reboot the box (which luckily we can now do with IP power conditioners), now we have to try to figure out streaming issues. I would say that nine times out of 10 times either it is a service-specific issue (and having them check if other services work usually identifies that problem), or a reboot of the streamer works (again, IP power to the rescue!) But there are those times that you have to roll a truck. And with so many different media streamers and different streaming services, the chances of a glitch are much higher than they are with the cable box. Plus, the root cause is exponentially more complicated to track down.

If we need to roll a truck, we charge for the service call. Although I do have to say that I feel really bad about the recent SiriusXM changes and am still trying to figure out what to do about those who need new hardware; do I just charge them the dealer cost? Full retail? A discount on the service call? I know the cold hard business decision is to charge full retail and full service call, but I do feel responsibility since we sold them the hardware that is no longer supporting SiriusXM, even if the hardware manufacturer doesn’t seem to feel any responsibility and is not offering any kind of an upgrade discount.

I think I may have just convinced myself that doing the right thing is the right thing to do here too. We will likely replace the media servers at cost with a small service fee to cover our expenses. We won’t make anything, but we won’t lose anything either. What would you do (or what have you done) in this situation?

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