Thursday, June 7, 2007

Dish Network Ruins "The Dream" For NASCAR Fans


Wednesday night was intended to be one big dirt-track racing party for fans across the nation. Tony Stewart and twenty-five of his racing buddies were going up to Eldora Speedway in Ohio to have some fun. Tony had put together a night of NASCAR and NHRA drivers taking to the half mile dirt track in Late Model Stock cars. The idea was to have that fun while raising funds for the Victory Junction Gang Camp. This is a cause near and dear to the hearts of many in NASCAR, especially Tony.

This was the third year of this "one night stand," but this time something was different. Television had come to Eldora, in the form of "the pros" from Fox Sports and the facilities of HBO. This year, the entire evening of The Prelude to the Dream would be on pay-per-view. A one time fee would get viewers an exclusive night of racing the likes of which had never been "seen" before.

While HBO was the "host" for the pay-per-view event, other companies that offer satellite feeds directly to viewers also participated. One of those companies was the Dish Network. This twenty-five year old company offers high-tech direct satellite service to homes and commercial facilities. They serve over thirteen million customers nationwide.

The Prelude to the Dream was a live sporting event that was scheduled for 7PM to 10PM Eastern Time. As with most sports, there are always circumstances that cause a program to run a bit longer than scheduled. This was especially true for this pay-per-view offering, because it only had a "created" format. There was no shot clock, there were no referees keeping track of the quarters, and there was no scoreboard in the end zone telling everyone how much time was left in the game. This was auto racing, and much like baseball, when it was over...it was over.

The Dish Network broadcast went on the air without a glitch. Subscribers paid their fee and ordered an exclusive night of racing under the lights in the Midwest. As the evening continued to showcase exciting racing action, it was clear that "the Feature" was going to occur after the scheduled "off" time of 10PM. This was absolutely not a problem, because the organizers had told the satellite companies that this was a live charity sporting event. Everyone understood that The Prelude to the Dream would be over when the last lap of "the Feature" was complete.

Apparently, someone at the Dish Network Operations Center was asleep at the wheel. Dish Network subscribers nationwide have emailed The Daly Planet to say that at 10PM, the suggested "end time" of this event, their screens went black. This suggests that the "computer" had been scheduled to end their pay-per-view access at a certain time, as if they had ordered a movie, and not a sporting event. Any Network Operations Coordinator monitoring this event would have had plenty of time to determine that it was not going to end at the "suggested" off time.

The correct course of action would have been simply to enable the computer to continue the pay-per-view access on this channel to the subscribers who were watching a sporting event in progress. Readers have stated that this occurred after the "B Main" and that only after a black screen for thirty minutes did a graphic appear telling them to turn to another channel for the end of the event.

Several readers immediately tried to call Dish Network, but were kept on hold for over thirty minutes. This is not a hard problem to fix, unless the manpower was not available and all that was running the show was a computer programmed earlier in the day. Most cable and satellite companies have Network Operations Centers specifically to avoid this type of problem. As the program progressed, it was obvious it was going to run long. It never should have been scheduled by the Dish Network with a "hard off" as they say in the business. It was live sports.

Eventually, Dish Network allocated another channel and told viewers to turn to it for the rest of the event. There was only one problem. The event was over. Dish Network viewers missed "the Feature" and the Dish Network did not have the decency to store the program and then play back the part that everyone missed. Even if they had played back "the Feature," everyone who had set a DVR or VCR for one specific channel to tape this event would have come up empty. Simply put, this was an on-air operations foul-up compounded by continual bad decision-making and poor customer service.

Many Dish Network subscribers that emailed The Daly Planet said that they went black after the "B Main" and never came back again. They liked what they had seen, but they might have missed one of the best dirt-track races in years when they missed "the Feature."

On a night that made TV racing history, it is simply a shame that a logistical and technical error by one satellite company could cause so much pain for racing fans. Almost everyone who emailed stated very clearly that they loved the show, and look forward to next year's event. Everyone said it was the charity aspect that drew them in, and then it was the awesome racing that kept them glued to the screen.

The Daly Planet would respectfully suggest that one way Dish Network executives might put a positive spin on a very bad situation is by helping to support the very cause for which their subscribers paid their hard-earned money. Perhaps, a donation to the Victory Junction Gang Camp from the Dish Network would go a long way in healing the pain that this technical glitch inflicted on racing fans nationwide. Then, Dish Network could replay this event from start-to-finish for all their subscribers without any additional charge. At least let them see the whole program once.

If the folks at the Dish Network Operations Center took the time to watch the replay, they might even become race fans. That way, next year the Dish Network employees would be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email editor@thedalyplanet.tv if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Folks,
This sequence of events is exactly what happened to me. You are correct in asking DISH Network to support Victory Junction....because...I, for one, will never, ever order up this sort of event again. Whomever made the error, should be terminated for stupidity!! I assume that the "Prelude" will happen again next year, I will not purchase, unless there is an on screen apology for this year's goof up.
Tony Stewart should get on the phone and on a TV interview and give DISH Network a real blast, and point out their engineer's lack of talent with live events.....

Glenn Klima
New Milton, WV

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that I am about to defend Dish Network; I have had less than stellar service in the previous years.

The program was about to end at 10 p.m. and Dish instructed viewers via a crawl at the bottom of the screen to switch channels to see continued coverage of the Prelude. I switched to channel 462 and watched the remaining coverage.

Granted, it was not ideal, it was minor in my view.

Jeff

Anonymous said...

Amen. Wonder what would happen if I refused to pay the Dish Bill? Would this effect the contribution to VJGC ? Probably. I think I will refuse to pay and send a contribution directly to VJGC. That way the camp will get it all. I bet Dish skims some of the payment "to cover expenses". My annual subscription to Dish is due next month. Did someone say Direct?

Anonymous said...

Dish network sure messed up on this one! First off I must say that the prelude to the dream was probably better than any of the NEXTEL Cup races so far this year. I must applaud Tony on this event!! I am a DISH subscriber and I rented the pay for view event. I walked out of the room after the b main and came back in a few minutes later to find a blank screen and it was promting me that I needed to purchase the event to watch it. I went ahead and purchased it again only to end up watching a re broadcast of what I had already seen. I called Dish Network and it appears I am one of the lucky ones who actually got through in about 10 minutes. I was told to switch to another channel and luckily they were on the parade lap of the feature so I didn't miss the race. I do know of a few people who could either not get the new channel on their system or couldn't get through to Dish in time to watch the feature. I would hope that Dish Network would do something for these people who did not get to watch the feature. Maybe they could refund the money to those people and pay the $24.95 out of dish networks pocket and give it directly to the Victory Junction Gang. Even with the mess up on Dish's part I can't wait to see what next year's race will bring!!

Anonymous said...

I have Dish Network, and about 9:45 est, on the bottom of the screen, it said, "To watch the conclusion, tune to channels 462 or 471." I turned to 462 at 10:00 pm and watched the feature. I had no problem.

Dave said...

To be fair to DISH Network, for several minutes before 10pm, right there on the screen in red letters, it told us to tune to channel 462 or 471 for the conclusion of the event.

I tuned over there during a lull in the action, there was a slate up.

At 10PM, the regular channel was disabled, and the receiver asked me if I wanted to pay another $24.95 for the event... I declined and switched to channe 462 and continued watching.

There was no downtime, except for changing channels quickly, and that change came before the feature even got close to running. I've got the whole thing on the DVR! No problems (except the channel change) at all.

Those complaining that they had to call DISH simply did not pay attention to the graphic on the screen.

Anonymous said...

Wait a second--here's what I saw on, watching the live version of the event on DISH:

ABout 15 minutes before the Feature, a super was put on the bottom of the screen telling viewers to tune to another channel for the remainder of the event. I did this, and everything was fine.

Of course (a) why couldn't DISH have alloted the second channel for the repeat for the beginning? They have plenty of available PPV channel space;

and (b) if you were recording the event, you were screwed, because I don't think your DVR would follow the channel change.

Anonymous said...

if you were watching the event it popped up down at the bottom to change to another channel before the time slot cut off... i was confused buy this as im sure others were, why would i need to change channels on a live ppv. after it shut down i went hunting for the channels... but i agree this should have never even taken place... thare are so many grafix on the screen now days people don't realy pay any attention to what is going on on the screen other than the program... if you watch TNT very often you know what in talking about...

Anonymous said...

I am sure glad I have Directv.

Anonymous said...

we have dish net work and at 10 pm we followed the red written instructions at the bottom of the screen and change channels and did not miss anything except the taste of dirt e from pa

Prospector said...

The instructions were noted at the end of the recording of the program. The problem is that many people, for various reasons, were not watching in real time. Due to our schedule we were about 45 minutes behind real time. When we got the message and changed channels we just in time to see Mike Joy sign off. To say we are not happy with Dish is an understatement. We are looking towards Direct.

Kats19 said...

It certainly was a roller coaster ride. My college roommate, the one who claims that Nascar has been killing my brain cells weekly for the past five years, finally saw racing she liked,who knew? Of course, she has Direct TV. It was great until it disappeared. I never saw a warning on the screen, spent 30 minutes on hold, and talked to the rudest customer service wench. On the plus side, Dishnetwork responded to my complaint letter within a half hour
and will credit my account the cost of the program.

Will send a check to VJGC, and next year buy tickets and pick up my room mate on the way.

Anonymous said...

The biggest issue was for those that were not home or maybe busy and were recording it. Some people work and did not want to miss the event. I was lucky, I was in front of the screen when it flashed up, but seemed it was only about 5 minutes before. I will watch the recording to check that out.
BTW, it was possible to be watching it on DVR while the race was going on and actually get the message after the race was over on channel 462. There should be no arguement from Dish Network over their lack of intelligence in handling this mess. Replay it for free or refund the money. Plain and simple!

Anonymous said...

I recorded the race on my DVR and haven't had a chance to watch yet, so this was news to me. I heard through DISH Network that "the Dream" is running in it's entirety today (Friday). Have to pay another $24.95 for it, but I imagine if you call DISH that they'll refund the first one that was incomplete.

Anonymous said...

I am happy to have DirecTV. I think Dish Network stinks. I hear there packages are cheaper but the customer service is terrible. It goes back to the old saying "YOU GET WHAY YOU PAY FOR"

Anonymous said...

Sent to Dish Network Support:
I purchased this PPV event and after watching it for 3.5 hours; I was instructed to tune to channel 461 or 472 if I wanted to watch the conclusion of the race. The problem is that I don’t receive any of those channels on my package. I called your programming support department and after 20 minutes I finally talked to a real person and was told to tune to channel 461. As I told her I have channels 455, 460, 466, and 480; there isn’t or wasn’t any 461 or 472 available (She said she would enter this info in my customer file). She forwarded me to the Tech Support department and after a 40 minute wait I finally gave up figuring that the race was probably over by now. Now I sit with $24.95 bill for an event that I didn’t even get the pleasure to watch the conclusion to. I don’t know if any one else had the same problem, but you can log me as an unhappy customer who will probably never watch any PPV event on Dish ever again. I understand in talking to others, who did get those channels and were able to watch the end of the race that it did happen. They were not happy about the fact that the channel switching went on in the middle of the event and I am not happy that after an hour of phone calls; your Tech Support was not able to help in any way.

Anonymous said...

I love the Daly Planet articles but guys I think you got this one wrong. We had the same thing....a msg popped up to change the channel in X minutes and for us anyway it went w/o a hitch. You had to reset the DVR to record again which I didn't consider to much of an inconvenience. I'm just glad it was broadcast!!!

SonicAD said...

I'll just note that a couple of people on the SPEED forums claimed they were able to get a refund, so if you weren't able to see all of it, call them up and ask, because you'll probably get it.

Prospector said...

Remember the "Heidi Game"? We will have to call this Heidi II. Wonder if the same idiots that worked for NBC then are with Dish now. I Have e-mailed Dish and told them I refuse to pay this charge. Since we do not use our charge cards or electronic funds transfer for automatic payment we will not write the check for this one. Our $25.95 will go directly to VJGC. I bet Tony and Kyle are embarrassed by this whole fiasco.

PammH said...

I was taping the event & went to bed early. When I woke up Thursday morn to see the end of the race-blank screen. I called Dish after work. THey offered to refund me 1/2 the payment. I asked when it was going to be replayed. Found out it was replaying all day. However, Dish would NOT let me see the race in it's entirety unless I repurchased it!! I did, but I'm extremely upset about it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Thank you to everyone who left a comment on this post. All we were doing was bringing attention to a situation, and we did. While some had no problems, others had big problems. We are still awaiting (as of Friday night) a response from Dish Network. Thanks again to everyone for helping us understand what happened.

Prospector said...

I e-mailed Dish and told them that I refused to pay for an event that they did not broadcast in its entirety. About 6 hours later received a response that our bill would be adjusted to reflect this. We will send $24.95 directly to VJGC.

Anonymous said...

I recorded it on DVR and have been very busy working and now I find out I don't have the feature recorded and have missed the replay also.What are my options now to see this great race everybody has been talking about?