Hulu’s live TV subscription service experienced lengthy downtime last night during the first Democratic debate ahead of the 2020 US presidential election. Customers voiced their frustrations on Twitter as they tried tuning into the debate, which was hosted by NBC News and aired live on NBC and MSNBC. Viewers were met with “playback failure” and “error playing this video” messages on both mobile and TV devices. The scope of complaints makes it pretty clear that this outage was nationwide, and it came at a bad time.
Thanks to Chris Andrews, who wrote about this for Consumer Press, for flagging the situation to me. Hulu’s live TV troubles persisted for over an hour, according to his report, before things were fixed at around 10:40PM ET.
The Verge has reached out to Hulu for comment. Live event failures like this are always a terrible look for live TV streaming services. Companies like Hulu, YouTube, Sling TV, AT&T, and Sony are trying to convince consumers to pay for their subscription TV apps instead of going with cable. Hulu with Live TV costs $44.99 per month.
For what it’s worth, the Democratic debate was streamed on YouTube last night for free, and the same will be true this evening for part two. Just keep that in mind if Hulu’s issues repeat for a second night. NBC News is also making it available from its website. For the full list of ways to watch, check out our guide from yesterday: