Love Is Blind, but it was certainly not live during Netflix's Love Is Blind season 4 reunion. And Netflix is finally explaining what went down.
On a pre-recorded Q1 earnings interview Tuesday, co-CEOs Ted Sarandos and Greg Peters addressed the live streaming disaster that set off a furor on social media. If you missed it, everyone from rival streamers to congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dunked on Netflix.
"We’re really sorry to disappoint so many people," Peters said. "We didn’t meet the standard that we expect ourselves: to serve our members. And just be clear from a technical perspective, we’ve got the infrastructure. We had just a bug that we introduced, actually, when we implemented some changes to try to improve live-streaming performance after the last live broadcast, Chris Rock[‘s Selective Outrage] in March."
Rock's comedy special, which aired March 4, was Netflix's first-ever live event. The Love Is Blind season 4 reunion was its second.
Peters added that they didn't catch the bug in internal testing and it only manifested "once we put multiple systems interacting with each other under the load of millions of people trying to watch Love Is Blind."
That number is 6.5 million people, to be exact, Peters noted.
The season 4 reunion was supposed to air live Sunday (April 16) night at 8 p.m. ET, but something went awry with the streaming. Scores of viewers got an error message that read, "Pardon the interruption. We’re having trouble playing Netflix. Please check your internet and try again." We saw a different message, which said "We’re having trouble playing this title right now. Please try again later or select a different title."
Eventually, Netflix tweeted an apology that said the reunion would be taped and uploaded to the service "as soon as humanly possible." That turned out to be 3 p.m. ET the next day.
Despite the debacle, Netflix has plans for even more live streaming events.
“So a reunion show that’s going to generate news and buzz, it really does play better live when people can join together,” Sarandos said. “Certainly, the Chris Rock standup show played out so well because there was so much anticipation for what he was going to say in that set. So when we have the opportunity to do projects like that, we like the fact we have the option to do it."
Analysis: Netflix doesn't seem to understand the point of live streaming
Before the live reunion that wasn't actually live, I didn't understand why it had to be live. The fiasco only underscored my point.
Nothing about the content of the reunion, or Rock's comedy special before it, made it absolutely necessary to air live. The hosts, Nick and Vanessa Lachey, had already prepared questions and it was clear the cast members had rehearsed answers to pressing topics ahead of time. I would bet money that Irina and/or Micah got some media training ahead of the reunion.
Even the reunion king himself, Bravo's Andy Cohen, recently declared, "Live reunions are a very bad idea."
As for Rock's special, he had been touring that material for months. He didn't come up with jokes on the spot.
Netflix doesn't seem to get the point of live streaming. To me, the only things that truly need to air live are sports, news, awards shows and some reality competition series.
Netflix plans to broadcast the 2024 SAG Awards, which falls into that bucket. Netflix is also reportedly trying to get into live sports streaming, an area where they are behind rivals like Apple TV Plus, Peacock and Paramount Plus. Yet, the Love Is Blind fail indicates Netflix has some work to do to get to the point of streaming big games. Can you imagine if they somehow won the rights to the Super Bowl and viewers got an error message? Social media — nay, the internet — might implode.
For now, Netflix should reconsider its live streaming plans. Don't do it when you "have the opportunity to do" it. Only stream live when the event absolutely demands it. And test the tech, multiple times.