Super Bowl 2020 Outages Leave Fans Furious, but What About Their Money?

The morning after the Kansas City Chiefs won their first NFL championship in 50 years, millions of fans outside the United States were outraged. Actually, judging by their posts online, the Super Bowl 2020 outages they experienced left them seething with anger.

The league’s official streaming platform, Game Pass, repeatedly failed during the broadcast. Worse yet, the signal died during the most crucial part of the game. Instead of seeing how Kansas City came from behind to win the game with only a few seconds remaining on the clock, international fans were left staring at a blank screen.

For its part, the NFL fessed up to the snafu. It apologized, claiming that Game Pass simply was not able to handle the number of fans who tuned in. It also offered subscribers an automatic 20 percent refund on the cost of their subscription.

But is that – or should it be – the end of the story? Is 20 percent fair compensation? What about fans who bought a full year’s subscription but may not have used the service until the Super Bowl? Or fans who only bought access to post-season games? Do they deserve the same percentage compensation as fans who watched every minute of every game broadcast during the full season? And what about other streaming services that also went dark when push came to shove? (Hulu, which ironically ran an ad featuring Tom Brady during a Super Bowl commercial break, is one.)

This Is a Complex Dispute Resolution 

Questions such as these are what makes this a particularly complex dispute to resolve.

On the one hand, the cold fact of the case is that Game Pass collapsed under pressure only for a short amount of time. It successfully delivered all the service that fans contracted almost all the time. Super Bowl 2020 outages were unexpected and unintentional occurrences.

On the other hand, the service that Game Pass failed to provide was the climax of the entire season. Those last six minutes were the most exciting six minutes of the one game that the NFL knew very well that virtually every subscriber would watch. They knew the numbers but apparently didn’t ensure that the infrastructure would be able to handle the traffic.  

Is a dispute justified? What we can tell you is that the rules governing Visa and Mastercard disputes are clear-cut. They are not a matter of opinion.

Super Bowl 2020 Outages: How to Resolve a Dispute FAQs

  • What comes first?

Begin with the merchant. Try to settle the issue amicably by emailing Game Pass or the other streaming service you relied upon to see the Super Bowl. Ask if they would be willing to provide you with a full refund. You cannot (and should not) undertake the following steps unless you tried to negotiate a mutually acceptable compensation directly with the merchant. After all, Game Pass has already come to the table.

  • What if the streaming service refuses to give me a full refund?

In the event you cannot come to an agreement with the streaming service, the next step is to turn to the dispute department at the bank that issued you the credit or debit card you used to pay. Ask them how to raise a transaction dispute. To do so you will have to supply documentary evidence of the transaction and the merchant’s failure to provide you with the service that was contracted, namely, the Super Bowl broadcast.

  • What is a transaction dispute?

A transaction dispute is the necessary first step in obtaining a full refund through the intercession of your bank. In credit and debit card terminology, such a refund is called a chargeback. In simple terms, a chargeback is the retroactive cancelation of the transaction you are disputing. 

  • And then what happens behind the scenes?

Should your bank agree that the reasons you cite for requesting a chargeback are justified, it will send your dispute on to the merchant’s bank. It will then inform the merchant, who may respond accordingly. You will be able to reply to that response.


No doubt this all sounds like a long and complicated process. That’s because it is. But keep in mind that it’s an established procedure governed by guidelines formulated by the credit and debit card companies themselves. When consumers do not receive the level of service they ordered, they are justified in getting their money back. And that includes you.