Technical Issues Make “The Match” a Costly Experiment for Turner Sports
Turner Sports will refund the $19.99 paid to anyone who purchased “The Match” through their B/R Live app, after the company decided to make the PPV golf match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson available to the public for free. Technical issues with the digital streaming service’s purchasing infrastructure forced AT&T’s media division to remove the paywall prior to the 1st hole, to ensure all paying customers would have access to the event. Comcast, Cox, Charter Spectrum, Verizon, Altice, DISH/Sling TV, U-Verse & DirecTV have all also agreed to issue refunds since the PPV event was available to many for free; there were no reported issues with any of the cable or satellite providers.
Howie Long-Short: What was supposed to be a showcase of AT&T’s ability to produce, activate and distribute a high-profile sporting event, turned into a costly experiment for Turner Sports. Nicholas Masafumi Watanabe (sports management professor at the University of South Carolina) had estimated that “The Match” would need 700,000 buys to break-even, it now appears Turner Sports will eat the entire +/- $14 million.
While costly, the decision to pull down the paywall and to ultimately issue refunds was a wise one. Turner turned a potential PR disaster into some positive publicity and the free access likely drew some viewers to the platform, that would not have otherwise downloaded the app (i.e. first time users).
Tech issues, that continue to mar the live streams of sporting events, highlight the sports fan’s need to retain a cable subscription. If you’re not willing to risk missing “the game”, traditional television remains the only option.
Golf has television’s oldest audience (average 64 years), so reimagining the game and using a new means of media distribution (see: streaming) to capture the younger demo was worth trying out; particularly for AT&T, as it seeks to carve its niche in the DTC streaming landscape following June’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner.
Fan Marino: On the course, “The Match” was a mixed bag (pun intended). While the playoff holes (played 18 2x, played make-shift 93 yard 20th hole 3x) generated some excitement, Charles Barkley (on broadcast team) acknowledged that viewers were “watching some really crappy golf”; the pair shot 69s on the par-72 course just days after Phil projected the winner would have to shoot a 63 or 64 to win. Mickelson won the event (and the $9 million prize) with a birdie on the 22nd hole; the $400K he won on side bets will be donated to charity.
For those unaware, a series of messages ranging from comical (“is this 1999?”) to festive (“Happy Thanksgiving”), appeared in the airspace above Shadow Creek Golf Course on Friday afternoon. The OTT streaming service DAZN has since claimed responsibility for the stunt, calling it “retaliation” for Turner Sports overcharging for the PPV event. DAZN, which offers sports fans premium events on a low monthly subscription basis, insists “pay-per-view is a bad deal”; which made the PPV golf event an opportune time to promote the service (“Get DAZN For Free”) and their Dec. 15th fight between Canelo Alvarez and Rocky Fielding (see: “Canelo v Rocky = Free”).
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