UPDATED with Comcast statement
WarnerMedia and AT&T had hoped that Friday’s live pay per view event featuring golf rivals Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson would be a showcase of the enlarged company’s multiplatform programming capabilities.
Instead, the event may prove to be a PR and business debacle. A technical snafu in the streaming function via Turner’s Bleacher Report sports website forced the company to drop the paywall and offer a free live stream to ensure that those who paid $20 for the event would be able to see it at the start time of 3:10 p.m. ET.
“We experienced some technical issues on (Bleacher Report) Live that temporarily impacted user access to ‘The Match,’ ” Turner said in a statement. “We’ve taken a number of steps to resolve the matter, with our main priority being the delivery of content to those that have purchased the PPV event.”
Fans who paid for the event are undoubtedly none too happy to learn that it wound up being available for free. Mickelson ultimately prevailed in what Golf Week called “a 22-hole thriller.” Comcast upped the pressure on Turner to issue refunds by vowing to give a $19.99 credit to all those who bought the pay per view event through Comcast’s Xfinity platform.
“Comcast will proactively issue a $19.99 credit to any Xfinity TV customer who purchased ‘The Match’ pay-per-view event,” the cable giant said. “We hope Turner and Bleacher Report will do the same given that the event was made available by them for free on The Bleacher Report website.”
“The Match” was billed as golf’s first PPV event, with Woods and Mickelson playing 18 holes for a winner-takes-all $9 million purse. The two planned to make a number of side bets to raise the stakes and donate those additional dollars to charity.
The event was sold as a streaming offering via Bleacher Report and as a traditional PPV telecast offered via AT&T’s DirecTV and other MVPDs including Comcast, Charter, Cox and Altice. There were no problems with the PPV delivery of the event by the linear distributors. Turner hoped to use the made-for-TV event to promote Bleacher Report Live as a source of live streaming sports programming.
It’s understood that Turner executives realized that a technical problem at the point-of-purchase stage on the Bleacher Report platform threatened to make the live stream unavailable for those who bought the event directly through the Turner site. That led to the decision to take down the paywall, lest the paying customers become irate at missing the start of the event.
It’s unclear whether Turner will be forced to issue some form of compensation to those who paid for “The Match,” held at MGM Resorts International’s Shadow Creek course.
A Turner rep declined to comment beyond the statement. Sales figures for “The Match” won’t be available until next week.
Turner is hardly the first traditional media player to experience growing pains in expanding its distribution infrastructure to include streaming, particularly for events that attract large crowds. CBS has in the past suffered with glitches in offering the Grammy Awards live via its CBS All Access platform. HBO had trouble with the HBO Go service last year on the night of the “Game of Thrones” season premiere.