After the dust settled, Floyd Mayweather was crowned the undisputed 50-0 king of boxing. Conor McGregor put up an admirable showing and all parties apparently came away from the Mayweather-McGregor extravaganza winners. Well, actually there was a large segment of losers on fight night…those who paid $100 to watch on a streaming platform.
In particular, those who paid their hard-earned money to watch the UFC owned and operated UFC.tv and UFC Fight Pass streams spent the majority of the evening refreshing their feeds and sending frantic e-mails. Some missed the early portion of the card, others only saw the second half of the main event. Unfortunately too many missed the fight entirely.
Without question this is a bad look for all of the streaming providers, but especially for the piracy-conscious UFC. The UFC stands out in their aggressive pursuit of both digital and commercial piracy. The UFC has a well-deserved reputation of weeding out even the most mundane re-purposing of their content online. It is difficult to fault the UFC for protecting their assets, especially given that so much of their product relies on paid premium content.
However, when the UFC charges an exorbitant amount of money and fails to deliver a service, they are tempting, if not outright forcing their audience to find the event through illegal methods. Before this comes across like I am condoning piracy, let me just clarify that illegal streaming is not a victim less crime. Across all media, creative people work extremely hard in the hopes that their content is consumed in its intended form.
In general, the UFC is no different. But on Aug. 26 the UFC was not selling a $10 streaming subscription, or even a $60 pay-per-view, they were selling a $100-dollar once-in-a-lifetime cultural happening. For their part, the UFC acknowledged that their system was experiencing problems. The official UFC Fight Pass Twitter account sent two tweets referring to the outage.
Due to overwhelming traffic you may be experiencing log in issues. This will be resolved shortly.
— UFC Fight Pass (@UFCFightPass) August 27, 2017
Shortly before Mayweather and McGregor squared off, they sent out a tweet with a different tone.
— UFC Fight Pass (@UFCFightPass) August 27, 2017
The second tweet is troubling for a couple of reasons.
First off, issues logging on were only a portion of the problem. Many were initially logged in before their system was unable to reconnect.
— Matt Beckham (@fakemattbeckham) August 28, 2017
Secondly, those who had already purchased the event were being redirected to another provider without any guarantee of a refund or any other compensation. Essentially, the UFC was asking their customers to pay $200 without a guarantee that the fight would be accessible on the alternative platform.
As it stands, results regarding refunds are mixed. Some providers have provided full compensation, while others have been offered free months of UFC Fight Pass. Regardless of the accommodation, the UFC looks like a second-rate streaming provider. Usually, it is unfair to categorize the UFC as being tone deaf to their digital consumers. Unlike other sports, the UFC fan does not need linear cable to remain an ardent fan. Those fans, along with a whole new crop who came along for the first time were left in the dust.
As the fight approached, reports surfaced that it would be delayed due to cable systems crashing because of overwhelming demand.
Breaking: Mayweather-McGregor main event will be delayed due to pay-per-view outages, sources tell Sal Paolantonio. https://t.co/cbaaazujSf
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 27, 2017
To be clear, this delay seems to be unrelated to streaming customers. Similar to Floyd Mayweather’s bout with Manny Pacquiao in 2015, cable systems were unable to process last minute buys. All customers deserve to receive service that they pay for, but for digital consumers planning ahead was of little value considering those who purchased the card days prior were kicked off of the system. The UFC and Showtime can explain away these issues as being out of their control due to overwhelming demand, but that defense undersells their respective audiences.
On one hand, the power brokers who promoted the event as the “biggest in combat sports history” apparently did not believe what they were saying. On the other hand, this mindset implied that the decision makers were unaware of how modern media is consumed. Perhaps they thought that the digital option would be too risky or novel for the masses; therefore, they did not need to have the necessary infrastructure in place.
No matter the rationale, the ball was clearly dropped. If the UFC wants to remain a quality digital content provider while also patrolling the web for pirated content, then they must perform better when they are on the biggest stage. That is, if they are given another chance.
(WRITERS NOTE: While the unfortunate experience of streaming customers is an important issue, it should be noted that in the scheme of things it is rather trivial. As I write about a corporate entity not having an appropriate digital infrastructure, it is not lost on me that people in Texas are being forced out their homes while they also face the horror and unknown of catastrophic flooding. In comparison, these are the real problems that people faced this past weekend. Surely, sports serve as an outlet to distract from daily life, but perspective is always important. Robert Vallejos)
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: MEDIA & BUSINESS: redicting the remainder of UFC’s PPV business in 2017