Despite technical glitches that forced AT&T to stream the high profile golf contest between two great legends, Tiger and Phil, last Friday for free, it’s being said that the event far exceeded the company’s expectations.
In an interview with the Sports Business Journal, Turner president David Levy said there were 750,000 unique video views logged, and 55 million minutes consumed on B/R Live for “The Match.” But the glitch that made the pay-per-view event free to watch potentially cost Turner a $10-million total, according to SBJ.
“Despite the loss of subscriber revenue, based on early indications, total audience for the match far surpassed expectations across all of our platforms,” Mr. Levy said. “Certainly the refunds are going to impact our revenue stream, for sure, but I’m taking a long-term view as we build upon the business model.”
Initial estimates for how many people would purchase “The Match” were in the 100,000 to 150,000 range, one executive involved in the telecast said.
However, about 750,000 people alone watched the event online on B/R Live, according to a spokesman for Turner. The final tallies of sign-ups and viewership, including from other pay-TV providers, haven’t been released, buts it’s being speculated to being close to a million.
Mr. Levy said advertisers were pleased with the results. “Every single advertiser that was a part of this, they all want to come back,” Mr. Levy said.
Mr. Levy said B/R Live never had a problem streaming video, but its system to collect credit-card payment information ran out of memory due to insufficient capacity, preventing people from purchasing the event.
“It was important for us to make sure the consumer got what they were looking for even if it cost us some revenue,” Mr. Levy said of the decision to refund customers and drop the paywall.
AT&T and other major pay-TV providers including Comcast Corp, Dish Network Corp, Charter Communications Inc. and AT&T’s own Direct TV and U-Verse units, all said they would be refunding or crediting customers who purchased the event.
Although AT&T was entitled to half the subscription revenue generated by other pay TV providers, under the terms of their deals, the telecom and media giant won’t seek those fees.
In addition to the uniqueness of two top golfers competing head-to-head, gambling was also a strong component of the telecast. Woods and Mickelson weren’t only playing for a $9 million prize, but also making side bets on individual holes throughout the match.
The telecast kept viewers informed on the ever-changing betting odds from MGM, which Mr. Levy said boosted curiosity about the event.
AT&T’s Turner is planning on turning the Friday after Thanksgiving into a platform for similar big sporting events. “I think there could be other opportunities across different sports, Mr. Levy said.
In the end, The Match had to go to overtime, with Tiger and Phil duking it out over a 93-yard par-3 under the lights until Mickelson finally took the $9 mill, which was tackily stacked near the course.
Tiger Talks…The Match II
If there’s to be The Match II and beyond, Woods said the play on the golf course needs to match the hype leading into the telecast.
“We need to play better,” Woods said at the Hero World Challenge, his annual event at the Albany Golf Club which begins Thursday and brings together 18 of the best players in the world. The Hero benefits his foundation.
“I wish we both would have played better, but neither one of us putted well that day and there were some tough hole locations out there,” Woods added. “So maybe going forward, we just don’t quite have the greens so fast or the pins so difficult. But also, as short as the golf course was playing, we should have made at least seven, eight birdies apiece. We just did not.”
Overall, Woods said the feedback he’s heard has been positive.
“There’s some things in which we can make it better for the viewer,” Woods said. “I think a lot of people tuned in — well, tried to tune in — and then ended up watching. Obviously, there are some things we can do as far as interaction and as far as play.”