Match Glitch Costs Turner Media $10 Million

Phil Mickelson won $9 million for defeating Tiger Woods in 22 holes at “The Match” last week in Las Vegas, but industry insiders are projecting the hit Turner took for a technical glitch to be worth even more than Mickelson’s prize money.

According to Sports Business Daily’s John Ourand, estimates are projecting that Turner lost $10 million in revenue due to a technical glitch that resulted in Bleacher Report Live streaming the $19.99 pay-per-view event for free. 

While there is plenty of doom and gloom to be gleaned from losing out on the $10 million, Turner President David Levy preferred to look at the bright side of things.

“We are in this for the long haul,” Levy told Ourand. “We don’t have all the facts and figures, but based on early indications, total audience for the match surpassed expectations across all of our platforms.” 

The early viewership numbers showed 750,000 unique video views and 55 million minutes consumed on B/R Live, which doesn’t include the pay-per-view distribution partners like DirecTV, Comcast and Verizon, among others. 

Things hit the fan during the pre-Match show when many customers were having difficulty viewing the production after shelling out their $19.99. Levy said the decision to stream The Match for free came down to simply living up to a company credo. 

“We have always, as a company, looked at the consumer first,” Levy said. “If we really believe in that mantra, when we were having these problems we made a decision for the franchise, for the consumers, for our brands, to open up this window and let down the paywall.

“Did we know it was going to cost some revenue opportunity? Absolutely. But that’s not why we did it. This is for the long haul. All of our business is about thinking about where we’re going to take this opportunity. We now have a proven formula that works. That’s something we wanted to protect.”

So how did the glitch happen? Levy pointed to the fact that The Match was being staged on one of the busiest consumer days of the year, Black Friday.

“This all boils down to really insufficient memory, server capacity that was required, and the high volume of consumer access requests in a condensed amount of time,” Levy said. “Try to do this during Black Friday with Amazon’s cloud with everybody online ordering stuff.”

Despite the $10 million bath Turner is taking for pulling down the paywall, they were still able to recoup some revenue from the sponsorships they sold to Capital One, Audi, Rolex and AT&T. Levy said that all of the sponsors were happy with their investment and willing to take another run at a pay-per-view event with Turner, whether it’s in golf or another sport.

“We’re going to learn from this,” Levy said. “We’re going to do a lot of due diligence to make it better. It demonstrated to me a number of innovative steps in presenting a live sporting event. It was the first time ever that you integrated some gambling elements into this — predictive data and proprietary data. This was unprecedented in television.”