Despite 'The Match' Glitches, Turner's Levy Still Sold On Franchise
Despite a glitch that caused Turner to make last weekend’s pay-per-view Phil Mickelson-Tiger Woods golf event free -- potentially wiping away as much as $10M in revenue -- Turner President David Levy said he was happy with the event and expects to produce similar ones. "We are in this for the long haul," he said on Monday. "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." Turner logged 750,000 unique video views and 55 million minutes consumed on B/R Live for "The Match." "And that’s just B/R Live," Levy said. "That does not include our pay-per-view distribution partners."
Back in August, the company paid upwards of $10M for the rights to carry the event, much of which was going to be recouped through the $19.99 PPV price tag. When the match started on Friday, many viewers were unable to log in and view the stream, causing Turner to take the extraordinary step of dropping the paywall entirely. "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." Levy said that his company did not expect to make revenue solely from PPV sales. It also sold sponsorships to companies like Capital One, Audi, Rolex and AT&T. "All the sponsors want to come back," he said. "They all were extremely happy with the event and the coverage."
Levy said he first heard about potential problems at 11:30am during the preshow. By the time the golfers were on the third hole, Levy realized how big the problem was. "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."
Levy said that his tech team was working to fix the problems in order to collect the $19.99 payment from as many viewers as possible. "We would fix one problem on one platform and another one would have some challenges," Levy said. "It just made sense to keep it open and take the consequences that goes with it."
Levy said he is committed to this format. "You now have a franchise that you can use in many different ways," he said. "It's a little early to say what we’re going to do next. Certainly, Tiger and Phil would like to have conversations. So would I. I don't think you have to keep this just to golf. This is something that could be used for other sports and other competitions. We now have a new model. If you put a compelling event together, people are willing to pay for it." Based on the number of people that pre-ordered the event, Levy said that the $19.99 price tag worked. "We're going to learn from this," he 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."