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Volume 25 No. 65
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Turner To Refund Phil-Tiger PPV; Pundits Debate If Match Lived Up To Hype

Turner decided to take down the paywall to ensure that paying fans would not miss any action
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Turner is "offering a refund to those who experienced technical difficulties" trying to stream the Phil Mickelson-Tiger Woods PPV match on the Bleacher Report Live OTT platform, according to the AP. Charter Spectrum, Cox Communications, Dish/SlingTV and AT&T -- via its DirecTV and U-Verse platforms -- also "announced refunds." Technical difficulties "marred the event" on Friday, as some viewers were "unable to view it on their televisions after paying $19.95." Turner and Bleacher Report reps then "sent out links on social media allowing people to view it for free on their computers and mobile devices" (AP, 11/24). Turner in a statement said it "decided to take down the paywall to ensure that fans who already purchased the event would not miss any action." ESPN.com's Darren Rovell noted many fans who went to B/R Live "minutes before the event saw a landing page that didn't give them the opportunity to purchase the event" (ESPN.com, 11/24). GOLFWEEK.com's Speros & Shackelford wrote, "Given the number of sports organizations and media tycoons taking The Match’s pay-per-view streaming temperature, the failure could rank with the great debacles in sports television history" (GOLFWEEK.com, 11/23). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes, "When you offer an event on Pay-Per-View, there is literally a single task that comes before all other tasks, and that is to make sure that customers, you know, PAY-PER-VIEW. ... The Match will go down as one of the great YOU HAD ONE JOB debacles in sports history" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/26).

INSTANT REACTIONS: GOLFWEEK.com's Martin Kaufmann wrote the event was "overproduced and unsatisfying." Despite "having the players mic’ed up, Turner Sports cluttered the coverage with seven announcers." Kaufmann: "Time and again, anchor Ernie Johnson or [Peter] Jacobsen or [Darren] Clarke or someone else insisted on chattering when Mickelson and Woods were talking to each other or their caddies." However, as "contrived as this fiasco was from the outset," it actually had the "potential, in more capable and confident hands, to be an interesting experiment" (GOLFWEEK.com, 11/23). GOLF DIGEST's John Strege noted the "idea of this television show" was to "allow viewers to listen in to the golfers’ interactions with one another and with their caddies." Woods and Mickelson's "early exchanges generally kept those paid to talk from overwhelming the telecast," and "given Woods’ awkwardness with small talk, their exchanges with their caddies was more compelling" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 11/25). Golf Channel's Gary Williams said both Woods and Mickelson are both “global brands,” so they are “very conscious of being mic'd up.” Golf Channel's Paige MacKenzie said she “liked that everybody was mic'd up, even though I didn’t feel like we got as much conversation as we were all hoping for" (“Morning Drive,” Golf Central, 11/26).

MORE FEEDBACK: GOLF.com's Josh Sens wrote, "Miking up players is only compelling if the players have something compelling to say." The early "chit-chat didn’t last, which was probably just as well, because the talk was mostly forced and little of the audio revealed anything about either player that most viewers didn’t already know." Turner "employed assorted whiz-bang features, including (distractingly noisy) drones for high-def flyovers, and Top Tracer, a nifty technology that would have been niftier still if it had a greater number of good shots to trace." More highlights "would have helped enliven the broadcast." All in all, it was a "better-than-average beta, a glitchy but promising test run for a franchise-in-the-making that was more entertaining than the sum of its imperfect parts" (GOLF.com, 11/24). MORNINGREAD.com's John Hawkins writes Turner's production was "heavily flawed," and its "selection of on-air talent reflective of a network that doesn’t take golf seriously." Pat Perez, one of the "straightest-shooting" golfer on Tour, "drank way too much network Kool-Aid and was heard saying some pretty ridiculous stuff as the match neared its end." Johnson's "weaknesses as a golf anchor were plainly obvious," and neither Clarke nor Jacobsen has the "tools to carry a lead desk, especially at a made-for-TV event so intent on thumping its own chest" (MORNINGREAD.com, 11/26).

GOOD LUCK CHUCK: THE RINGER's Megan Schuster wrote the "MVP of Friday’s match was Charles Barkley." He was "part of the broadcast panel, and in an otherwise extremely dull showing, he provided the highlights that kept couch viewers out of a post-turkey-day coma." His first remark centered around the $200,000 wager on whether Mickelson could birdie the first hole, calling the amount "not that big of a deal." Barkley: "I was really confident last night, then the dealer turned over three blackjacks in a row and it was back to black. The 200 was gone." Later, about halfway through the match with Mickelson up one and neither golfer "playing particularly well, Barkley interjected to offer a critique." He said, “I could beat these two guys today" (THERINGER.com, 11/24). GOLF.com's weekly roundtable discussed the event, with Sens agreeing Barkley was in "especially fine form," and the "motley and overstaffed broadcast crew did a good job with what they were given." Luke Kerr-Dineen also felt Barkley could have been "more involved." Josh Berhow noted the "drone shots for some of the putts were pretty cool" (GOLF.com, 11/26).