Showtime offers refunds after fight streaming glitches

Multiplatform viewing
Live-sports streaming is getting tricky—tech glitches with Saturday's Mayweather-McGregor fight led two customers to file lawsuits.

Facing lawsuits over live-streaming glitches during last Saturday’s Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight, Showtime has offered refunds to select customers who paid $89.95 (or $99.95 for high-definition) to watch the fight via the network’s app.

Mayweather scored a 10th-round TKO over McGregor, a UFC champion donning boxing gloves for the first time for the widely hyped bout. While total viewership has not been reported, strong demand spurred illegally pirated streams, which set a record with almost 3 million. Pay-per-view revenue is expected to total nearly $1 billion.

Showtime has not commented directly on the lawsuits, which were brought by two separate fight fans in Oregon and New York federal courts. But Chris DeBlasio, senior VO of sports communications for Showtime, told several outlets the network was offering limited refunds. “While we at Showtime received a very limited amount of complaints, we will issue a full refund to any customers who purchased the event directly from Showtime and were unable to receive the telecast,” he said.

Zack Bartel, the Oregon plaintiff, accused Showtime of deception. “Instead of being a ‘witness to history,’ as defendant had promised, the only thing plaintiff witnessed was grainy video, error screens, buffer events and stalls,” his lawsuit charged.

Fight fans and others sounded off on fight night as the action was delayed 30 minutes, reportedly due to a surge of last-minute demand and problems with the video feed.

UFC, whose Fight Pass app also faced outages, said it was working to uncover the cause. The company reported getting requests for refunds from disappointed customers and is “reviewing each request on a case-by-case basis.”

Interestingly, UFC seemed willing to throw its tech vendor, NeuLion, under the bus (so much for white-label technology!) when confronted with the glitches.

Dana White, head of the circuit, issued this statement: "We’re incredibly disappointed by the technical difficulties that were experienced Saturday night, and we’re working with our vendor NeuLion to assess exactly what happened. Nothing is more important to the UFC than our fans. They’ve always been incredibly loyal and supportive and we’ll always take care of them."

Streaming video skeptic Philip Swann argued on his TVAnswerMan blog that streaming events should come with a warning label. The lawsuits, he said, are “likely sending shockwaves through the streaming video industry.”