Thursday, June 10, 2021

Could Problems That Plagued Showtime’s PPV Stream Of Mayweather-Paul Be Avoided In The Future?


Initially, this observer had every intention of writing a feature column discussing the event that took place at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, FL on June 6th, which featured the highly anticipated, whether that anticipation be good or bad depending on one’s perspective, exhibition between soon to be inducted International Boxing Hall of Famer (IBHOF) Floyd Mayweather and social media influencer/YouTube star Logan Paul. While I discussed the good and the potentially bad regarding the exhibition here on The Boxing Truth®️ by previewing the bout,  unfortunately, I am unable for the first time in twenty-five years that I have been writing about and covering Boxing dating back to my youth, to provide the reader with my thoughts and analysis on what took place on an event I was to have covered. The reason for that was that I like many others could not see the event as it happened due to a glitch that overwhelmed the servers of premium cable network Showtime, who streamed the pay-per-view broadcast here in the United States at a $49.99 price point in addition to making the event available on traditional cable/satellite providers respective pay-per-view distribution platforms. 

Credit: Beau Denison 


It is important for me both in the interest of honesty with the reader as well as for those who might be reading the work of yours truly for the first time, who may have viewed the event via the traditional cable/satellite medium, who may not have experienced any issues viewing the broadcast that this was a unique position for me. As such,  I feel the best way to approach this is to provide some personal perspective on my experience. Although it should be no secret to both those who know me as well as longtime readers not only here on The Boxing Truth®️, the outlet/platform I own and operate as well as those who have seen my work through the years both for print outlets as well as online, that my stance on the pay-per-view medium is one that is well-known in that I routinely point out how such a model, also referred to by some as content paywalls, has become increasingly overpriced and undervalued as years have gone on in terms of the amount of content the consumer receives for the price of such events that most of the time in the last several years has seen a standard price point beginning at $70.


While I have also pointed out through numerous writings in recent years as to the benefits of digital subscription-based sports streaming networks such as DAZN and ESPN+ as networks/platforms that offer greater value for the price of either a monthly or annual subscription and have thus become a viable alternative to the pay-per-view model in offering the consumer both live and on demand access as part of their subscription through one platform, when events such as Mayweather-Paul emerge on the calendar, I do what I need to do as someone who chose long ago to cover Boxing and, despite my feelings that the pay-per-view model does more harm to the sport than it serves as a benefit specifically for the paying public, I ensure that I am able to cover such events.


By now, the reader is probably wondering what I meant when I said that this event put me in a unique position, I will continue. As someone who covers Boxing and is a longtime subscriber of United States satellite television provider DirecTV, I normally access such pay-per-view events through my provider and just like the consumer who does not have any involvement in the sport, I incur the expense of pay-per-view access because after all, there are only so many who can travel to cover an event in person. The rest of us meanwhile use the benefits of technology in order to cover such events. 


What made this a unique situation for me , but one that frankly as technology has evolved and more and more consumers opt for streaming options as opposed to traditional cable/satellite television that I have been trying to gradually move towards and have purchased pay-per-view events that I have covered through digital pay-per-view streaming platforms such as FITE more and more in recent years when the option has been available to me both for the convenience as well as a way as someone who is also a consumer to save costs, was I had known for several days  prior to the Mayweather-Paul event that there was a strong possibility of thunderstorms where I live that is a regular occurrence during the summer months. With the possibility of storms in the back of my mind, as days passed, it became more likely that thunderstorms were possible during the Mayweather-Paul event and with the likelihood that I would lose my satellite signal due to weather, I began looking for a streaming option to be able to cover the event. While when the option has been available to me I normally seek FITE for events that are not carried on digital subscription platforms like DAZN and ESPN+, the Mayweather-Paul event would not be available on FITE, but would be available for purchase through Showtime directly seeing as the event was being held under the Showtime Pay-Per-View banner and would be made available through both Showtime’s website as well as their standalone Showtime streaming app available on connected streaming devices and Smart TV platforms.


During the course of the week leading up to the event while I monitored what the weather situation would be for where I live on fight day, I reached out to Showtime and explained that I was considering purchasing the event through their platform citing the weather concerns I previously mentioned. I also inquired about whether on demand access would be available for those who purchased the event through their website or app. After some initial confusion from Showtime’s support as they were under the impression that I would order from my satellite provider, I made it clear that I would be purchasing through the network directly, I was told that on demand access would be included for those who purchased the event directly from the network only that on demand access would obviously not be available until after the Mayweather-Paul event had aired on June 6th.


With my questions answered by the network prior to fight day, the process seemed relatively straight forward and painless. Although I waited until a few hours before the event to purchase as I had waited to see if there was going to be a change in the weather outlook for the evening, something that is not something I normally do prior to an event like this, I went ahead and signed up for a Showtime account, completed my purchase, and subsequently logged into my streaming device. As I am someone who is also very leery of the potential for glitches, I paid attention to the instructions that were emailed to me upon purchasing the event and made sure that I was logged into the Showtime app and had the event stream pulled up and playing several minutes before a scheduled one hour countdown show prior to the event. The process was smooth and the quality of the stream that began with the countdown show was so impressive that I got on my social media platforms including Twitter, to express how pleased I was at the quality of Showtime’s stream. 


Just as I was beginning to settle myself in and frankly feel relaxed that for once I did not have to also keep an eye on the radar and worry about the weather as I covered an event like this during what is regularly referred to as “Summer Rain Season “ by local meteorologist., with five minutes to go before Showtime’s pay-per-view broadcast, the stream suddenly disappeared and was replaced by a the first of unfortunately several error messages throughout the evening. At the first sign of problems as someone who is savvy when it comes to streaming devices, I quickly exited the Showtime app, relaunched the app, and the restarted the stream. The feed did initially restart and I was able to see the opening of the broadcast and briefly saw the beginning as Showtime host Brian Custer along with Showtime series hosts Desus & Mero began discussing the evening’s event, then unfortunately, the stream was halted again by another error message. It was from this point that the broadcast became inaccessible, and, despite numerous attempts by yours truly to get the feed working, I was unsuccessful as either the app would freeze or if I was able to get to where I could try to start the stream, I would be greeted with error messages.


Unfortunately, this continued all evening with the brief glimpses of the broadcast that amounted to in most cases either thirty second or one minute clips if the stream wasn’t automatically halted by the dreaded error message that I included in this column. As this continued, I again reached out to Showtime support and informed them of the problems with the live stream of the event. I then asked when would the event be made available on demand as I had been told earlier in the week would be available for those who purchased the event directly from the network. Resigned to the circumstances of the evening even though I kept trying until well after midnight here on the east coast to get the stream working in the hopes that at minimum I would be see the Mayweather-Paul exhibition with the exception of having access to the undercard bouts, via the on-demand replay I had been told via email would be included, I was unsuccessful, I did however, wait patiently into the overnight hours to hear from Showtime’s support team.


Much to my disappointment and only adding to the frustration of the evening, when I did get a response from Showtime support, I was apologized to for the issues I had with the stream, but was then told that they had no information on any replays on Showtime’s app or other platforms. As any consumer could imagine and to be more specific those of us who cover the sport can attest to, this only added to what became one of the most frustrating evenings in recent memory for yours truly, who was only looking to do his job.


Now angry with a sour taste over the experience, I responded by saying that this was not what I was told earlier in the week by the same Showtime support team and immediately requested a full refund as I told them, unfortunately, I could not do my job tonight and unfortunately, you cannot cover an event you cannot see amongst other things I said in response as I vented my frustrations as now I could add feeling lied to into the situation. Despite this, unlike some who do not cover Boxing and are not involved in media, I remained professional even though I was angry as anyone  could understand and would be if they were in the same situation.


When I woke up the next day, I was informed by my family that the situation regarding Showtime’s stream had received some mainstream news coverage including among others from outlets such as The Hollywood Reporter. This was in addition to numerous others who reached out to me on social media during the outage who shared their experience with trying to access the stream via Showtime’s app and website. Although this confirmed for me that this was not something that solely affected me as a possible internet outage in my area as can happen from time to time, what this also indicated to me was something I have been saying for several years now regarding the need for Boxing promoters to adapt away from the pay-per-view model.


It served as an indication though not as of yet something that can be confirmed that perhaps more people purchased the Mayweather-Paul event directly from Showtime as opposed to traditional cable/satellite distribution. As much as that indicates the continued decline of the cable/satellite industry, which has only accelerated due to the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic, the question now becomes for those Boxing promoters and networks who continue to insist on what is again an overpriced, undervalued, and frankly outdated model rather than adapting to the changing landscape and adopting to a  subscription-based model, what can be done to ensure circumstances that befell Showtime on June 6th does not happen again or at least, what measures/features could be put in place to ensure the paying customer will be able to access their purchased content in full even if there are technical issues with an event’s live stream.


First in the interest of full disclosure with the reader, one this is not intended nor should it be viewed as a criticism or indictment of Showtime or it’s parent company ViacomCBS, furthermore, again in the interest of disclosure as well as honesty, this observer was refunded in full as well as again apologized to by Showtime. 


After informing the network of my experience after I was informed that I was refunded and informing them again that I could not cover the event as originally intended for this column. I asked if the network would offer any comments on the technical problems that the stream had and what is being done to ensure that the same issues do not occur on future pay-per-view events including the upcoming  card headlined by a Jr. Welterweight bout between Gervonta Davis and Mario Barrios scheduled for June 26th. This observer then followed with an additional question of having seen the issues that occurred with the Mayweather-Paul stream, would the network consider adding on demand access to those events as I was initially led to believe or, is it possible that Showtime might partner with a streaming network such as FITE to handle live streaming of their future pay-per-view events as Fox Sports and other pay-per-view distributors such as Integrated Sports have done for their pay-per-view events?


As of this writing, the network has not responded to my request for comment beyond the following from Showtime support on Tuesday, June 7th. “Hi Beau, 

Thank you for contacting us about the PPV event. We have passed your comments on to the appropriate parties within our company. Please know our objective is to bring the very best programming to our subscribers, so we appreciate you bringing your concerns to our attention. “


While I look forward to updating this column in some form if/when my request for comment is answered, and keeping in mind that glitches are a consequence of ever evolving technology and there have been times dating back to when the cable/satellite medium was dominant where glitches would occur during pay-per-view events for a variety of reasons, the question is what can be done to ensure the paying customer gets the content they pay for as well as from a business perspective, what can be done to ensure such glitches ultimately does not result in a loss of revenue for networks broadcasting an event, the promoters promoting an event, which will also impact the fighters who are promised a portion of revenue from pay-per-view.


Although I believe particularly since ViacomCBS has invested significantly in the acquisition of international sports rights to add to its Paramount+ subscription-based streaming network (Formerly CBS All Access) that it would benefit the company significantly to add Boxing events much like the Mayweather-Paul event as it would essentially put them on an even field with ESPN+ and DAZN, while also offering the consumer a more economical option as opposed to the pay-per-view model and keeping in mind that prior to rebranding to Paramount+, the streaming network under the CBS All Access branding did stream several sporting events including the NFL’s playoff games and Super Bowl and would appear capable of high traffic on servers, there is another potential option if the company insists on continuing with the pay-per-view model and does not seek the assistance of a network platform such FITE to handle the streaming end of those events. What would that option be? YouTube.


It doesn’t take this observer to tell anyone that YouTube has been one of the most popular streaming platforms on a global scale for many years. The platform owned by Google could essentially be an easy solution for networks like Showtime to stream their pay-per-view events. Why am I confident that it can be done? For one, Showtime has already used the platform to stream both international Boxing cards not carried on their apps or cable/satellite channels as well as some preliminary bouts to cards that would be carried on their main cable/satellite network. It is important to also keep in mind that Boxing promoters around the world have used YouTube to stream their events including amateur Boxing both free as well as for a pay-per-view fee. 


An added feature that is already a staple of YouTube’s platform is the ability for the paying customer to be able to go back and watch content they have paid for whenever they wish, thus removing or at least greatly decreasing the potential of loss of revenue/refunding if there are technical issues with a live stream of an event. While the suggestion of either FITE or YouTube being used for streaming distribution for any future Showtime Pay-Per-View events if indeed ViacomCBS insists on continuing with the pay-per-view model is just that a suggestion, there are two things that need to be driven home here both for the reader as well as the powers that be at Showtime/ViacomCBS.


Without a legitimate solution and/or the added benefits of on demand access to ensure what occurred with the Mayweather-Paul event does not happen in the future, Showtime or any other network or promoter that continues to insist on the pay-per-view model, despite mounting evidence that adapting to more consumer friendly models would be more profitable, networks and promoters will continue to lose revenue. The bottom line, the consumer deserves better for their money. 


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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