Now that “The Match” turned out to be Black Friday’s best deal, The Forecaddie has been wondering who takes the hit from the streaming-gone-bad fiasco.
With all of the pay-per-view money wiped away thanks to a meltdown of BR Live’s paywall and subsequent refunds by all third-party hosts, what looked like a potential gamechanger turned into an overcooked turkey.
With Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson guaranteed something for their time on top of the $9 million “winner takes all,” Turner Sports takes the financial bath on this one. The primary financiers of “The Match” paid millions in rights fees with the hope of selling enough $19.99 subscriptions via the BR Live app, creating a futuristic approach to sports television and gaming.
In an informal poll of TV and sports execs, the number most mentioned to The Man Out Front as Turner’s break-even point amounted to 500,000 paid subscriptions. Even at less than a $10 million haul after cable companies took their share, Turner’s no-expense-spared production approach and a $9 million purse suggested this was never going to be a moneymaker, especially when fees had to be paid to the PGA Tour and the joint-entity created to pay Woods, Mickelson and their teams.
Since the most basic e-commerce elements were dysfunctional, the lost money is a mere blip to Turner parent AT&T compared to the loss of consumer trust. If “The Match 2” ever happens, The Forecaddie won’t be forking over any money until BR Live can prove it knows how to take and protect a credit card number.
Various pre-match stories said the original vision belonged to Hollywood producer Bryan Zuriff and CAA agent Jack Whigham, but it was Turner parent AT&T that ran with their winning bid set on validating the $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. The company CEO, Randall Stephenson, even told the Wall Street Journal in September that “The Match” would illustrate the benefits of the purchase.
“It’s the whole cross-platform and lifecycle management of this content,” he told the Journal.
Please don’t ask The Man Out Front what that means. But given that Stephenson sits on the PGA Tour Policy Board and Turner is expected to show an interest in picking up PGA Tour coverage when their TV deals expire in 2021, “The Match” was at least a temporary setback.
Then there is the PGA Tour, which collected a fee, dove all-in on social media coverage at the expense of the ISPS World Cup and reluctantly green-lit “The Match.” Commissioner Jay Monahan limited the number of in-match side bets and trimmed the purse to an awkward $9 million total in deference to the FedEx Cup. Considering the outcome, maybe strokes-gained guru Mark Broadie can mull statistical probabilities on a future green light to pay-per-view matches from Ponte Vedra headquarters. Given the negatives outweighing the positives, The Forecaddie is having a hard time seeing a sequel. Gwk