The Tiger Woods – Phil Mickelson Match delivered some impressive online audience numbers for Turner Sports, but they came at an extraordinary cost.
The livestream drew 750,000 unique video views and logged 55 million minutes of viewing time. A glitch that resulted in the pay-per-view event being streamed for free on BR/Live, however, likely cost Turner Sports upward of $10 million in revenue.
No figures were available for the number of pay-per-view buys, most of which were refunded since The Match ended up being given away for free by BR/Live.
Still, Turner President David Levy remains pleased with the event and hopes to produce similar events in the future.
“We are in this for the long haul,” Levy told John Ourand of Sports Business Daily. “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 paid $10 million for the rights to the $9 million-winner-take-all showdown, held at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas and won by Mickelson on the 22nd hole.
“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 of the technical issue that forced the decision to make the stream free on B/R Live. “Try to do this during Black Friday with Amazon’s cloud with everybody online ordering stuff.”
Levy said Turner make money on sponsorships to Capital One, Rolex and others.
“All the sponsors want to come back,” he told SBD. “They all were extremely happy with the event and the coverage.”
Potential problems with the paywall on the B/R Live stream first surfaced at during the preshow, Levy said.
By the time the golfers were on the third hole, social media had lit up with complaints from people who tried to buy the event or from those who purchased it but could not see it.
“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.”
Still, Levy said he is committed to this format.
“You now have a franchise that you can use in many different ways,” he told SBD. “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.”