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Streaming PPV Sports Events Still Looking to Hit Stride

Alvarez-Golovkin fight is latest test the waters 9/15/2017 10:30 AM

On Saturday (Sept. 16) HBO will distribute the much-anticipated Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin middleweight championship boxing match via pay-per-view. As with the mega Aug. 26 Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor PPV fight, Alvarez-Golovkin will be offered to fight fans both through traditional cable and satellite subscribers as well as on digital platforms through Ring.com.

The hope for cord cutters and sports fans away from home looking to catch the fight is that Saturday’s fight doesn’t suffer some of the unfortunate technical glitches that have plagued other high-profile sports events over the past few weeks.

Much has been written about the technical snafus that sabotaged the streaming of Mayweather-McGregor through the newly-created Showtime PPV app, as well as via UFC.TV. UFC president Dana White placed the blame for its website's ordering issues with tech company NeuLion

Both Showtime and the UFC have said they will offer refunds to consumers who paid $99.99 to the digital sites but due to technical issues couldn’t access the fight – which will approach the all time record 4.6 million PPV buys set by the 2015 Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao bout.

Other, less publicized struggles afflicting the streaming of live sports events on subscription-based OTT services – including some FuboTV subs who couldn’t sign in to the highly anticipated Sept. 5 Honduras-United States FIFA World Cup qualifying game, and digital streaming service PlayStation Vue’s reported confusion surrounding NFL blackout rules leading to the unnecessary blacking out of several Fox-televised NFL games in a number of markets this weekend – have arguably dampened the enthusiasm for purchasing live sports content over the web.

“I don’t think it’s done the category any favors,” said Michael Weber, chief operating officer for sports streaming service Fite.TV.  “Because there is some negative publicity out there, I think people are slightly hesitant to make a purchase because of a previous problem.”

For Fite.TV, which is providing the technological and marketing backbone for Ring.com’s streaming of Saturday’s Alvarez-Golovkin fight, streaming live PPV sports programming has not been an issue. Weber said The company, which recently secured right to stream UFC’s PPV events beginning with the Sept. 9 UFC 215 event, has already streamed 500 live and live to tape wrestling, boxing and mixed martial arts events over the past 18 months without any major problems.

As more viewers migrate toward watching video content on mobile phones, computers and tablets, the demand from sports fans for access to high profile sports events will grow. But its not enough for distributors to just offer those events digitally; the user has to have a positive experience -- from ease of ordering to watching a technologically uninterrupted event featuring the best picture quality possible. 

A positive takeaway from Saturday’s Alvarez-Golovkin PPV fight could go along way in further building viewer confidence in the category.