Frustrated Fan Sues for a Bad Digital Event Experience

Author: David McMillin       

As more event organizers work to engage digital audiences with live-streamed programming, they face some big questions: What should the RFP include for AV services? Which sessions should be streamed? Should attendees have to pay for access? The list goes on, but the company behind the live-streamed boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor is facing an unexpected question: How should they handle a lawsuit for a poor live-streaming experience?

Zack Bartel, an Oregon fan who paid the $99.99 fee to live-stream the Aug. 26 fight, has filed a class-action lawsuit against Showtime for the issues he and other fans encountered when watching the fight. “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,” the 18-page complaint states. “In hopes of maximizing profits, defendant rushed its pay-per-view streaming service to market, without securing enough networking bandwidth to support the number of subscribers who paid to watch the fight.”

Bartel’s lawsuit aims for $200 for each frustrated viewer who joins the lawsuit or whatever the amount turns out to be for actual damages — whichever a jury determines is higher. Parts of the complaint soar to dramatic heights for watching a boxing match, alleging that Showtime’s actions “constituted a wanton, outrageous and oppressive violation of the right of Oregon consumers to be free from unlawful trade practices.” Despite the hyperbolic language, Bartel does have a fair point: He didn’t get the experience he was promised, and $99.99 is a lot of money to pay for error messages and stalled screens. He’ll likely have no trouble finding others to join the lawsuit, either. The live-streaming issues were so bad that organizers were forced to delay the start of the match.

Testing, Testing

Most educational conferences and conventions do not face the same amount of scrutiny as a Las Vegas sporting event, but Leslie Wingler, director of PCMA’s Digital Experience Institute, said that event professionals can learn a valuable lesson from Showtime’s struggles. “A live-stream with no testing?” Wingler asked after the complaint was filed. “I couldn’t believe it when I read it. Testing and event-venue needs, such as bandwidth, are crucial for a live streaming event.”

Wingler added that DEI has a dedicated segment in the production module of the organization’s Digital Event Strategist (DES) Certification Course to make sure that everyone understands the importance of testing and forecasting network needs. “The success of live streaming,” Wingler added, “is dependent on consistent streaming and remote customer satisfaction with that streaming.”

Looking for more tips on delivering a top-notch digital experience? Check out “How to Design a Digital Event” in Convene.

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