In complaints filed in separate US federal courts, two boxing fans have opened potential class-action lawsuits against cable TV network Showtime, saying the poor quality of the livestream deprived them of seeing the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.
In one of the most heavily hyped fights in history, an estimated five million people paid $89.95, or $99.95 for HD, to view the fight via cable television screens or online through Showtime’s livestreaming app on tablets, computers, or phones.
Early technical difficulties forced broadcasters to delay the opening bell, to allow service providers to “reboot,” and once the fight did start, problems viewing it persisted for many.
Victor Mallh, of Queens, New York, is suing for breach of contract, saying in his complaint that the service did not deliver what it promised.
“As a result of server failure or other technical failures on [Showtime’s] part,” Mallh and other subscribers “were unable to view substantial portions of the event, and some class members were unable to view the entire event,” his legal brief read.
Zach Bartel of Portland, Oregon, alleges that Showtime engaged in unlawful trade practices, and is seeking actual damages or $200 in statutory damages, whichever is greater.
Bartel has retained the high-profile Los Angeles law firm of Geragos and Geragos. At issue for Bartel and others who eventually join in the class action is an inferior product that delivered “grainy video, error screens, buffer events and stalls,” attorney Michael Fuller said in a brief with the court.
“Instead of being upfront with consumers about its new, untested, underpowered service, defendant caused likelihood of confusion and misunderstanding as to the source and quality of the HD video consumers would see on fight night,” the complaint charges.
“Defendant intentionally misrepresented the quality and grade of video consumers would see using its app, and knowingly failed to disclose that its system was defective with respect to the amount of bandwidth available, and that defendant’s service would materially fail to conform to the quality of HD video defendant promised.”
Though not clear how many were affected, hundreds of fans gave anecdotal evidence on social media of tuning in to the fight via Showtime’s new livestream app only to see blank screens or error messages. Calls to cable providers often went unanswered, adding to the frustration.
UFC, which provided the fight through a third party on its UFC.tv, also experienced problems with the telecast. They said in a statement that they were “working with our vendor NeuLion to assess exactly what happened. We are reviewing each (refund) request on a case-by-case basis.”
The UFC was not named in either of the two lawsuits, and UFC President Dana White quickly tried to appease angry customers. “Nothing is more important to the UFC than our fans,” White said. “They’ve always been incredibly loyal and supportive and we’ll always take care of them.”
Chris DeBlasio, senior vice president of sports communications at Showtime, said the company would not comment on pending litigation, but did say they were offering limited refunds to those who bought the fight through Showtime’s pay-per-view app.
“While we at Showtime received a very limited amount of complaints, we will issue a full refund to any customers who purchased the event directly from Showtime and were unable to receive the telecast,” DeBlasio said.