On what was expected well ahead of time to be the biggest night of the year for both the pay-per-view industry, and the biggest night ever for both UFC and Showtime when it comes to streaming of a major event, the worst thing happened.
The overload of orders for the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor fight evidently caused problems, particularly on the UFC's side at UFC.tv and UFC Fight Pass. However, according to feedback to MMAFighting.com, there was complaints with Comcast cable in the U.S., Sky Box Office in the U.K., and Showtime, the latter of which was already subject to a lawsuit filed on Monday.
Attempts to reach UFC and Comcast for an explanation of what went wrong were not returned.
Showtime did release a prepared statement to several outlets saying, "We received a very limited number of complaints. We're reviewing all of them carefully, and we will respond accordingly. Refunds are handled at the point of sale, so with regard to Showtime's direct to consumer, our online offering of ShowtimePPV.com and ShowtimePPV app. for those that could not see the fight on those platforms, Showtime will issue a full refund. Of course, the goal is to deliver at the highest quality all of the content."
The UFC did release a statement to USA Today Sports, saying "we're incredibly disappointed by the technical difficulties that were experienced Saturday night, and we're working with our vendor NeuLion to assess exactly what happened.”
MMAFighting.com received e-mails from unhappy consumers not just in the U.S., but also in Canada and the U.K., the majority of those from people ordering from the UFC, and many noting they ordered the fight early. In most cases, either through ordering from another provider, traveling to a friend's house, or finding one of the plethora of illegal streams, most did end up seeing most of the main event.
The main event start was delayed due to issues from different providers.
With Comcast, the main complaint was from people who ordered the show, their television screen confirmed the order, but the show never went on. The problem was it being almost a nightmare to get through the various messages prompts when calling Comcast, and when finally getting past that, being told that the wait for a service representative was more than 90 minutes.
Jamie Dawkins of the U.K. said his problems with ordering from Sky Box Office the video and audio weren't synchronized. It would stop every 20 seconds, and said he was kicked off the web site roughly every two-and-a-half minutes, meaning he had to reset and resign in 15 times over the course of the fight.
"I have mailed Sky twice and have tweeted them, but there's been radio silence since the fight," he said. "A lot of us in the U.K. have had similar issues to each other, yet Sky hasn't said a word."
Most of the MMAFighting.com feedback was from viewers who ordered it through UFC.tv and Fight Pass, and there were issues throughout the U.S. and Canada.
"Ordered through UFC.tv and could not access until about round seven of the main event," wrote David Levine. "Had seven people over to watch in Toronto and was very frustrating."
Bill Zimmerman of State College, Penn., noted he ordered through UFC.tv earlier in the week, and after two hours of trying and failing to make it work, he signed up for a seven-day trial of Sling and was able to watch from midway through the semifinal.
Andrew Frederick said he ordered through the UFC.tv app, was able to watch the first fight and then got kicked off during the second fight. It took about a half hour to reconnect, and he was kicked off again.
"About 20 or so minutes later, the UFC Fight Pass Facebook and Twitter sent out a message saying there are delays and are working on the issue. After an hour or so of wafting, they sent out a link that said something along the lines of you can buy the PPV on these other services. The link was to the Showtime PPV page.
"At that point, Mayweather and McGregor were just starting the fourth round. I was able to see from that point until the finish."
Brandon Kast of Dallas did the same thing, after UFC.tv didn't work for two hours, he ordered it again from Showtime and it worked fine.
However, Tony Koz ordered through Showtime and could not get the video to load. He said he found another way to watch it but it never worked going through Showtime that night.
Dragan Djunckovic of Toronto said he was at a viewing party with more than 50 people, when halfway through the semifinal, the feed went dead, and all attempts to reboot failed. He said he went to a friend’s house who ordered the show through the local Rogers cable and had no problems.
Mike Hiscoe, who said he orders every UFC pay-per-view from UFC.tv and has never had an issue, even for the biggest events, said when he tried to log in, it said the servers were overloaded and to try again later. He said he tried on a few devices but had no luck. Eventually they got it to work on a computer, but then got kicked off during the undercard and he was never able to log back in. He was able to see the fight through a bad Periscope feed off a U.K. feed.
"UFC was clearly overloaded as they were directing people to buy the fight through Showtime, but that isn't an option for us in Canada."
Anthony Dupont of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. said he purchases every UFC pay-per-view through Fight Pass, but was so unhappy he was considering cancelling his subscription and not paying to watch UFC again.
"I was not able to watch the fight on Fight Pass," he wrote. "I instead had to pay double and buy the fight on my TV provider and watch it there. I e-mailed UFC three times and talked to three customer service people via chat and none of them could help me."
The fight was expected by those in the cable industry to do in excess of four million buys on pay-per-view in North America, a figure that has only been reached once in history, for the Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight in 2015.
Before the event, it was also expected to be the most viewed pay-per-view via both legal streaming services from UFC and Showtime of any event in history, as well as the most pirated event by illegal streams in history. Variety reported that there were 239 illegal streams that reached an estimated 2.93 million viewers.
Very little in the way of actual numbers have been released. There was talk the week of the show about advance ticket sales being ahead of the $72 million gate of the 2015 Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight, but no official number was released after the show.
The only revenue numbers released at this point were from Fathom Movie theater events in North America, where the event grossed $2,598,213 on 532 screens. For Saturday night, it was third, behind "The Hitman's Bodyguard" and "Annabelle: Creation" for highest grossing event on Saturday night, and the two that beat it were in 3,377 and 3,565 screens respectively, and had multiple showings during the day. With an average of $4,884 per screen, with a $40 average ticket price, that would mean the show averaged 122 viewers per theater.