Shore's Blog: iPPV can work, even with its flaws, but only if it is used with common sense
By Chris Shore
Best in the World 2013 was another unmitigated disaster for ROH the company. Once again the iPPV feed suffered from major problems. Tweet after tweet saw fans washing their hands and giving up on the live show. Sunday fared no better, as the on demand version that was posted had giant chunks missing due to the streaming errors on Saturday. (Note: A "fixed" version has been posted as of the time of this writing.)
The failure hurts on both sides of the transaction. The fans, rightfully, are frustrated at what they see as a loss of time and money. They paid to see a live show and could not. That they are able to see the show in its entirety two days later is a fair consolation prize, but it is still a consolation, not a delivery of promised services. The talent also suffers. They delivered big time, as those who have finally seen the show can attest, and it is a shame that fans did not get to see this effort live when it can have its greatest impact.
Many have looked at the problems ROH, and several other companies, have had and declared that iPPV is not a viable option for indy wrestling. Their newest argument points to WWE's issues with their Internet WrestleMania stream as proof that even with a ton of money behind it, live Internet feeds cannot be trusted to deliver on time, every time.
There is some truth to this argument, but the conclusion is wildly off the mark. It is true that Internet streams can, and will, have problems. A feed produced in one location must pass through dozens of nodes to reach users in another location, and only the source node is controlled by the producer (and even then only to a point). If any one of those nodes fails to perform as expected, including on the users end, there will be problems.
It is amazing that a generation that was raised with the Internet, and has seen various sites (including this one) go offline for actions outside of the owner's control, would demand that live video, the largest of all files, somehow be immune from these problems. Fans, especially Internet savvy fans like those who watch ROH, need to understand that the very nature of the Internet provides great opportunities, like iPPV, but that same nature also creates the potential for problems. You cannot separate one from the other, and fans need to be a little more understanding of that fact before pronouncing a technology, that has been used at times to great success, a complete failure.
This does not mean that fans should just accept whatever garbage is given to them. At the end of the day, when a promotion offers to provide a service for a fee, then they should provide the service. A willingness by fans to accept that there will be occasional problems does not equate to the right of a company to not deliver. Just as a fan has to understand that the nature of the Internet creates risks, so does the promotion, and they must have a plan in place to deal with those problems when they occur.
This is where ROH continues to commit a mortal sin. Not only do they ignore the problems when they are happening, once resolved, they act like they delivered on their promise when they clearly did not. There was no mention of the issues on any social media outlets that I saw, even while numerous fans were tweeting and Facebooking the company about their problems. The situation was made worse by the complete tone-deaf posting of hype videos and pictures on these same social media outlets while fans' concerns where ignored.
The arrogance of ROH management in refusing to even acknowledge these issues is doing irreparable harm to the company, and should serve as the supreme lesson in how not to deal with iPPV issues for other companies looking to make use of the technology. This is also not the first time they have dealt with issues in this manner.
Last September's Death Before Dishonor had intermittent problems that only affected some viewers, yet ROH once again acted like it was not happening, even going so far as to proclaim those who were saying they could not access the show were lying. They continued to cram both feet in their mouth just a few days later by posting a blog that blamed the problems on columnists looking to increase traffic. The disrespect for their fan base is both appalling, and instructive for others.
Any company that decides to use iPPV needs to put policies in place that not only warn fans that there may be problems, but also states will be done in case there are problems. What those policies are depends on what each company believes it can do without bankrupting themselves. For some it might be full refunds. For others, it might be a free DVD of the show. Some may use a combination of offers.
Whatever they choose, promotions need to make their policies known upfront so that fans can make an informed decision instead of waiting to see if there is a problem and then making a rushed, or in the case of ROH a poor, decision. Confidence as a consumer comes from knowing what is being delivered before the purchase is made, not after a problem occurs. iPPV is no different. It can be a success for many companies, but only if planning, information, and common sense are factored in.
Questions? Comments? Anyone, anyone? Let me hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @TheShoreSlant with whatever is on your mind.
And read my first work of fiction: The Following Contest is a Dark Match available exclusively on ebook for all eReaders, smartphones, tablets, and PCs for only 99 cents.
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