By Des Bieler of Washington Post
After defeating Conor McGregor in a much-hyped showdown that was more entertaining than many expected, Floyd Mayweather said of boxing fans, "I owe them for the [Manny] Pacquiao fight."
Meanwhile, the network behind the pay-per-view of the event, Showtime, may find itself owing thousands of unhappy customers after being hit with a class action lawsuit yesterday.
The suit was filed by attorneys Michael Fuller and Mark Geragos in a U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon, on behalf of an Oregon man and what it described as potentially thousands of other residents of the state.
The man, Zack Bartel, is alleging that he paid the US$99.99 fee to stream the fight in high-definition from a Showtime app, only to suffer through an unstable feed with poor resolution and numerous freezes.
"To his extreme disappointment and frustration, plaintiff (and thousands of other consumers) quickly learned that defendant's system was defective and unable to stream the Mayweather fight in HD as defendant had advertised," the lawsuit stated.
"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 filing included several screen shots taken by Bartel, showing subpar video quality and an example of an error message. It also included many tweets by other frustrated would-be viewers who were complaining about the Showtime app.
The lawsuit claimed that Showtime "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. . . . 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."
"We received a very limited number of complaints," Showtime executive Chris DeBlasio told MMA Junkie. He said that his company would provide refunds for people who purchased the fight through its app and web client, saying, "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."
Showtime was among several providers of the fight, including cable and Internet companies, struggling to provide a feed to all their customers. The main event was delayed while technical issues were addressed, and Mayweather and McGregor did not start boxing until around midnight Eastern.
The lawsuit stated that by failing to warn consumers that its streaming product might fail, Showtime "willfully violated the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act." It claimed that Bartel and other plaintiffs should be entitled to "actual damages or $200 statutory damages, whichever is greater," and that the Oregon class is "entitled to recover punitive damages," given Showtime's "wanton, outrageous and oppressive violation" of the rights of consumers in that state.
On Friday, shortly before the fight, a federal judge in California threw out a class action lawsuit that was filed on behalf of boxing fans and pay-per-view customers complaining that Pacquiao failed to disclose his shoulder injury before they paid to watch him take on Mayweather in May 2015. That contest was a desultory affair, but Mayweather made over $100 million off it and reportedly did so again in facing McGregor.