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Should Live Streaming Come With a Warning Label?

News Analysis
Showtime’s online presentation of Saturday night’s Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight was another disaster for live streaming with numerous fans complaining they couldn’t watch due to login issues, buffering and other technical snafus.

However, while technical errors during a live streamed, high-trafficked event isn’t new, the class action lawsuit filed yesterday against Showtime is.

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This lawsuit is also notable because it’s likely sending shock waves through the live streaming industry which has consistently failed to deliver the top-quality video product it promises to deliver in its promotional materials.

The Suit:
The Hollywood Reporter writes that one angry fan filed the complaint in District Court in Portland, Oregon, charging that Showtime sold the fight online for $99.99 knowing that the live stream was likely to fail, as it has in the past for other TV companies streaming big events such as the Super Bowl, Academy Awards and Game of Thrones’ episodes.

“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 lawsuit states. according to the Hollywood Reporter. “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.”

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You might think that Showtime has little to worry about a lawsuit from a single fan, but it was filed by the high-powered legal team of Michael Fuller and Mark Geragos. That means it will likely be joined by countless other consumers, which would give Fuller and Geragos leverage to seek both significant monetary damages from Showtime as well as an admission that live streaming is not yet a reliable video delivery system.

If that occurred, that could have a devastating impact on all live streaming companies because they might be forced to inform their customers that live streaming is unreliable before they pay their PPV and monthly subscription fees.

Showtime certainly knows the potential impact of this action. The premium network quickly said it would offer refunds to any online viewer who couldn’t watch the fight due to the technical problems. This was a clear effort to head off the class action lawsuit before it gets momentum. But it might not be enough.

Live streaming is in its infancy, and it should get better in the coming years thanks to emerging new technologies such as 5G. But right now, it’s as buggy as a hot summer day in Mississippi. It might work beautifully for several minutes when suddenly the picture will freeze, or pixelate, or display an error message that only a MIT computer programmer would understand.

Companies such as Showtime, HBO and AT&T that ask live streamers for their money should be issuing warnings. They don’t want to, of course, because it might chase potential customers away. But consumers need to understand what they are really buying.

The McGregor-Mayweather lawsuit just might make that part of the deal. Indefinitely.

— Phillip Swann

About TV Answer Man (704 Articles)
The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.

2 Comments on Should Live Streaming Come With a Warning Label?

  1. Charles Tolson // August 29, 2017 at 10:41 am // Reply

    Do you know if DirecTV Now has started it’s beta trials for DVR services?

  2. Yes it should it needs to better no data caps….

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