Ari Berenstein on ROH iPPV issues and the company's response



Dave and Bryan,

I’m writing this letter to you guys today not because it is something I want to do, but something I feel that I need to do. I hope you publish it on the front page.

Some people may know that I used to write a column on 411mania.com called Column of Honor, which covered Ring of Honor for many years. That is probably not worth much to some, but I feel it necessary to state in advance because this isn’t just some capricious e-mail or an unwarranted attack coming from some source that doesn’t know a thing about the product. Though I covered ROH news and both praised and criticized shows when it was warranted, the bottom line is that I was at the heart a fan of the promotion and a customer.

While ROH has come under fire from many over the years, it has been especially difficult to be a fan of the promotion since ROH came under corporate ownership via Sinclair Broadcast Group. The promotion started to change, in some positive aspects but also in many negative ones. However, this letter is not about old ROH versus new ROH. It’s not about what I’m happy about in this new era versus what I am upset about, whether it be regarding booking or talent usage, production value or comparing quality of matches in the golden era of Punk, Danielson, Joe and others to what ROH presents now.

I am writing today specifically about ROH’s recent actions (or inactions) regarding the Death Before Dishonor X internet Pay Per View that was broadcast (to some but not to many others) on September 15th. 2012. As many now know, there was a problem with the feed and gaining access to the website in order to watch the stream. The problems prevented those who purchased the show from watching much of if not most of the first half of the show. It is also the latest in a steady stream of mishaps for ROH regarding their ability to provide a steady and reliable internet Pay Per View product in 2012.

It is an understatement to say simply that I am disappointed in how Ring of Honor, its officials and its staff have handled the problems during and after the Death Before Dishonor X. They believed nothing was wrong with the feed because it was all well and good on their end, but refused to believe the countless messages they received that night about how people were unable to see the stream. Then they doubled-down by stating the feed was working when many were posting images of the “stream unavailable” error message. Then ROH offered no solutions about how to fix the problem once they realized there was an issue.

It took them thirty-six hours to post an apology and an explanation about the errors that happened on Saturday night. Even then, I get the feeling that if it were not for people like me and others repeatedly mentioning through Facebook and Twitter posts that they hadn’t made a statement yet that they likely wouldn’t have done so at all, or at least taken even longer to do so.

Afterwards, ROH gave its customers only twenty-four hours to send in a request for a full refund. Thirty-six hours for an explanation, twenty-four hours for a refund request (otherwise customers will receive a DVD of the event). That is hardly a fair and customer-friendly amount of time to request the refund, and I’m sure ROH officials were counting on that lack of time to reduce the amount of money they would have to give back. Of course, the full show wasn’t even available for days after the show was completed due to more bush-league mistakes on their end. Yet, Smart Mark Video was able to put out THREE days’ worth of CHKARA shows that took place that weekend and make it available for purchase in the time it took for ROH to put up a complete (and yet still not error-free) viewing of their iPPV.

The final straw for me regarding ROH’s handling of the mistakes of this show was a recent blog by Patrick Edwards on the rohwrestling.com website (http://www.rohwrestling.com/connect/blogs/patrick-edwards/2012/sep/20/sidewalk-slam-volume-1-issue-13).

The statements in this blog are the height of kayfabe column writing in an attempt to completely babyface the situation in ROHs favor. It spends the briefest minimum of time acknowledging there was a problem, states how everything was really great that night (when it clearly wasn’t), puts the blame on dirtsheets and rumor mill sites for “stirring the pot”, and then blithely promotes the ROH brand as awesome and the greatest thing since sliced bread number two before moving on to promoting the next iPPV. There are promises to deliver the goods with hyperbole and endless flowery language.

Mr. Edwards writes: "...albeit there being some issues at the start of the broadcast, everything came together quickly which resulted in an awesome night..."

I wouldn’t equate the up-to two hours of frustration of constantly hitting refresh on one’s computer as "everything came together quickly" or an “awesome night”. When someone buys an iPPV, there is an understanding that the service will be delivered. Yes, the technology perhaps isn’t quite perfect. That hasn’t stopped WWNLive and Go Fight Live from having almost error-free presentations in 2012. However, even with the knowledge that there may be some minor hiccups, but not to even have access to a working stream at the start of the show is a major problem and there is NO covering for it, despite Mr. Edwards’ attempt to do so.

Mr. Edwards continues: "I must admit that I'm very impressed at how ROH has made the bold choice to take their live stream iPPV events into their own hands...by producing it themselves at all costs in order to deliver a significantly better end product to the fans."

Again, I would not equate a "significantly better end product" with two-out-of-four presentations having major difficulties and causing ROH to give either refunds or freebies. Go Fight Live may have had issues with the Showdown in the Sun events, but the problems of the first night were due to poor planning and the second night was an act of god and poor weather. GFL had a fine presentation of the 10th Anniversary Show and a so-so presentation of Final Battle 2011 (the audio feed had some early issues that were resolved quickly and a few bush-league production gaffes, but at least the stream was available from beginning-to-end). All told, GFL & ROH have now had about an equal amount of bad experiences w/ ROH iPPV in 2012. This in other words, is not “significantly better”.  It speaks to huge inadequacy issues that ROH cannot get this right on a consistent basis yet other promotions and smaller companies than them have done so and continue to do so.

Mr. Edwards states that "ROH remains committed to not let the fans down...will always do right by the fans as in this case by providing free copies of the 'Death Before Dishonor X' event DVD or the right to a full refund even though the majority of the show was perfectly streamed."  There were still people complaining through the night about broken feeds. The stream was NOT working "perfectly" for a "majority" of the show.  Half a show is decidedly not a majority.

Mr. Edwards then appeals for his readers to "turn the page and ignore negative columnists out there with an axe to grind that make their living by ‘eh hmm, slamming’ everything". Are those the same gossip pages ROH often needs to provide social media buzz and positive reviews for their DVDs, TV shows and iPPVs? Furthermore, I am hoping Mr. Edwards did not mean to insinuate that this group includes the people who were reporting the facts of the situation as it happened, the people who offered constructive criticism to ROH because they would like to see (as in actually able to see) the product when it's offered, or the customers who purchased the show and then had to take to social media to state what was happening with the show, since help was certainly not forthcoming from Ring of Honor’s official channels.

Taking a promotion to task is appropriate when the fault is on them, and the fault is certainly on Ring of Honor, Sinclair Broadcast Group and everyone who was in charge of working on providing the feed and presentation of the show that night. Repeatedly hammering it over and over is necessary because ROH and its staff refuse to accept the criticism. It isn't stirring the pot. It's making sure people in the right places get the message that what happened during Border Wars and Death Before Dishonor X is NOT ACCEPTABLE. Especially when instead of being humble and letting things fade away, they have a PR flack write a column about it pretending that everything is perfect, roses are in bloom and there are no clouds in this blue sky. We can read how everything is great, support ROH, and NOTHING will go wrong again, just like we promised you last time it went wrong and will do so again the next time it goes wrong.

How dishonorable can you get? How arrogant and stupid on the part of Mr. Edwards to write this article and for ROH’s web team to post this blog just days after the iPPV incident. It is insult to injury and rubbing salt in the wounds. Do they not get that those who were complaining the loudest were their own customers? Putting this message up just days after the iPPV problems only serves to further alienate and disillusion the fans who invested their time and their money into trying once again to watch a show and once again arrived at futile ends.

It is infuriating and upsetting to witness the lack of quality consumer service from ROH. There is no more faith in ROH to deliver upon what they promise for internet Pay Per View. How can there be? This is no longer a few minor setbacks. They don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt anymore. They don’t deserve patience, or idealist expectations that they will get it right the next time. They don’t deserve the blind and unwavering loyalty of the fans. They don’t deserve the money. Buyers Beware.

--Ari Berenstein--

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