After first failed attempt at online PPV, Invicta FC betting big on Ustream fix


shannon-knapp-3.jpgThe last time the all-female MMA promotion Invicta FC tried selling an event via online pay-per-view, it charged $7.95 for a stream that didn’t work.

In case you’ve forgotten, it was a bit of a fiasco. Fans either couldn’t get Ustream to accept their payment, or couldn’t get a reliable stream of the action once they had paid, and in the end, Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp opted to pull down the pay wall and offer apologetic refunds to her paying customers.

Not exactly an auspicious start for Invicta’s foray into the world of PPV, but Knapp remains undeterred. This Friday night, she’ll give it another go. Once again, Ustream is in charge of delivering her product to paying fans. And once again, Knapp is betting big that it will go off without a hitch. In fact, the price has actually gone up by two dollars – Invicta FC 5 will cost you $9.95 – and Knapp insists she’s “very confident” fans will get their money’s worth this time.

But why go back to the same people who failed her the first time, the people who she said she couldn’t even get on the phone when things were falling apart on fight night back in January?

Because, Knapp told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) this week, “It’s their reputation. As much as it’s ours too, [Ustream] took a beating last time.”

That seems true enough. After the debacle at Invicta 4, Ustream CEO Brad Hunstable issued a public apology on MMAjunkie.com Radio (which also streams via Ustream), blaming record demand for the technical difficulties. That breakdown cost Invicta a “ton of revenue,” according to Knapp, but she ultimately decided that she’d be better off giving Ustream a chance to fix its own problems rather than taking her business to another company that might not fare any better.

“If I look at it from a business perspective, sure, they screwed up,” Knapp said. “But I’m taking just as big a risk if I go with someone else. I’d have to go in to them and say, we have a high volume of traffic, can you handle it? Of course they’ll say they can.”

According to Ustream’s Chris Brey, that’s an argument Knapp made in person when company representatives sat down with her in Las Vegas shortly after the stream failure at Invicta 4.

“That’s what she said to us, was, ‘Hey, our name’s on the line, but so is Ustream’s.’ And it’s true,” Brey said. “We want our product to work. Sometimes, it’s funny, the perception of people toward Internet entities is that they exist in this vacuum, just faceless companies built by some invisible man who doesn’t care what their experience is. But that’s really not the case. People’s livelihoods and jobs are on the line with this sort of thing. We want to make sure it works just as much as Shannon does.”

This time, Knapp said, Ustream offered Invicta increased advertising as well as some other “breaks,” and preliminary tests of the stream have all looked good. Now she has to hope that fans show up in the same force as last time, and with the same eagerness to pay for her product.

The good news is, at least on paper, this event is stronger than the previous one. With well-known fighters such as Cris “Cyborg” Santos, Sarah Kaufman and Zoila Gurgel, and a main event title fight between 105-pound champ Jessica Penne and “The Karate Hottie” Michele Waterson on offer, there does seem to be more worth paying for this time around.

Also, according to Brey, one issue Ustream isn’t concerned with when it comes to Invicta is a lack of fan interest.

“Obviously there’s a demand,” Brey said. “The demand itself is what caused the problems the last time. … Invicta, to me it’s like a niche within a niche, which is great. It’s hard to find MMA-related content, I think, in the general sports world. On top of that, to find women-specific MMA is even harder. So they have this sub-genre of a sub-sport. If you want to watch women’s MMA, you’re a fan of Invicta.”

Now Knapp just has to hope those same fans will be able to pay for the privilege this time, and that she won’t wake up on Saturday morning with the same frustrated feeling she had a few months ago.

As the moment of truth nears, Knapp, who can be a bit of a control freak when it comes to her fight promotion, said she doesn’t expect to be a ball of backstage stress this time around. She’s more nervous about being in a new venue with a new cage than she is about her live PPV stream collapsing, she insisted.

“Actually, I think it’s going to be smooth this time,” Knapp said. “Nobody wants to deal with me when I’m on a tirade.”

For more on Invicta FC 5, including the night’s stacked fight card, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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