6:46 p.m. | Updated
They were promised an online broadcast of a debate between Bill O?Reilly and Jon Stewart. But for many audience members who tuned in on Saturday for the live Web stream of ?The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium,? the night?s main event was a fight between them and malfunctioning Internet coverage that cut viewers off from the debate for its first half-hour or longer.
The exact number of affected viewers, who paid $4.95 each to stream the event and were unable to watch it live, is not immediately known. But anecdotal accounts of these difficulties were widespread on Saturday night. At the Speakeasy blog of The Wall Street Journal, what was supposed to be a real-time account of the Rumble instead recorded for 42 minutes a blogger?s inability to connect to the online stream. On Twitter, Roger Ebert complained that he could not get coverage of the debate from the video-streaming service Roku, writing: ?I promote Stewart vs. O?Reilly on ROKU on FB and Twitter and can?t log in myself. Bad image for ROKU.?
Press representatives for the Rumble said in a statement: ?We understand many viewers had difficulty streaming the debate when it began. These issues have been resolved and the show will be available both on-demand and via download later this evening. For anyone who was unable to view The Rumble live and no longer wishes to do so, refund information will be available early next week. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.?
A press representative for Roku said Sunday in an email that problems with the live stream of the Rumble were ?not unique to Roku customers? and were also experienced by ?those who tried to access the event through other streaming devices.? The company added that it was nonetheless ?very disappointed that some of our customers had difficulty streaming The Rumble 2012 live on Roku yesterday.?
In a television interview on Sunday morning with George Stephanopoulos, Mr. O?Reilly said: ?If you want your money back, it?s going to charity anyway, but we?ll do it. It crashed ? the server crashed, we had so many people coming in.?