Floyd Mayweather wasn’t the only one piling up hits in Saturday night’s big boxing match.
Fledgling online video apps Meerkat and Periscope both hosted a flurry of live streams of the fight, resulting in thousands getting to view portions of the pay-per-view event for free.
« I wasn’t expecting to see the whole fight quite as well and as easily as I was able to, » said Shelly Palmer, managing director of the digital media group at Landmark Ventures and author of Digital Wisdom: Thought Leadership for a Connected World. « I think what it means for copyright holders is pretty significant. »
HBO and Showtime, which handled the pay-per-view delivery on TV and the Web, had taken legal action in advance against some web sites that promised to illegally show the fight. The purse, including funds from tickets and pay-per-view purchases, was $300 million.
But when the starting bell rung at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, multiple live stream feeds of the action appeared on Meerkat and Periscope from people at home who had paid the $89 or $100 for the fight on their TV.
New streams would start each round of the bout, which went 12 rounds and Mayweather won by unanimous decision. Streams found audiences as small as dozens and has high as in the thousands. At least one person at the fight — tickets for which announced prices ran as high as $7,500 and sold for tens of thousands more on the aftermarket — streamed part of the fight from the venue, The Verge reported.
Ironically, the fight was delayed shortly because some cable TV subscribers had technical problems viewing the broadcast.
Showtime, which HBO said took the lead on piracy enforcement, declined comment. Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin said that the company « worked closely with the content owners and contacted users they alerted us about. »
HBO and Showtime executives asked Periscope and Meerkat prior to the fight to take down streams, Bloomberg reported, citing a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified. Representatives of Periscope did not return requests for comment Sunday.
At one point, it seemed that Periscope filtered out some of the feeds of the match. « Maybe they read my tweet, » said Matt Smith, who noted on Twitter during the event that there were plenty to watch.
Twitter, which owns Periscope, « did its best to play whack a mole » and remove feeds, said Palmer. He checked out Periscope because the wireless connectivity at the hotel he was vacationing at was not robust enough to warrant an online purchase of the event.
But Twitter CEO Dick Costolo offered his opinion on the situation after the fight, declaring « the winner is … @PeriscopeCo. »
Video quality varied widely — some offered impressive horizontal widescreen video, while others were shaky and vertical — so watching via streaming app « would not have been the preferred method to watch, » Palmer said.
Still, the fact that some video streamers included friends watching the fight and their reactions « made watching more enjoyable … more interactive (and) more social, like having a way larger group together, » said Lucy Rendler Kaplan, a marketing director.
The coming days will reveal whether HBO and Showtime takes legal action, because they « can go after those who streamed the fight off a televised broadcast » for violating copyright laws, said Marc Edelman, law professor at Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider