Who's going to win tonight's Mayweather-Pacquiao fight? Periscope and Meerkat
Tonight's Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight is one of the most highly anticipated boxing matches ever. It is also going to be an absurdly lucrative night for both fighters as well as their promoters and the networks showing the fight — Time anticipates it will make $400 million in revenue.
Tickets for the fight can't be found for less than $3,500. If you are watching at home, it will cost you $90 for the standard definition version of the fight and $100 for HD, making it the most costly PPV fight in history. For bars and restaurants wanting to show the fight, a commercial license could cost between $5,000 and $15,500 to show Mayweather-Pacquiao — a little less or even more depending on the bar size.
So with all the money involved, it's now surprise that the fight is also expected to be one of the most pirated events of all time as well. HBO and Showtime who are co-running the PPV have already taken preemptive steps to stop sites that are advertising the fight from showing it online.
But there are new players on the media landscape, that weren't even on the the national radar when the fight was announced in February, and who could play a major role in how tonight's fight is watched.
Live streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat allow its users to transmit live video to followers on their apps or through social media, like Twitter. Many people won't want to shell out the cash to watch the fight — which could possibly last only a minute or two — at home or have a place nearby to catch it (Many places showing Mayweather-Pacquiao will probably also charge an entry fee as well.) So, where in the past folks would only be able to follow a live tweet of the fight, with the explosion of the live streaming apps on the scene, there might be another alternative.
There are two ways that users might try to use Periscope and Meerkat to broadcast a pirate feed of the fight.
The first is to have someone actually in the room at the MGM Grand, pointing a phone at the ring. That's the most risky -- both in terms of getting caught, and the legal repercussions if they are. A condition of buying one of the event's hugely expensive tickets is that you agree not to record or broadcast the fight. Anyone caught doing so is likely to be ejected from the venue and possibly slapped with a gigantic breach of contract lawsuit by promoters who will argue that they have the right to recoup the lost PPV revenue. And given the MGM Grand is one of the most secure, and monitored, private buildings in America -- a Las Vegas casino -- coupled with the fact that MGM knows the name and seating location of everyone in the room, getting caught seems like a given.
The second option, then, is to use Periscope or Meerkat to rebroadcast the PPV feed from outside the casino. That's tricky because of copyright laws tied to the PPV feed. Anyone who Periscopes or Meerkats tonight's "Fight of the Century" will be re-transmitting a copyrighted broadcast which, again given the PPV revenues, could land the pirate with a gigantic legal bill. As those putting on the fight have already shown with the pirated sites, they aren't pulling any punches in terms of trying to stop free showings of the event.
The folks from Meerkat and the Twitter-owned Periscope seem to be on board as well. Both streaming apps have hinted that they will shut down illegal broadcasts of copyrighted telecasts if they get notified of their existence. That should protect them from legal liability themselves -- however, that process could take longer than the actual time of the match to conclude. To shut down an a feed breaking the user agreement of Meerkat and Periscope, it requires either some nifty technology, like that used to autodetect copyright music in YouTube videos -- or for people to rat on those breaking the rules and then for the companies to react. If you think that no one will call out the rule breakers, just know that the PPV companies send out NARC-type agents undercover to snitch on bars that may show the fight without paying the commercial fee.
I tried to reach out to both companies to see how they planned to proceed this evening. As of publishing, I hadn't yet connected with Periscope, but did email Meerkat's founder Ben Rubin. Rubin said that they are working with the networks to make sure nothing illegal transpires, although they haven't gotten any pressure yet. Rubin said in an email, "They asked in advance to cooperate here and we are obviously committed to support content owners." I asked about streams of the PPV versus streams directly from the event, and Rubin only responded saying, "We have a system in place and we will take down streams immediately when we get notice by the content owners."
The money at stake around tonight's event, and the huge public interest in watching the sold-out fight could end up creating a case study in how new, Internet-based media is going to become a big problem for the powers that be. Especially if some users end up having mind-blowing numbers of followers watching the fight live on their pirate broadcasts.