The much-anticipated face-off between boxing veteran Floyd Mayweather and wayward scrapper Conor McGregor is on course to be the highest grossing box office event ever but the shadow of piracy looms large over the event as almost 3m users tuned in live on illicit feeds across a plethora of sources.
Digital security company Irdeto counted 239 live-streams of the fight that reached 2.93 million people accumulatively reports Variety. Of these, 67 feeds were hosted on prominent piracy sites, the rest is spread out across platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Twitch and media streaming service favoured by pirates – Kodi.
Speculatively, the $99.95 HD price of the event, through Showtime Networks, may have dissuaded consumers. Additionally piracy figures may have been bolstered by legitimately paying customers through Showtime and the UFC player – both of which suffered outages due to high levels of demand. As a result, a class action lawsuit has been filed against Showtime.
Providing pirated feeds can also be a money-maker if pirates can undercut pricing from the broadcasters, as such, Irdeto found forty-two ads promoting the illegal streams in the run-up to the clash on Saturday (26 August).
Rory O’Connor, senior vice president of cybersecurity services at Irdeto, said: "Live sports are a cornerstone of global piracy, with thousands of sites providing illegal content attracting millions of viewers.
“When combating live sports piracy, speed in disrupting piracy is essential... By identifying and stopping pirate streams in real-time through specialized knowledge and technology, content owners and operators are able to protect revenue and deliver a greater user experience.”
The piracy figures do not take into account torrent downloads of the fight after the fact which will greatly expand the number of people who accessed the bout without paying, either way, broadcasters still have work to do in combating these feeds and monetising pirates.
Mayweather won the fight in the 10th round with a TKO, although the event itself played out like a circus. As such brands were keen to piggyback the hype train resulting in some intriguing activity from sponsors which would have further help reimburse the athletes for their efforts.