Maybe you should have just gone to the pub. Millions of punters poured into bars all over the world on the weekend, and bartenders poured vast oceans of alcohol into them, as everyone waited for yet another Fight of the Century.
Two terrible human beings did terrible things to each other for just under an hour, and millions of fans spent hundreds of millions of dollars to watch on pay-per-view. Or they just went to the pub. Or fired up Twitter.
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The boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor was the sort of artificial, insanely hyped, mega event that chokes content delivery systems, melts down servers, and makes a village of the planet as legions of gawkers gather in the digital town square to watch a couple of guys beat seven bells out of each other.
Even those appalled by the violent spectacle couldn’t help filling their time lines with tweets and posts about how appalled they were by the violent spectacle, thereby amplifying the monstrous, billion dollar blood circus even more.
The fighters walked, or in McGregor’s case staggered away with a couple of hundred million in prize money between them, and the vast media and marketing industry which assembled itself, Transformer-style, around the event made even more.
But not as much as it could have.
As eye-watering as the sums of money involved might seem, hundreds of millions of dollars in dark profit was generated for a shadow industry of pirate streamers and their delivery channels.
Forbes cites VFT Solutions, a firm which monitors social media traffic, as reporting more than seven thousand unauthorised live streams of the fight across all the major platforms, with an average of fourteen thousand viewers per stream for a total of roughly one hundred million people. Some punched in to dedicated pirate sites but most simply hit the hashtags on Twitter or the search bar at YouTube. It’s impossible to know how much cream the platforms raked off, but Irdeto, a global leader in providing digital platform security, estimated a three hundred million dollar loss.
That’s probably bigging it up, because the steep entry price for access to a legitimate stream—a hundred bucks for an HD feed on Showtime in the US—would be too much for most of the pirates. But the sudden emergence of mainstream platforms like Twitter and Facebook as carriers for hijacked content will doubtless be a cause for epic freak-outs and punitive revenge raids by content owners.
No sooner had Twitter filled up with hundreds of messages proclaiming the wildcat streamers the real heroes of the fight, than news stories started dropping of ‘mysterious code’ embedded within the streams that might allow the rights holders to track down anyone who took a pirate feed.
Conor McGregror seems just the sort of bloke to turn up on your doorstep looking for the money he reckons you owe him.
It opens up a new front in the never-ending piracy wars. If the streamers simply drop their stolen feeds into the open channel on huge, mainstream platforms like Facebook or Twitter, can anyone who sees it there simply because they were following a hashtag be labeled as a content thief?
Especially since the authorised channels were so completely overwhelmed by demand that the starting time for the fight had to be pushed back, and even when it did start, the content delivery systems crapped out, delivering jaggy, pixelated video and stuttering sound. Under those circumstances, the only options for many people wanting to follow the action live was to get onto a hashtag and hope for the best.
Or to go to the pub and watch the increasingly drunken, impatient amateurs put on their own show.