Last Saturday's Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao fight may have been a bit of a letdown to the legions of boxing fans who watched the long-anticipated match, but with an estimated three million people shelling out a hundred bucks apiece for the pay-per-view broadcast, the fight should not have disappointed the promoters and TV networks who stand to collect hundreds of millions from the event — but it did.
The reason — piracy. Free, live streaming video of the fight was available through a variety of online services, including the Twitter-owned app Periscope, and now the big business interests behind the fight are preparing for a fight of their own.
That fight could be against you.
According to some industry experts, the chances are slim that HBO, Showtime, and the boxing promotional companies that backed the fight would bring lawsuits against not only internet pirates who provided illegal streams of the fight, but viewers of those illegal streams as well.
But it has happened before.
The UFC — the leading promoter of mixed-martial-arts pay-per-view events — announced last year that it had sued hundreds of individuals who watched illegal, free live streaming video of UFC fight cards. The sports blog site SB Nation investigated the UFC claims and found at least one person who was successfully sued by the UFC for watching a live stream.
"I have no reason to doubt the claims from their press release that the actual number was hundreds," wrote blogger Ian Kidd at the time.
United States law prohibits any person from "intercepting" a broadcaster's signal transmitted over cable without proper authorization. The individual sued by the UFC ended up paying almost $12,000 in damages and fees — a lot more than the 50 bucks or so that it would have cost to buy the pay per view.
Will the big money interests behind Mayweather vs. Pacquiao do the same, slamming individual boxing fans with costly lawsuits?
"We are going to seek whatever remedy we have to go after people who essentially stole our product," Todd DeBoef, president of Top Rank Promotions — the company that handles Manny Pacquiao — told ESPN.com on Monday.
In the days leading up to the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight, the two networks cooperating to stage the pay-per-view telecast successfully sued two online sites that made the mistake of advertising free streaming of the fight.
But not only were underground websites streaming Mayweather vs. Pacquiao once the fight got underway, dozens of Periscope users streamed the fight over their own feeds.
When the International Business Times newspaper contacted HBO and Showtime to ask if they planned to sue individuals who watched free streams of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, neither company would comment.
[Image: Al Bello/Getty Images]