Hollywood’s Guard Is Up After Periscope, Meerkat Live-Stream Pirated ‘Fight of the Century’

Twitter users stream the $100 pay-per-view bout out for free and deliver body blow to carriers Time-Warner, Charter and DirecTV

Last Updated: May 4, 2015 @ 8:09 AM

Hollywood TV and movie executives will be keeping their guard up after Saturday’s massive pirating of the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao pay-per-view boxing match by people across the web, including Twitter users.

They used the site’s live-streaming app Periscope and Meerkat to send out the “fight of the century” to non-paying customers around the globe.

Millions of people paid $100 to see the fight on TV — which was co-produced by HBO and Showtime and was expected to easily smash the pay-per-view record of 2.48 million buys set in 2007 when Mayweather fought Oscar De La Hoya.

Just before the title fight got underway at 9 p.m. in Las Vegas, the number of people watching on Time Warner Cable, Charter and DirecTV became so great that the massive volume contributed to outages that forced a delay of several minutes.

That gave fans a reason to take to Twitter, and that’s when the Periscope transmission took off. That scenario – with outages prompting spikes in streaming on Twitter and Meerkat – occurred several times through the fight.

The bigger problem for Hollywood will come if the live-streaming apps broaden the spread of global piracy. The Motion Picture Association of America, the studios’ umbrella group, estimates piracy costs the U.S. film industry around $6 billion annually. That’s a lot by any standard, but especially when you consider that’s more than half of the 2014 domestic box office.

“It hasn’t been an issue for movie theaters yet,” Patrick Corcoran, head of the National Association of Theater Owners, told TheWrap Sunday about the streaming apps. He pointed out that theaters and the MPAA are already vigilant when it comes to recording devices. Since last fall for example, if patrons arrive with Google Glasses, they’re sent away. “The same would be true of devices that live-stream.”

HBO had problems with live-streams of its hit series “Game of Thrones” last year, and pointed a finger at Twitter, so lawsuits will surely come if the illegal transmissions accelerate.

“We feel developers should have tools which proactively prevent mass copyright infringement from occurring on their apps and not be solely reliant upon notifications,” the cable network said in a statement.

It a tricky issue with potential to divide the industry. Copyright protection is a dollars-and-cents issue for major media companies, and some studios have used Periscope to get the word out on new movies to savvy tech types, as Lionsgate did with “Age of Adaline.” But stars like Ellen Degeneres, Seth Myers and Jimmy Fallon, have been early adopters.

Twitter did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

What limits the damage, at least to a degree, are the limits of the app itself. Periscope and Meerkat allow users to shoot footage from their smartphones and tablets and share it on social media. Periscope’s streams stay visible for 24 hours, but Meerkat’s disappear when the recording ends.