The biggest revenue-drivers for both promoters and fighters are PPV events. New streaming apps are now allowing people to bypass the financial commitment to watching the fighters by basically leeching off of someone streaming the event.
UFC COO Lawrence Epstein says, via the article:
“For Mayweather-McGregor, it’s going to be tens of millions of dollars [in stolen signal]… There’s no doubt about it. This is going to be the most pirated event in pay-per-view history. I predict that.”
The UFC has had a dedicated anti-piracy team to track down illegal streams across the internet. According to former CEO and UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta, the broadcast for UFC 106 was illegally streamed at least 271 times to 140,000 viewers. Based on PPV prices at the time there was a minimum of $6 million worth of streamed media that the UFC, and the fighters who earn money based on PPV points, will not accrue.
Mark Taffet, who was with HBO as senior VP for PPV, doesn’t believe that pirated streams make a large impact on the bottom-line. Taffet argues that the quality of the streams relative to what the PPV product is when purchased through legal means, is so inferior that anyone who does stream the program was likely not to buy the fight anyways.
Facebook and Twitter are full of illegal streams when large PPV events are on. Closed circuit television and PPV was previously the best form of maximizing revenue for a single event because the distribution channel was so narrow. There was only one way to get the product and it couldn’t be shared. Now, with todays technology, it is possible for people to buy the product and then stream the program.
Piracy has not halted even with the UFC having a dedicated anti-piracy team and the fact this upcoming fight could be the most pirated program ever it makes one reassess how realistic it is to hold these streams at bay. Taffet believes that there isn’t anything to sway the illegal streamers to buy the fight because they are satisfied with low quality. That means there may be diminishing returns on fighting to take down every illegal stream in the hopes that there may be an increase in PPV buys.
The problem of piracy is not going away any time soon and with more ways to distribute media and stream content than ever before it is likely that more PPV streams will happen during events.