Meerkat & Periscope Let People Pirate The Pacquiao-Mayweather Fight: Twitter’s CEO Doesn’t Care

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I had no interest in watching the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight last night. That changed after I browsed Twitter coincidentally during the middle of it. There, I saw a tweet where someone was livestreaming the fight. Curious, I checked it out.

Watch The Fight, For Free

In short order, I was watching the fight for free, on my smartphone, through Meerkat. The quality wasn’t great. It was someone simply filming their widescreen TV with the phone held vertically. But I could watch the fight without paying the $100 pay-per-view fee. So were 1,500 other people that Meerkat said were watching the stream with me — $150,000 not going HBO and Showtime, which had exclusive rights to broadcast the event.

When the quality got worse, I had plenty of other choices. The Meerkat home page listed lots of alternatives. So did the rival service that Twitter owns, Periscope:

I’ve omitted account names in the screenshots above and elsewhere in this story, because my goal isn’t to try and get anyone in particular in trouble.

I found Periscope to be the better of the services for watching the fight. The streams were more dependable and quicker to load there. One stream I viewed had over 6,000 people watching, at one point — $600,000 of pay-per-view fees not being paid.

Was it legal? Probably not. If these fights had been uploaded to YouTube, that service and Google which owns it would have been slammed by both official takedown requests and by Hollywood PR as yet another example of how Google’s enables piracy.

Twitter’s CEO Calls Fight Streaming A “Winner”

Both Meerket and Periscope have terms that supposedly limit broadcasting like this. I’m checking with them about how these were or weren’t applied to the flight. But from Twitter itself, we already have from the highest level that apparently all is cool with rebroadcasting TV content:

That’s from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, proclaiming that the winner of the fight was Periscope. I like Costolo, but that was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen a tech CEO say.

Twitter’s latest earnings weren’t great, causing some to call for Costolo’s removal. Meanwhile, one of the strongest assets Twitter has is Hollywood. While the public might not find Twitter as essential a social network as Facebook, TV shows and movies certainly do, as a way to build word-of-mouth.

Now Twitter has to deal with its CEO declaring it a win to Hollywood that its Periscope helped with piracy. That’s not the type of piracy win Hollywood has been wanting.

But Periscope Took Down Some Streams

Also confusing is the fact that Periscope itself seemed to be doing some takedown actions. It wasn’t uncommon to see broadcasters and viewers telling people to not “heart” a broadcast, since that made it popular — and popular streams broadcasting the fight were then getting reviewed and removed:

So while the piracy might have been cool with Twitter’s CEO, it seems that some of the people charged with enforcing the terms of Twitter-owned Periscope weren’t thinking it was so great. And now they have an even harder job the next time.

Even Hollywood-Types Streamed The Fight

Before Hollywood gets too holier-than-thou, I’d note that the stream I watched the most was hosted by two people associated with TV shows backed by major Hollywood companies. At the end of the fight, they thanked people for watching and made continual shout-outs for people to watch their own shows. I was amazed that people in Hollywood, with their own television shows, would be as dumb to do this as Costolo was with his remark.

Two other takes on the livestreaming of the event well worth reading are this one by Christina Warren at Mashable, who focuses on the social success of people being able to share thoughts on the fight and this one by Andrew Wallenstein, which looks more at the piracy issues.

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