Periscope delivers blow to pay-per-view in Mayweather v Pacquiao fight

Floyd Mayweather

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has declared a winner in Saturday’s fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, and that winner is … piracy!

After the blockbuster fight concluded, Costolo claimed Twitter’s application Periscope was the real winner in Las Vegas. The live-streaming service was used by people with pay-per-view to lend a helping hand to those who struggled to get access, or didn’t want to pay.

It’s a trend likely to displease HBO, which showed unparalleled speed, height and reach when it came to filing lawsuits against companies advertising pirated streams last week. (The sites went down in a first-round knockout.)

Of course, it didn’t help matters much that Time Warner Cable subscribers couldn’t get the fight in a large number of the markets where it was supposed to be available for a fee of up to $100; the company, along with competitor (and suitor) Charter Communications had nationwide outage problems.

Lest anyone feel too sorry for HBO, it’s worth noting that the fight was both supremely popular and supremely lucrative: Deadline reported an estimated 3 million individual pay-per-view streams purchased, ringside seats cost some $5,000, and all told, HBO/Showtime made an estimated $400m off the bout.

But the live-streaming of Pacquiao/Mayweather illustrates just how quickly companies like Twitter will have to act if they want to maintain cordial relations with Hollywood. And they do: one of HBO’s partners was, in fact, Periscope, which had a sponsored stream inside Manny Pacquiao’s dressing room last night.

By the time anybody from Twitter is able to bust a user for piracy via the traditional takedown notice, observed Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein, the damage will already be done. “It will be absurd for Twitter to mount the defense that it complies with any takedown notices filed over copyright-infringing content,” Wallenstein wrote in an op-ed Sunday morning. “Because by the time the compliance occurs the livestream is already over, the company is going to need to figure out a better way to combat piracy on the fly.”

That’s particularly true if Twitter is going to court TV networks and movie studios; recent promoted tweets on the service include a campaign for The Avengers and today’s Target promotion, pegged to Star Wars day (yes, May the Fourth).

Playing whack-a-mole with pirates as they set up their streams may seem impossible, but it may also be the only way to retain the respect (and, much more importantly, the investment) of Hollywood. Twitter, after all, is ad-supported and having trouble with the advertising end of its business, according to its most recent quarterly results. And the very last thing the company needs at the moment is a popular new product seen as toxic to advertisers who would appear to be a natural fit, namely movie and TV companies.

Consumers, however, seemed pretty gung-ho about the app. Costolo’s feed was filled with people thanking him and Twitter for allowing them to watch the fight (without paying for it) all over the world.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Sam Thielman in New York, for theguardian.com on Monday 4th May 2015 17.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010