Floyd Mayweather completely controlled his Saturday night fight against Manny Pacquiao for a unanimous victory.
Against Twitter and Periscope, though, Mayweather didn't even land a glove.
The Mayweather-Pacquiao fight cost up to $100 to purchase in-home, with exponentially higher fees for bars showing the fight. HBO and Showtime had been aggressive in chasing down sites illegally streaming the fight, filing lawsuits well before Saturday night. The prevailing belief had been that if you wanted to watch the fight illegally, you needed to create a Virtual Private Network into one of the countries showing the fight for free.
Turns out, all you needed was a cell phone and a Twitter account.
Twitter's brand-new app Periscope allows users to stream live video from their phones, and if one happened to point that phone at a broadcast of the fight, then anyone in the world could tap in for free. Of course, the video quality was roughly equivalent to an old VCR tape, and the audio picked up whoever happened to be in the same room cheering for the fight, but free was free. This wouldn't necessarily be acceptable video quality for streaming, say, a movie, but for a short-term, highly expensive live event, it proved workable for many fans.
A list of Periscope streams on Twitter during the fight included everything from "MayPac" to "Fight Night" to "Fight Fight Fight" amid streams of cats and monologues on the new Avengers movie. Clicking on one of the streams figuratively took the viewer into someone's living room, watching alongside anywhere from a few dozen to several thousand other Periscope users.
One "host," who said he was located in Liverpool, asked viewers where they were from, and immediately got back comments everywhere from California to Tennessee to the rather unlikely North Korea. Another apologized as he tried his best to hold the view steady, earning scorn from the viewers as he tried to keep the phone pointed at the television.
Periscope streams didn't just include broadcasts of the fight. Some brave soul was apparently Periscoping from the actual arena itself:
This could, in theory, be a devastating blow to the pay-per-view business model favored by boxing:
This fight demonstrated the potential legal thicket that Periscope creates. It's a streaming service, not a download one, and it's streaming video of a room that happens to have a broadcast, not just the broadcast itself. Even so, broadcast partners and rights holders are already aware of the threat Periscope represents. Even before this fight; the PGA Tour revoked the credential of a longtime media member for Periscoping practice rounds of players earlier this week.
Since shutting down Periscope and live phone-to-public video streaming is now an impossibility, expect rights holders in situations like these to increase vigilance on a grass-roots level, picking off illegal streams one by one the way they do bars illegally showing the fight in public settings.
Alternatively, boxing could abandon its antiquated, overpriced pay-per-view structure ... but with hundreds of millions flowing in from 36 minutes of undistinguished boxing, that's never going to happen.
And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.