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Broadcasters Struggle To Maintain Control As Social Media Users Stream Biggest Fight In Pay-Per-View History

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(JOHN GURZINSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

(JOHN GURZINSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

By Edward Cardenas

SOUTHFIELD (CBS Detroit) –  The much-hyped Pacuiao-Mayweather fight in Las Vegas was one of the biggest paydays for the boxers and one of the most live-streamed events on apps such Periscope and Meerkat.

Boxing fans spent thousands to watch the match in person in Las Vegas, up to $100 on pay-per-view or slightly less for cover charge to see to view it in a bar or restaurant. HBO and Showtime made a reported $400 million in pay per view revenue on 3 million buys.

But thousands of people were also able to watch a live stream of the fight from inside the arena, or the pay-per-view broadcast of the match from the living rooms of those who paid the fee, on the live broadcast apps.

While the quality of the live stream varied – with some re-broadcasts of the fight grainy, out-of-focus and uneven – it demonstrated the speed at which technology moves forward and the need for sports to provide unique content, according to  Michael Bernacchi, professor of sports marketing at University of Detroit Mercy.

He stated that the boxing match lent itself to broadcast over a smart phone with its confined ring and action, and a reaction to the high price tag of the broadcast.

“Technology will have its way,” said Bernacchi. “If you are going to charge a premium money, you have to have premium features.”

Broadcasters will need offer customers a unique experience with different angles during the match along with unique content before and after the fight, he added.

With additional features, the broadcast becomes more of an event. That is what makes the Final Four or the Super Bowl – with its ads – that makes it “unique.”

During the fight Saturday night, viewers warned those watching the match on Periscope to not heart – which is similar to Facebook’s likes – the broadcast for fear that stream would be shut down.

As of Monday morning, there were no reports of pay per view broadcasters pursuing legal action against those who streamed the fight on the apps. But ahead of the fight, the Hollywood Reporter said HBO and Showtime sued several websites that were advertising a livestream of the main event. The claim was copyright infringement.

With the increase in popularity of the live streaming apps, some sports leagues have reportedly taken a stance for broadcasts from inside the stadium. According to Yahoo Sports, the NHL is banning live streams from media members before, during and after games.

MLB officials told CNBC that it won’t ban fans from using the apps during the games.

Locally, the Detroit Lions have a policy that accredited media outlets may not broadcast live on club premises without prior approval from the team.

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