Floyd Mayweather may have out maneuvered Manny Pacquiao on Suatrday night, but the real winner of the fight of the century may have been Periscope. The Twitter-owned live streaming app picked up a bunch of fresh downloads over the weekend, pushing its user base past the 1 million mark. Some of that growth was driven driven by fight fans looking to skirt the hefty pay per view price tag for the year’s biggest boxing match by using the app. Even as more traditional livestream were systematically shut down by fight promoters, thousands of fans were watching the fight via Periscope.
Live streaming apps present a unique challenge for content providers. In the past securing your monopoly on live events just meant scanning the web for a comparatively small number of live streams and make sure they’re shut down or slowed down to the point that they become unusable. With Periscope and competitor Meerkat in play, all anyone has to do is point their phone at a screen showing an authorized version of the fight. A single legitimate stream can generate dozens of pirate streams. The quality is lower, but with pay per view prices rising, sports fans are anxious for an alternative even if it is slightly less pristine.
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo seems unphased by concerns about piracy. On Saturday night he tweeted “And the winner is…@Periscope,” a thinly veiled reference to the app’s banner night.. Of course Costolo could use some good news to show investors given that Twitter’s stock price took a stumble last quarter that some are hailing as a grim sign for the company. A win, even one that feels a little dirty, is definitely in order.
Of course Twitter probably isn’t anxious to sucker punch Hollywood too many times. Like most social media platforms Twitter has worked hard to develop a strong working relationship with the entertainment industry and it isn’t likely to jeopardize them for long. Periscope may enjoy a boost from its increased visibility but users can probably expect the company to start cracking down on pirate streams of high profile events in the not too distant future. Even so, it’ll be impossible to put the mobile live streaming genie entirely back into its bottle, meaning pirates just gained a useful new tool and old school entertainment is going to have to rethink how it controls content.
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