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The Death Knell for Pay-Per-View

Written By Jeff Siegel

Posted May 5, 2015

ppvPiracy is the future of media.

While I certainly applaud new media technologies that allow consumers to view the world in an efficient, timely and affordable manner, there’s no doubt that some technologies violate the rights of those just trying to make a buck.

Certainly this happened with Napster as once the streaming platform allowed folks the opportunity to listen to music for free, record labels lost their shirts and thousands of bands lost the funding required to tour and record.

Of course, more than a decade later many of these kinks have been worked out. And in many respects, modern-day uses of music streaming services have allowed musicians to prosper in the absence of record labels. Still, there’s no denying that over the course of this transition, people who once made their livings in the music industry quickly find themselves in the unemployment lines.

Today, as streaming technology improves further, we continue to run into these types of piracy problems.

That being said, few ever want to take the side of the companies losing money. After all, it’s easier to side with consumers who think they deserve the world for free than it is to side with those evil corporations that have the audacity to charge people for a service.

If you can’t sense my sarcasm, please re-read that paragraph.

Just Steal It!

Last Saturday, I reluctantly chose not to watch the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.

As a fight fan, I was pretty annoyed by this. But I just couldn’t shell out $100 to watch it on pay-per-view. I have a hard enough time shelling out $60 to watch UFC fights. Yet I usually break at the last minute. I thought the same thing would’ve happened with last weekend’s fight, but I suppose the $100 figure was a mental block.

In any event, there were plenty of folks who also wanted to watch the fight, but definitely did not want to spend $100. So what did they do instead? They stole it.

You see, thanks to new live streaming technologies like Periscope and Meerkat, some folks were able to watch the fight through these applications, which allow video streaming from smart phones with Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) housing the links. Basically, someone at the fight took video and streamed it – live.

In a weird kind of Robin Hood kind of way, a lot folks cheered this option. After all, now everybody can watch the fight – not just rich people.

While I share the pain of those who don’t have the ability or the desire to spend $100 to watch a fight on television, the fact is, the folks who used this app transmitted video that other companies paid for the rights to use exclusively.

How would you feel if you spent money to put together an event for which you had planned to charge, but then found out later that a bunch of people sneaked in without paying?

Get Creative!

The inconvenient truth is that what happened last weekend is just the tip of the iceberg. And if the companies that profit from these types of events want to continue to do so, they’re going to have to counter these types of piracy violations in a creative way.

As we saw in the music business, trying to shut them down won’t stop the integration of the technology, nor will it convince folks to do the right thing, and pay for what they watch.

To be honest, I don’t know how promoters are going to be able to counter this one. Even if platforms like Periscope and Meerkat were to get shut down (which won’t happen), there are hundreds of others in development, just waiting to get a piece of the action.

That being said, maybe this is just the course of business evolution.

Consumers countered a problem – the high cost of entertainment, with a solution – free entertainment.

I still think it’s pretty shitty to violate the rights of those who take the financial risks to promote these events. But if fight promoters want to stay ahead of this thing, they’re going to have to work with these new platforms, not against them. Because bottom line: Here’s what they now have to deal with …