Boxing match pops up on phones as TV habits change

By Tali Arbel, AP

NEW YORK–It should have been a proud moment for TV: A much-hyped sports event drawing in millions of paying viewers and showcasing the clout still held by traditional media heavyweights.

Instead, the broadcast of Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight in Las Vegas was marred by technical snafus and got sucker punched by Internet streamers, exposing the industry’s vulnerabilities.

An estimated 3 million households were expected to buy pay-per-view access to the fight at nearly US$100 a pop Saturday night. But the heavy demand created problems for some cable and satellite TV subscribers who tried to order it at the last minute, delaying the start of the fight.

And it popped up, unauthorized, on new services like Twitter’s Periscope and Meerkat, where people used the video function on their smartphones to relay the broadcast directly to the Internet.

It’s a sign of how comfortable people are getting watching video on small screens from new types of platforms and providers, whether it’s Periscope, Snapchat or Netflix. It also shows how common piracy is in the entertainment industry and how difficult it is to contain.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s going to be a mass exodus from cable, right now, or that millions wouldn’t pay up to watch another big event.

��There’s lots of reasons why people cut the cord. I don’t think Periscope is going to be one of them,�� said Chris Sprigman, a law professor at New York University and expert on copyright and intellectual property.

Experts said it isn’t likely that someone willing to pay for the fight would instead settle for a lower-quality stream that might get shut down at any time. Given that, the companies behind the event’s telecast may not have lost much money to the streamers, they said.

HBO and Showtime have not yet said how many people paid to watch Saturday night’s fight.

They were obviously concerned in advance about other outlets showing the fight. CBS, the owner of Showtime, and Time Warner-owned HBO had already gone to court to block websites and from airing it. HBO has previously criticized Periscope over ��Game of Thrones�� streaming.

HBO referred requests for comment to Showtime, which declined to comment Monday.

Streaming an event without permission could get you in trouble, said Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and director of the school’s High Tech Law Institute.

But the viewers of those streams? ��That’s a much harder legal argument,�� he said. According to him, a case a few years ago called Flava Works v. Gunter suggests that viewers watching a stream are not legally infringing.