If you wanted to watch Saturday night’s long-awaited fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, you had a few options. You could pay $100 to buy the fight on pay-per-view. You could head to a theater that was airing the bout for something like $40 a person. You could head to a local bar and hope the cover charge wasn’t too high.
Or, you could sit at home on your computer and search the internet for illegal streams.
According to Forbes, digital security company Irdeto reports that approximately 2,930,598 people chose the latter option. Per Fobes, Irdeto identified 239 illegal streams, 165 of which were made available through Facebook, Periscope, YouTube or Twitch and 67 of which were accessible on illegal streaming sites. Ads promoting the illegal streams were reportedly placed around the internet in advance of the fight.
According to Forbes, the promoters of Mayweather-McGregor were apparently not as successful in blocking illegal streams as the promoters of the 2015 bout between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao were.
In 2015, promoters Top Rank and Mayweather Promotions made a preemptive strike to shut down the possibility of illegal streams before they even took place. It was the first time that a lawsuit had been filed over piracy that hadn’t yet taken place.
At that time, Periscope took down 30 streams of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. This time around, it didn’t seem to deter “digital Robin Hoods” who paid for the pay-per-view and then streamed it from their account.
Those illegal streams surely took a huge bite out of the event’s revenues. If even 10 percent of the 3 million illegal streamers would have been otherwise inclined to pay for the fight, that’s an extra $30 million in PPV buys.
Of course, no one will go broke over these illegal streams. Whether or not Mayweather-McGregor tops Mayweather-Pacquiao in PPV buys, as widely anticipated, the numbers will be gaudy and everyone—Mayweather, McGregor, Mayweather Promotions, UFC, Showtime—will come out with a healthy check.