Throughout much of the internet era, illegal streams of sports have been an issue for leagues. As the internet has grown, so have illegal streams. The problem has grown so large that a 2017 study found that more than half of millennials, 54 percent to be exact, have watched illegal sports streams. That study also said about a third regularly watched them.
One particular favorite of NBA fans, the NBAStreams subreddit, was taken down this week. According to the Daily Dot, it had over 400,000 subscribers and offered live streams of every NBA game. NBAStreams was very popular among fans who were blacked out of certain games in either the U.S. or abroad.
The decision has been met with sadness from fans who depended on the subreddit to watch the NBA. It’s likely that there was pressure from the league to shut down the streams.
Back in January, a soccer subreddit page that illegally streamed games was also shut down. But streaming subreddits still exist for Major League Baseball and the NFL. And illegal streams more widely exist for boxing, soccer and just about any sport. Many illegal sites are hosted abroad, which can make it difficult to take them down. And in addition to illegal sites, there are various Facebook pages that provide links to pirated streams.
But there are definite network and league attempts to fight piracy. For example, HBO worked with Showtime to combat illegal streams of the 2015 Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight, and the English Premier League has been proactive as well. Earlier this year, three men in the United Kingdom were sentenced to a combined total of 17 years for selling illegal streams to bars and homes across England and Wales. And in April, the NHL told Front Office Sports that “The NHL actively enforces [sic] against illegal live streams of its games, including cooperating with law enforcement in pursuing criminal charges where appropriate.” (However, the NHL declined to answer specific questions about their efforts, and the NBA and NFL didn’t comment at all; neither did MLB or MLS.)
So leagues are actively fighting piracy, but as some illegal sites go down, others pop up. It’s an ongoing cycle. Sports leagues continue to fight these efforts, but as we have seen with the NBAStreams subreddit, they can exist for a long time before they are taken down.