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Pay-Per-View Piracy Reaching a ‘Crisis’ Point

June - July 2024

 

LAS VEGAS – In the cat-and-mouse game of pay-per-view piracy, the mouse population is increasing and, as a result, the cats are sharpening their claws and teeth.

Amid unsubstantiated reports claiming that last month’s undisputed heavyweight title fight between champion Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury generated 20 million illegal stream views costing broadcasters $100 million in lost buys, industry experts admit that distributing content online has opened a wealth of challenges to combat fight-stealing thieves.

“Piracy now is certainly as bad or worse as it’s ever been and if someone wants to call it a crisis, I wouldn’t disagree,” said former Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza, who currently serves as an independent sports media consultant.

“The ubiquity of streaming – there used to be a resistance factor, like it was hard to find and difficult to do – is such now that people can stream from many different sources. It’s a major, major problem, and a low estimate is it’s taking away 30 percent of our buys.”

All it takes is a fight-night look online or on social media to see a flurry of posts advertising free streams of pay-per-view bouts such as Saturday’s Gervonta “Tank” Davis-Frank Martin lightweight-title card, which costs $74.95 on Amazon’s Prime Video and PPV.com.

The exposure to such financial loss has inspired broadcasters to ramp up their policing efforts.

An individual connected to Saturday fight promoter Premier Boxing Champions said – depending on the fight – the company employs dozens of employees, spending six figures per bout to scour the internet and social media and shut down the free streams.

Additionally, Prime Video retains its own streaming policing operation and distributors like PPV.com monitor unauthorized streams and work with promoters to shut them down.

Unlike the cases with closed-circuit piracy at brick-and-mortar establishments, where distributors police bars and restaurants who offer the fight without paying a fee and can threaten or actually sue to collect substantial fines, nabbing the online perpetrators is far more difficult.

“If I could, I would fine them all. I want to,” a PBC official said.

The problem, they said, is that the chase becomes a version of “Catch Me If You Can,” with the broadcaster locating an IP (internet protocol) address, with usually no other identifying information.

In December, a UFC attorney testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, bemoaning the fact that even when copyright holders like the UFC and boxing promotions issue takedown orders to enforce their copyright, online service providers including Facebook, Twitch, X and YouTube have been slow – up to or beyond an hour – to remove the stream.

Thus, a good portion – if not all – of the fight is available for free view. Additionally, the UFC and boxing promoters lament the immediate and illegal distribution of pivotal highlights that only those buying the stream should be seeing.

In a December Sportico story, it was estimated that piracy is costing the global sports industry $28 billion per year.

Mark Boccardi, senior vice president of programming and marketing for InDemand and PPV.com, likened the shuttering of free streams as a game of “whack-a-mole.

“It’s prevalent. So much of this stuff is cloak and dagger. You’re trying to reach out to someone whose real identity you might never get to know.”

Boccardi said he has “no assurance (the Usyk-Fury piracy) numbers are accurate and I don’t know how you’d measure it. But is piracy a concern? Yes, of course it’s a big concern.

“Anytime you have something you’re charging for and consumers are trying to find a way to circumvent that and get it for free, that’s a huge problem.”

(Disclosure: I’m also employed by InDemand/PPV.com, contributing live fight-night chats with Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim Lampley during major bouts, including Davis-Martin).

Piracy is nothing new.

Mark Taffet, who served as HBO senior vice president in charge of pay-per-view from 1991-2015, reminded it dates to the use of a “black box” that could tap into cable feeds.

“What’s interesting is – back then and to this day – is that piracy usually comes from the titillation of stealing,” Taffet said. “The people hosting pay-per-view watch parties usually don’t want to risk the embarrassment of their signal or stream getting shut down.

“I say this because back in the 1990s, we had incredible black-box activity, and yet we still often did 1 million buys,” Taffet said. “Piracy is an enormous irritant and an occurrence you can’t deny, but it seems mostly to be a singular thing – one person wanting to get something for free.”

Like Taffet, Boccardi isn’t convinced most pirates would buy the pay-per-view.

Taffet’s run included the 2 million-plus buys for Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s victory over Oscar De La Hoya in 2007 and the most lucrative PPV of all time, the 4.6 million buys shared by HBO and Showtime in the 2015 Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao bout.

Yet, last year’s knockout victory by Davis over popular rival Ryan Garcia has been the only 1 million-plus-buys boxing bout in nearly two years as even the sport’s most powerful draw, Canelo Alvarez, has languished in the 500,000-buys range after topping 1 million buys in his September 2022 trilogy victory over Gennadiy Golovkin.

A DAZN spokesman declined to reveal how many buys Usyk and Fury generated as their rematch looms Dec. 21 and he also wouldn’t hazard a guess at how widespread the Usyk-Fury piracy was.

He disputed a report that a wealth of free streams seemed to be intentionally allowed to exist throughout the fight, but released this statement in response to the entire issue:

“Sports piracy is theft. DAZN invests a significant amount in combating it, using technology to monitor the activity of users, and educating fans about the risks. It may seem a victimless crime, but most illegal feeds are provided by criminal networks or carry the risk of phishing and identity theft. Our advice is don’t risk the sport you care about – or your own data – by using illegal feeds.”

While Alvarez operates with the safety net of a guaranteed purse, every other fighter is reliant on their cut from pay-per-view buys, so the piracy is swiping funds from their bottom line.

Last week, when both Ryan Garcia and Devin Haney complained that they had yet to collect their pay-per-view cuts from their April 20 bout promoted by De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and streamed by DAZN and Golden Boy responded that its contracts spell out when those figures need to be finalized, it revealed how the wait for those pay-per-view figures is obviously harrowing, knowing the uncertain toll of piracy.

“A lot of times when pay-per-view results are lower than expected, people point to piracy when (low buys are) often because consumers aren’t that interested in the fight,” Taffet said.

“There’s way too many fights on pay-per-view, especially when consumers are asked to pay for a fight on top of what they already pay for their subscription to that distributor.”

Yet, Boccardi said there often isn’t an effective alternative other than pay-per-view when sponsorships and television license fees can’t generate the types of purse money desired by the fighters.

“Not every event has to do 750,000 or 1 million pay-per-views to be considered a success,” he said. “That’s the one thing people lose sight of, because not every fighter is guaranteed the money you’re paying to Canelo or Pacquiao or Mayweather.

“Some of these events that industry observers say are unsuccessful are in fact profitable for the fighters and promoters. On their own, some of these fights are doing well on pay-per-view – and they would do better if piracy didn’t exist.”

Espinoza said “it will take a combined effort of technological advances including digital fingerprinting advances, a lot of enforcement, better marketing and legislative efforts” to better address piracy.

Until then, there’s two pay-per-view fights: the combatants inside the ring and cat versus mouse (Boxing Scene, AI News, Wires)

 

 

WWE Considering Making An Acquisition In Boxing, Says Co-CEO Stephanie McMahon - 7th December 2022
(Boxing Scene)

 

Whether it was Muhammad Ali refereeing the main event of Wrestlemania I, Mike Tyson feuding with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Floyd Mayweather Jr. breaking The Big Show’s nose, or more recently, Tyson Fury campaigning in the WWE, boxers have long had a history of making cameos in professional wrestling.

There is now intent and desire from World Wrestling Entertainment to officially plant a flag and deepen its presence in boxing.

WWE Co-CEO Stephanie McMahon recently stated that one of the potential areas for growth for the company is mergers and acquisitions.

During the sixth annual Wells Fargo TMT Summit in Las Vegas on Nov. 30, Wells Fargo analyst Steven Cahall asked McMahon to elaborate and provide color on what those future acquisition plans could look like for the WWE.

“Just to give some examples of what I meant by that, [an acquisition] has to align with our core capabilities, right, so whether that’s smaller wrestling promotions, say, internationally. Or it’s another bigger opportunity around a business that is, you know, kind of all over the place like boxing. Who's the lineal champion? Who's the WBC champion? Who's the this — it's kind of it's all over the place. That’s where professional wrestling was some 40 years ago. My father, Vince McMahon, who was the Chairman and CEO, obviously, had the opportunity to roll up all of those different territories and create one major brand in WWE that has now gone from a regional, territorial, content play to a global media franchise. And how can we then replicate that in other areas, with boxing being an idea of one of them.”

McMahon didn’t elaborate any further, or specifically on what kind of a player WWE would be in boxing’s fragmented and often fractured ecosystem.

The McMahon family has a deep history in boxing. Jess McMahon, Vince's grandfather, was a boxing promoter in the early 20th century.

WWE Co-CEO Nick Khan has a deep background and passion for boxing. In 2017, then a top agent for CAA, Khan was instrumental in brokering the megadeal that brought Top Rank Boxing exclusively to ESPN.

Stephanie McMahon is also married to former wrestler and current WWE chief content officer Paul Levesque (Triple H).

Levesque was a mainstay in Mayweather’s circle during the Hall of Fame boxer’s illustrious career, frequently joining Mayweather during fight weeks as well as his ring walks.

Throughout the last few decades, other boxers have made appearances in the wrestling ring, including Evander Holyfield, Buster Douglas, and “Butterbean” Eric Esch, among others.

(Boxing Scene)

 

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LEGENDARY BOXER MIKE TYSON RETURNS TO AEW THIS FRIDAY ON AEW: RAMPAGE
-- AEW: Rampage Airs Live from Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City,
(All Elite Wrestling)

 

Where Tyson First Fought in 1987 --


Nov. 2, 2022 – Ahead of this Friday’s action-packed “AEW: Rampage,” AEW announced that boxing legend Mike Tyson will serve as a special guest commentator on the show, which will air live on TNT from Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ. No stranger to AEW, Friday’s appearance marks Tyson’s fifth for the red-hot promotion, having first appeared at AEW’s DOUBLE OR NOTHING pay-per-view in 2020.


Since then, Tyson has served as both friend and foe to Chris Jericho in AEW. On the May 27, 2020, episode of “AEW: Dynamite,” Tyson, alongside MMA superstars Henry Cejudo, Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort, confronted Jericho and the Inner Circle, clashing at the end of the show. Tyson returned less than a year later, aiding Jericho and the Inner Circle in their feud against MJF and The Pinnacle. Tyson also served as the special guest enforcer during a match between Jericho and Dax Harwood, delivering a one-punch knockout to Cash Wheeler in the process.


Tyson has made history numerous times in Atlantic City at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, holding victories over Tyrell Biggs, Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks, Carl Williams and Alex Stewart at the iconic venue. Now, 25 years after first stepping foot in Boardwalk Hall, Tyson’s latest appearance leaves potential for another history-making moment.


“We love having Mike Tyson on our shows and now fans will get a chance to see a different side of Mike in AEW as he steps into our commentary booth for the first time alongside the incredible team of Jim Ross, Excalibur and Tony Schiavone,” said Tony Khan, CEO, GM and Head of Creative of AEW. “I’m excited for everyone in Atlantic City, and for those watching on TNT and around the world, to see what Mike has in store for us. AEW is firing on all cylinders right now and adding Iron Mike to the mix elevates everyone’s game even further.”


“It’s always good to return to Atlantic City,” said Mike Tyson. “I grew up as a wrestling fan so to be a special guest commentator for AEW this Friday is an honor. You never know what to expect when I’m a special guest so tune in.”


Also announced for Friday’s “AEW: Rampage” is the All-Atlantic City Dream Match, where the winner of tonight’s three-way matchup for the AEW All Atlantic Championship between Orange Cassidy (c), Luchasaurus and Rey Fénix will get to face the challenger of their choosing. Tune into “AEW: Dynamite” on TBS tonight at 8 p.m. ET to catch the action leading into Friday’s “AEW: Rampage” on TNT.


Tickets for Friday’s show in Atlantic City at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall start at $20 (plus fees) and are on sale now at AEWTIX.com


About AEW

Founded by CEO, GM and Head of Creative Tony Khan in 2019, AEW is offering an alternative to mainstream wrestling, with a roster of world-class talent that is injecting new spirit, freshness and energy into the industry. “AEW: Dynamite” airs every Wednesday from 8-10 p.m. ET on TBS and attracts the youngest wrestling audience on television. The fight-forward show “AEW: Rampage” airs every Friday from 10-11 p.m. ET on TNT. AEW’s multi-platform content also includes “AEW Dark” and “AEW Dark: Elevation,” two weekly professional wrestling YouTube series, “Being the Elite,” a weekly behind-the-scenes YouTube series, and “AEW Unrestricted,” a weekly podcast series. For more info, check out Twitter.com/AEW; Instagram.com/AEW; YouTube.com/AEW; Facebook.com/AEW


About Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall

Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall is a multi-purpose facility located on the iconic Atlantic City Boardwalk and features the 141,000-square-foot main arena with a capacity of 14,770 seats as well as the 23,100-square-foot Adrian Phillips Theater with a capacity of 3,200. Constructed in 1929 as the country’s original convention center, for 93 years Boardwalk Hall has dazzled guests and residents of Atlantic City with legendary stage icons such as Elton John, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, and the Beatles.

 

Andy Ruiz Jr defeats Anthony Joshua in stunning upset at Madison Square Garden -
2nd June 2019

The boxing world is reeling and social media went into meltdown after Mexican underdog Andy Ruiz Jr pulled off a stunning upset.

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by James McKern

Absolutely nobody saw that coming!

Anthony Joshua, the undefeated heavyweight champion entered his debut fight in the USA as the overwhelming favourite.

His challenger, Andy Ruiz Jr., had six weeks to prepare for the fight of his life after the withdrawal of Jarrell Miller.

After long and drawn out entrances to the ring along with the singing of three national anthems, the boxers touched gloves and it was on.

The opening two rounds were slow going, but then in the third the action reached unbelievable heights.

Joshua floored Ruiz in the early going and after the Mexican challenger got back to his feet, the champ rushed in for the kill.

The mistake of not showing poise proved to be the turning point as Ruiz landed huge shots to take the legs out from under Joshua and send him to the canvas twice in the round.

Joshua just barely survived the onslaught and as the round came to an end he wobbled back to his seat.

The next two rounds slowed down with Joshua staying on the outside away from the power of Ruiz, but the signs in the sixth round looked ominous as the champ looked exhausted.

Ruiz flattened Anthony Joshua twice in the seventh round and capped one of boxing’s biggest upsets to win his share of the heavyweight championship at Madison Square Garden.

Ruiz won it at 1:27 by TKO in the seventh round to become the surprise champ in a bout that had shades of Buster Douglas’ upset over Mike Tyson in 1990.

The staggering upset makes Ruiz the first ever Mexican heavyweight champion and left the world in utter awe of what had just unfolded.

After being knocked down it looked like the fight was heading as many had predicted, but that only made Ruiz stronger.

“That was my first time getting dropped on the floor. But you know what it just made me stronger and made me want it even more,” Ruiz said.

“I just had to knock him down back.

“I got that Mexican blood in me.”

*click here for full article and multimedia

(News.com.au)