Millions illegally streamed Mayweather-McGregor fight

About 2.9 million people watched Saturday's big fight illegally through pirated streams and social media, according to a digital security firm.

Terry Collins Staff Reporter, CNET News
Terry writes about social networking giants and legal issues in Silicon Valley for CNET News. He joined CNET News from the Associated Press, where he spent the six years covering major breaking news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the AP, Terry worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Kansas City Star. Terry's a native of Chicago.
Terry Collins
3 min read
Floyd Mayweather Jr. v Conor McGregor

The big fight was also a big hit with illegal streamers. 

Getty Images

Apparently, watching the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight was a big draw on the illegal streaming circuit, too.

An estimated 2.9 million people on saw the undefeated boxing champion Mayweather beat McGregor, the UFC mixed martial arts champion, on 239 illegal streams on Saturday, according to digital security platform Irdeto

"This is one of the most pirated, if not the most pirated boxing matches we have ever seen," Mark Mulready, an Irdeto vice president of cyber services, said in a statement Monday. By comparison, there were about 200,000 viewers watching on about 19 pirated streams when boxer Anthony Joshua took the world heavyweight title from Wladimir Klitschko in April, Irdeto said. 

The company didn't have data about how many illegal streams had been created for Mayweather's fight with fellow boxing champ Manny Pacquiao in 2015. At the time, Twitter's livestreaming service Periscope emerged as the winner of that bout, drawing people who wanted to watch the fight but didn't want to pay the $100 pay-per-view fee.

While there were no official titles on the line, the Mayweather-McGregor spectacle from Las Vegas on Saturday was viewed as a first of its kind for combat sports and seen as one of the biggest sporting events of the year. It had started as a war of words between the two men on social media that ultimately convinced Mayweather, who is undefeated, to return from retirement.


A screenshot of the Mayweather-McGregor fight that apparently aired illegally on Facebook.

Screenshot provided by Irdeto

Saturday's fight was apparently seen without permission on various social media platforms including Facebook , YouTube, Twitch and Periscope, who appeared to be shutting down streams as they popped up on their respective sites. Other streams also popped up on more typical pirate-streaming websites and on illicit streaming devices that had ads appearing on e-commerce sites including Amazon, eBay and Alibaba.

The companies say they will take action if content violates their policies.

It took 10 rounds, but the heavily favored Mayweather beat McGregor by a technical knockout in the battle between the two combat sports giants that was one of the most-hyped fights in years.

The illegal streaming of the fight costing that $100 for a watch on Showtime pay-per-view in the US, probably won't hurt either fighter's bank accounts. Mayweather and McGregor reportedly earned $100 million and $30 million, respectively, despite the fact that the fight ultimately didn't sell out.

Showtime said in a statement late Tuesday while the event's huge global appeal attracted large scale efforts to illegally stream the telecast, the network and partners "successfully blocked and removed" the highest number of unauthorized streams for any event in its history. 

"We did this through cooperative efforts with our distribution partners and social media platforms during the live event, as well as with proactive court action blocking third party websites that offered illegal live streams," the network said. It did not disclose how many streams were taken down.

Showtime is owned by CBS, which also owns CNET.

First published, Aug. 28, 5:03 p.m. PT.
Update, Aug. 29 at 6:37 a.m. PT: Adds comment from Showtime.

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