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Opinion: Misguided Promoters Encourage Piracy

Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those
of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of
Sherdog.com, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company,
Evolve Media.
* * *

While the official numbers have yet to be released, “The Money
Fight” between Floyd
and Conor
by all indications lived up to its billing as a
blockbuster financial success. It was one of those rare moments
that forced the mainstream media and general public to take a peek
into our world.

In an ironic twist befitting combat sports, the online pay-per-view
demand resulted in an apparent crash of servers that impacted a
number of fans who wanted to watch Mayweather-McGregor.
Unfortunately, many of the fans didn’t get their wish and were left
to vent about it on social media. A class-action lawsuit has been
filed to seek damages for disgruntled parties. Showtime has already
begun refunding some of their affected consumers, and the
Ultimate Fighting Championship
appears to be following its
lead. Apparently, the same issues did not arise with consumers who
purchased the pay-per-view through the traditional landline cable
TV services.

Reports indicate that as many as 100 million viewers used illegal
streams to watch the event. While the Internet has been a haven for
illegal copyright infringement since the days of Napster and
there’s definitely a segment of the population that would have
pirated the event regardless, one has to wonder how many fans were
driven to other means to watch the fight.

In my personal experience, the pay-per-view was purchased twice,
crashed repeatedly and only became somewhat reliable — there was
still a noticeable lag at times — shortly before the delayed main

This was among the happier endings for this debacle, but it
presents another set of problems that any fight promoter relying on
pay-per-view revenue needs to be wary of in the future. Mayweather
Promotions used this spectacle to bring attention to some of its
other contracted fighters who are supposed to carry the company
into a future that doesn’t include its namesake. If you were like
me and saw virtually none of the undercard due to these issues,
what incentive do you have to buy a future event featuring Gervonte
Davis or Badou Jack? Potential buyers of pay-per-views featuring
those fighters may not immediately pony up the money considering
that they still may have no clue who they are. It isn’t
unreasonable to assume that those same potential buyers will want a
free sample before committing funds. Whether this free sample will
come from a broadcast on Showtime or a pirated Showtime PPV will be
a question answered in the near future.

The only way you build stars is to make sure they’re seen. When
there’s virtually no spotlight given to the undercard fighters in
the buildup — a consistent problem with the promotional structure
of boxing — watching their fights takes on even bigger
significance. The infrastructure should be in place to accommodate
demand and the growing amount of cord-cutter consumers. The
cord-cutter community has accepted the fact that the nuances of
wireless Internet can affect the quality of their entertainment
outside of any issues with service providers and content creators.
What that community will largely find unacceptable is paying its
hard-earned dollars to get the same quality from those service
providers and content creators that they can find free of charge in

Perhaps without realizing it, the promoters themselves have
encouraged a fair deal of piracy recently. UFC President Dana White
in the past several months has gone on smear campaigns against his
own champions. Flyweight champion Demetrious
has been publicly destroyed and had his fighting spirit
questioned; and after the extremely short-notice withdrawal of
women’s bantamweight champion Amanda
from UFC 213, White shared similar sentiments that were
then repeated at length by fans and pundits. UFC 215 on Sept. 9
features both champions in respective headlining and co-headlining
roles. White has already mocked the Johnson-Ray Borg main
event by sarcastically saying “pay-per-views will be off the

In the immediate aftermath of UFC 214, ironically the
highest-selling event of the year for the promotion at a reported
850,000 buys, White wasted no time in skewering welterweight
champion Tyron
following his title defense against Demian Maia.
“Who wants to buy a Woodley fight?” echoed from the podium with no
sarcasm or hyperbole. However, when it comes time to sell the next
welterweight title fight, the general public is expected to answer
his rhetorical question. If any fans are on the fence about
purchasing UFC 215 and/or Woodley’s next fight, the attitude of the
promoter can sway opinions. A promoter going out of his way to
diminish the product being sold is simply counterproductive. If
sales are lackluster, how much of the blame falls in White’s lap?
How many fans who may have considered buying in will decide against
doing so? How many will decide that while it’s not worth buying, it
is worth streaming? These are questions that the promotion should
be doing its best to not have answered.

Other boxing promoters, namely Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya, were
quite vocal about their disapproval of the Mayweather-McGregor
bout. While Arum acknowledged the public thirst for the event, De
La Hoya penned an open letter discouraging fans from paying for the
fight. The reasoning behind his harsh words — which later included
an expletive-filled tweet close to fight time — has been linked to
the upcoming showdown between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady
Golovkin under his Golden Boy Promotions banner. However, De La
Hoya may want to rethink discouraging the public from buying into a
product like Mayweather-McGregor. No matter what he or any other
opposition to that matchup might have said, people were going to
watch it.

Fans willing to spend disposable income on combat sports
pay-per-views should not be discouraged from spending that money
when there’s clear interest. With the abundant amount of illegal
streaming of live sports shows, interest and willingness to spend
money don’t necessarily go hand in hand. The more potential
consumers decide to keep their money while staying interested only
increases the likelihood they will resort to illegal streaming to
watch the next event. Any fight fans who decide to stream one event
can very likely do it again. That would include the Sept. 16 Golden
Boy Promotions offering. While the buying public has limited
resources for which various promoters are competitively vying, such
encouragement to hold onto its cash can start a trend among fans
that will be very difficult to break.

On the contrary, fans who are satisfied with the product are
logically more likely to buy again. Also, the attention and hype
generated by Mayweather-McGregor can roll over into financial gains
for rival promotions. At the open workout for Alvarez-Golovkin on
Monday, De La Hoya even acknowledged the benefit of the extra
attention “The Money Fight” brought to boxing. When I asked him
about it, here was his response: “Absolutely, I’m excited. We have
an opportunity to put boxing back on the map.”

With the average consumers seeing their limited entertainment
dollars pulled in many directions, the temptation to keep that
money remains strong. The availability of illegal streaming content
is unlikely to decrease. In fact, as technology improves and more
families opt to be cord-cutters, the opportunities for piracy are
only enhanced. Fight promoters who still rely on pay-per-view
dollars should be doing their best to maintain that revenue stream
instead of finding ways to tear it down.

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