Twitter holds the belt as the go-to social network for live TV events. But Twitter's live-streaming video app Periscope took the title during Saturday night's championship bout between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
Instead of paying $99.95 to HBO or Showtime to watch the fight on their TVs, some people "pirated" the program by tuning in to Periscope, where other people were pointing their phones' cameras at their TV screens or laptops to broadcast the fight for free within the Twitter-owned app.
Those tuning in may have delighted at being able to sidestep the pay-per-view fee. But the companies that paid for the rights to broadcast the fight, HBO and Showtime, were likely less than happy at the idea of Periscope's streams cutting into the estimated $300 million they stood to make from pay-per-view buys in North America alone.
On Saturday night, Periscope received 66 reports of fight-related copyright violations from the fight's rights holders, according to a Twitter spokeswoman who didn't specify which rights holders filed the complaints.
Of the 66 complaints, Periscope employees took down 30 streams of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight within minutes of receiving the takedown requests, per the spokeswoman. The remaining 36 streams were no longer available by the time Periscope's team received the copyright-violation reports, she said.
The fight's Periscope streams had nowhere near the same quality as the official TV broadcast, but that didn't stop some streams from nabbing thousands of concurrent viewers during the fight. One stream that Ad Age came across surpassed 10,000 concurrent viewers. And Periscope's audience seemed to be fully aware they were watching pirated content. When some users sent hearts to the person streaming the fight -- Periscope's version of Facebook's "like" button -- others asked them to stop sending hearts because they believed that was the signal Periscope's team used to identify streams pirating the fight. The spokeswoman didn't respond to a question asking whether that was the case.
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo tweeted Saturday night that Periscope was the winner of the fight, seemingly in reference to the pirated streams.
And the winner is... @periscopeco— dick costolo (@dickc) May 3, 2015
However, his company could be a big loser if media companies like HBO and Showtime go after it over these pirated streams, as Viacom went after YouTube and the UFC went after live-streaming site and Twitch forbear Justin.tv. Neither Viacom or the UFC were successful, but neither YouTube or Justin.tv were trying to position themselves as complements to live TV, as Twitter has positioned itself.
Periscope's content policy forbids people from streaming copyright-protected content through the app, but that obviously hasn't stopped its users from doing that. HBO had sent takedown notices to Twitter last month after people used Periscope to livestream the season premiere of "Game of Thrones." The spokeswoman said the Periscope team is working to roll out tools that will help the company react quicker to copyright-violation claims.