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Mayweather vs McGregor: 2.9 million viewers watched fight on pirated streams, says security firm

The much-hyped fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor reached more than 2.9 million viewers via pirated streams, according to data from digital security expert Irdeto.

Irdeto identified 239 streams that illegally distributed the super-welterweight fight, which are estimated to have reached approximately 2,930,598 viewers. Of the 239 streams, 67 were provided via traditional pirate streaming websites, according to the Amsterdam-based security firm.

The company found that pirates also exploited social media channels such as Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and Twitch to distribute the event, uncovering 165 social media streams offering the fight illegally.

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The Aug. 26 clash at the T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas was touted as potentially “the most pirated event in history,” sparking pre-fight legal action by Showtime Networks, which distributed the fight via Showtime Pay-Per-View.

There was huge global interest in the bout, which marked 40-year-old Mayweather’s return to the ring and the boxing debut of UFC Champion McGregor. After enduring an early barrage from his 29-year-old opponent, Mayweather wore McGregor down as the fight progressed. The 12-time world champion defeated the Irish MMA superstar by Technical Knockout when the referee ended the fight in the 10th round. 

Irdeto said that the fight underlines the scale of the piracy problem around premium sporting events. “Live sports are a cornerstone of global piracy, with thousands of sites providing illegal content attracting millions of viewers,” explained Rory O’Connor, senior vice president of cybersecurity services at Irdeto, in a statement.

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Eric Feinberg, a founding partner of deep web analysis company GIPEC, agrees that pirated livestreams are a huge challenge. “I am not surprised by these numbers [released by Irdeto] – that’s right in line with what we saw,” he said. “Some of the Facebook streams had 20,000, 30,000 views – I saw at least 25 individual Facebook Live unique video streams.”

Feinberg was not involved in the Irdeto study.

Copyright and file sharing news site TorrentFreak reported earlier this week that mysterious code appeared in some pirated streams of the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight, sparking suspicions that someone was trying to find out who was watching the illegal streams.

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Numbers on the subscribers paying to view the fight on legitimate streams have not yet been released.

Two years ago, Mayweather’s welterweight world championship unification fight with Manny Pacquiao, which was distributed by HBO and Showtime, set a new record of 4.6 million pay-per-view buys. However, Saturday’s clash was tipped to surpass this number.

Fox Business reported that pay-per-view purchases for Mayweather vs. McGregor could be in the neighborhood of 5 million buys.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers