Saturday’s hotly-anticipated boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and UFC Champion Conor McGregor is sparking a fierce battle outside the ring over pirated livestreams.
Saturday’s fight at the T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas is being distributed live by Showtime Pay-Per-View, with pricing ranging from $90 to $100. Millions are expected to watch the intriguing battle between Mayweather and Irish MMA superstar McGregor.
The fight, however, has been described as potentially “the most pirated event in history” and has already prompted legal action by Showtime Networks. Earlier this month, the CBS subsidiary sued more than 40 websites to prevent unauthorized streaming of the clash.
Despite the move, Eric Feinberg, a founding partner of deep web analysis company GIPEC, told Fox News that pirated streams are still being promoted via social media. “It’s a problem because it makes it look like it’s legitimate,” he said.
The fight also presents a potential challenge for Facebook if footage of the bout is streamed via Facebook Live. This could be shot at the event itself, or via TV footage.
Facebook told Fox News that it devotes "significant resources" to addressing copyright issues for live content on the platform. "Video publishers and media companies can provide reference streams of live content that are checked against files in our Rights Manager tool," explained a Facebook spokesperson, in a statement emailed to Fox News. "If a match surfaces, Rights Manager immediately takes action on the rule set by the rights holder – for example, to block that stream."
The spokesperson added that rights holders can also report live videos at any time during a live broadcast. "We've been growing our global team that processes these reports across time zones and continue to invest in our copyright tools," he said. "This remains a work in progress and we continue to listen to feedback from our partners to help improve our offerings.”
There is huge global interest in the super welterweight fight that marks 40-year-old Mayweather’s return to the ring. The 12-time world champion, who is regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, retired undefeated in 2015 with a record of 49-0.
The 29-year-old McGregor is the first fighter to hold two UFC titles simultaneously.
“The fan and media interest exceeds what we have seen for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight in 2015,” an event spokesperson told Fox News.
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 is tipped to surpass this number.
In 2015, streaming app Periscope was forced to take down pirated streams of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, as were other streaming apps.
Fox Business reports that pay-per-view purchases for Mayweather vs. McGregor could be in the neighborhood of 5 million buys.
Earlier this month, Mayweather told Fox Business that he expects to earn $300 million from the fight, with McGregor’s earnings expected to top $100 million.
For the first time, Showtime is making the event available to consumers on ShowtimePPV.com and through the Showtime PPV app on Apple mobile and Apple TV devices.
The fight takes place at 9 p.m. EDT Saturday.
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers