Rather than drop $300 on Sunday Ticket, or $49 every time you want to watch a Pay-Per-View UFC fight, you can watch pretty much any sporting event for free online. It’s illegal, but hey, it’s cost efficient.Problem is sports execs are becoming aware of this illegal option and making every effort to shut it down, according to a feature in Bloomberg Businessweek. The NFL, for example, shut down 4,130 unauthorised streams this past season.
Justin.tv, a VC-backed startup, is the best-known purveyor of these illegal streams. And though Justin.tv protects copyright holders by offering a tool to shutdown illegal streams, the site’s founders are in court defending themselves against a UFC lawsuit. It’s one of the few legal maneuvers sports leagues can take, as other popular streaming sites are based in China, Sweden, and the Netherlands where copyright laws are far looser.
Illegally streaming a network broadcast is one thing, but what makes these cases particularly enticing for consumers and particularly troubling for sports leagues, is that they renders a direct cost, and therefore a direct source of revenue, obsolete. Fans can take advantage of these services rather than spending enough to warrant DirecTV’s $4 billion exclusive contract to offer NFL Sunday Ticket.
But considering the troubles fans endure to consume these streams – low-quality and inconsistent broadcasts that sometimes get taken down mid-game – it’s hard to imagine that anyone who resorts to these streams would actually pay big money to watch these events. Because if they could afford to pay for Sunday Ticket or PPV, it would be worthwhile if only for the convenience factor.
That’s not to say these leagues should stop fighting against these streams – after all, if they were high quality broadcasts, they would eventually draw fans who would otherwise pay – but at their current level, these streams are probably not affecting business as much as Businessweek would have you think.
See Also: What it’s like to work at Justin.tv >
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