The richest boxing match in history is over but according to Dick Costolo, Twitter's CEO, neither of the men who stepped into the ring this past Saturday claimed victory.

In a tweet following the fight, Costolo proclaimed the winner to be Periscope, the mobile live streaming app his company purchased for a rumored $100m.

Mobile live streaming might be the next big thing in social media, and if the SXSW conference was its audition, the fight this weekend between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao was its coming out party.

While millions around the world paid to watch the fight live on pay-per-view, it appears many also watched the fight by tuning into live streams broadcast through Periscope and Meerkat. Mashable writer Christina Warren was one such viewer.

She wrote

I never had any intention of paying $90 to $100 for the fight; I'll watch it on HBO next week. But after waking up from my Kentucky Derby-induced hangover and finding that the fight was just starting, I decided to see if Periscope had any decent streams of the fight.

The number of streams was almost overwhelming. Some Periscopers were shooting in portrait mode (as is standard for Periscope), while others were shooting in landscape to capture more of a TV screen.

While piracy using live streaming services is nothing new, the ubiquity of phones capable of capturing high-definition video coupled with the ease with which average consumers can use apps like Periscope and Meerkat makes piracy of events like Mayweather-Pacquiao possible on a scale never before possible.

So it's no surprise that media companies and sports leagues are taking the piracy threat posed by these apps seriously. 

The next big Hollywood v. Silicon Valley megafight?

Unfortunately for those media companies and sports leagues, the threat could be difficult to thwart. As Variety's Andrew Wallenstein notes, takedown notices are all but useless with live streaming.

By the time they're delivered, the event that's being live streamed is over. That demands a different kind of approach.

Wallenstein suggests that technology may be required for enforcement. "Periscope may require something like Google’s Content ID system, technology capable of identifying forbidden streams in an instant, and maybe even converting them to transactional opportunities for legal alternatives to the content in question," he writes.

Clearly, Twitter's CEO won't be able to feign ignorance of piracy on Periscope and in retrospect, his tweet will probably be looked at as ill-advised. Media companies pay billions of dollars every year for the rights to sporting events, and Saturday's event alone was expected to generate upwards of $300 million.

So the notion that they will go down without a fight and let the Periscope and Meerkats of the world become safe zones for widespread piracy is foolish.

At the same time, media companies should keep in mind that sometimes, the best defense is a good offense.

To deter piracy, they will realistically need to balance enforcement with encouragement because if they can't convince enough of the individuals like Mashable's Warren to pay instead of pirate, they will find themselves in a fight they can't win anyway. 

Patricio Robles

Published 5 May, 2015 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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