Conor McGregor is without doubt the biggest star the world of mixed martial arts has ever seen. Often controversial but always entertaining, the Irishman’s name on a pay-per-view event represents a financial windfall for everyone involved.
As a result, any card displaying McGregor’s name as one half of the main event attracts huge attention and last Saturday’s UFC 246 was no different. Taking place in a sold-out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and broadcast live on PPV, millions of people parted with money to enjoy the extravaganza. Of course, countless thousands didn’t pay a penny to the UFC or its official broadcasting partners.
UFC 246 was widely available on ‘pirate’ IPTV services and unlicensed sports streaming sites over the weekend. However, it was also broadcast on platforms that have less of a bad reputation for piracy such as Twitch, for example, with one particular instance ending in disaster for the person behind the illicit stream.
On Saturday night and for reasons best known to him, Twitch user SkarrsWorld streamed the UFC 246 PPV on his channel to what appears to have been a fairly limited audience. However, during a promo section of the event featuring UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, a personal message notification popped up on screen and was immediately broadcast along with the pirated PPV.
While the text in the message raises all sorts of questions, this disaster had the potential to go unnoticed to the wider public. However, an eagle-eyed viewer of the stream noticed the error and turned the section into a clip which was then shared around on social media.
Just a few hours ago it had already been seen at least 100,000 times and at the time of writing, more than 146,000 views are being reported. That’s a huge audience for what was originally a niche broadcast and while amusing for some, undoubtedly represents a serious breach for the streamer. Having private matters paraded in public is undesirable but in combination with intentional piracy of a PPV event, the gravity increases.
This rookie mistake raises questions of how easy it has become for Joe Public to get into live pirate streaming and the possible consequences for those who get into the game without considering their own security. This type of online infringement has traditionally been carried out by ‘professionals’ with experience of obtaining streams and broadcasting them securely but this Twitch debacle is miles apart. But the issues go deeper than that.
The clip featuring the private message is obviously terribly embarrassing but due to the manner in which the fight played out, the implications of streaming the Conor McGregor vs Donald Cerrone main event on a platform like Twitch are an even bigger cause for concern for the UFC.
From the moment the bell rang to the moment referee Herb Dean called off the fight following a McGregor onslaught, just 40 seconds had passed. To put that into perspective, a fight that had been hyped for weeks (and had dozens of hours of official broadcasting dedicated to it in the lead-up) was over in the space of a GIF. Or, more conveniently, in the Twitch clips that immediately spread like wildfire, even before McGregor could make his victory speech.
While those 40 seconds were just a small part of the pay-per-view, the rest of the card was relatively weak, especially for the casual fans the UFC hopes to scoop up every time McGregor fights. So, when viewed through the prism of considerable dollar costs to view, particularly in the United States, value for money probably wasn’t on the lips of many paying fans at the end of Saturday night.
A pirate Twitch stream or clip, on the other hand, is likely to have proven more than adequate for the passer-by looking for 40 seconds of pure mixed martial arts excitement. In a world where revenue is king, that’s not what the UFC ever wants to hear.