It’s the prized cash cow for Ultimate Fighting Championship, the Las Vegas-based multimillion-dollar combat-fight promotion company — pay-per-view.
So, when pirates tap pay-per-view live programming of UFC fight shows and stream the video, they can expect to the feel the wrath of UFC digital experts, lawyers and consultants tackling the issue on several fronts. UFC has a team of three consultant companies tracking the video pirates and spent about $300,000 in 2012 on lobbying for federal legislation that would deliver stiffer piracy penalties.
UFC officials say income lost to the piracy runs in the millions of dollars. In 2013, some 13 of the 33 UFC live events will be pay-per-view, which costs $44.95 or $54.95 for high definition. The number of buys will range from a couple of hundred thousand to a million, depending on the fight. On average, about five people gather to watch a live pay-per-view fight.
During UFC pay-per-view events, Edward Muncey uses a laptop to track websites that are illegally streaming video of UFC fights and to work with consultants to snuff out the offending parties. The pirates range from websites streaming pay-per-view video to bars showing the UFC fights.
Jackie Poriadjian, UFC senior vice president for strategic marketing, public relations and distribution, said, “There are tactics we deploy that address each of the methods while at the same time we’re gathering evidence should circumstances take a formal legal path.”
UFC staff members call Muncey’s tactics “whack-a-mole.” When he whacks one illegal pay-per-view content streamer into submission, another pops up.
“It’s frustrating,” said Muncey, UFC senior vice president for digital. “This whack-a-mole is no fun at all.”
Piracy is a global problem for the UFC, which has documented tens of thousands of live illegal views and 60 pirate streams going on across hundreds of websites, Poriadjian said.
The problem is detected even before UFC events as pirates use search engines and social media posts — communications monitored by UFC consultants.
In the past, the UFC has battled pirate foes such as Justin.tv and Ustream over piracy.
In a 2011 lawsuit, the UFC alleged illegal uploading of video of live pay-per-view UFC events by members and users of the Justin.tv website. UFC third-party contractors removed more than 200 infringing live streams of UFC 121 from the Justin.tv website, fight promoters said at the time.
Justin.tv won a partial dismissal in 2012 and Poriadjian said the case has since been settled.
The “illegal stream (is) down significantly on the site, but (it) still crops up,” she said.
Poriadjian said UFC officials believe federal legislation and continued legal wins over people who originate, distribute and consume pirated content will help to curb piracy. Educating people on piracy’s effects also will help, she said.
Poriadjian said Ustream was a problem in the past, but she noted that the UFC has seen some success with the website, which eventually became a distributor of its pay-per-views. She said the number of illegal streams dropped to the point where only one or two were popping up and were immediately taken down.
“After legal notices were increasing and frustration between parties was reaching a boiling point, they approached us with a plan to curb piracy dramatically on their website. Yet, in return, their hope was to become a pay-per-view distribution partner,” she said.
“Six months later, and without confirmation that we would give them the rights to distribute pay-per-views live on Ustream, they moved the illegal live stream levels that were consistently over 100 per event, down to under to 10, and by the time we found any, they took them down before we could even make them aware of the illegal streams,” Poriadjian said.
Contact reporter Alan Snel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5273.