‘Threatening to sue streamers is akin to punching yourself out with wild haymakers’

Boxing is a handy metaphor for life, or business, in that it’s all about hard work, pain, fear and risk. As Muhammad Ali famously said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’”. 

Joseph Parker will agree after winning his latest heavyweight fight on Saturday – and so too will his team of promoters. There’s risk in a business when your investment, your brand, and in Parker’s case, his body, is just a moment from failure. George Foreman, no fool to making a buck, understood the game better than most: “The question isn’t at what age I want to retire, it’s at what income”.

Everyone needs to make their income quick in the boxing game – fighters, promoters, media, hangers on. Age, luck and unexpected right hooks will conspire against you. With this in mind you can sympathise with Dean Lonergan and Duco. They’ve invested in Parker, they’ve promoted an event, they’ve created a way for consumers to watch their man live on TV. The trouble is that not everyone wants to pay for SKY and not everyone wants to pay-to-view on top of that – as evidenced by the fact that thousands found alternative means on Saturday night.  

The Duco team pointed the finger at Facebook and the scheming, free-wheeling, free-streaming punters while Lonergan threw a few verbal punches in the direction of the sharing economy. It’s the kind of slug fest that benefits no one and more importantly leaves money on the table. In the spirit of a Rocky training montage, here are a few thoughts on some options for the future.

Threatening to sue streamers is akin to punching yourself out with wild haymakers. The last 15 years of digital history tell us that this is almost entirely a waste of time. It’s hard to identify offenders, hard to prosecute, hard to find a sympathetic judiciary, hard to make a sentence stick and simply results in the pirated content heading to encrypted sites. Not to mention a complete loss of goodwill all-round.

It’s better to make your friend your enemy or, in this case, your enemy’s friends your friends. Team Parker discovered that Facebook Live is a huge platform for their potential customers (in fact they are already big proponents) so get out and use it more. How about Parker builds momentum with Facebook Live training sessions and sparing? How about streaming some of the undercard live to the next fight? Let’s hook users to sign-up, right up until the main event starts. Cut the feed with Parker walking to the ring and watch impulse sign-ups go through the roof.  Facebook is also likely to be significantly more helpful in stopping any subsequent pirate feeds with this type of integration.

It’s not breaking news, but Sky TV is no longer the only show in town. If there is an ongoing deal with Sky for the next fight then negotiate for it to be available through FanPass as well. You need be available in the platforms and at the prices that are convenient to your customers.

Ongoing, a star as bright as Parker should be able to distribute his own show and own the mechanism to reach the public. Developing an online experience to deliver this type of streaming has never been easier, even as the platforms morph and multiply. If you own the distribution you own the experience, so film the fight in 4K, add 360 camera angles, charge a surge fee for latecomers, cut a side deal with a telco or OEM with big pockets. You choose.

You can’t remove piracy completely, but you can minimise it by making the alternative as easy and as smart as possible. That means more sophistication and imagination than a decades old pay-for-view model. You don’t win in this game without those fighters stawalts of hard work, pain, fear and risk.

  • Sam Aldred is a director at Receptive.tv, a specialist internet TV and streaming media strategy and consultancy agency.

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