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Watching Mayweather-Pacquiao on the cheap and in an entirely new way


To the victor go the Tecate girls. Floyd “Money” Mayweather during his extended post-fight news conference on ESPN. Photo: Ed Bark

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Thousands of ad hoc “networks” were birthed Saturday night just in time for the very high-priced Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao boxing extravaganza.

The pay-per-view asking price of $99.95 for a high-definition telecast seemed, well, a little high. Besides that, I cringed at the thought of even a nickel of my money going to Mayweather, the serial woman-beater whose in-the-ring record remains unblemished. Still, I wanted to see the fight.

Let me now tell you how this ended up happening -- and for free.

I first checked whether a live transmission of Mayweather-Pacquiao might be available on radio. It was -- on the BBC. But that broadcast was blacked out in the U.S.

So I googled around some more and after several false starts came upon the fledgling, Minneapolis-based periscope.com. Here’s part of its mantra: “While there are many ways to discover events and places, we realized there is no better way to experience a place right now than through live video. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but live video can take you someplace and show you around.”

OK then, let’s give this a shot. I downloaded the Periscope app onto my mini-ipad. It was easy to do -- and free. I then looked around and found that numerous users were showing the fight and pre-fight activities. All they had to do was point and shoot their smart phones at TV screens. Mind you, these people had paid for Mayweather-Pacquiao -- and now were sharing it with people from all over the globe.

I got a feed on my mini-ipad just in time to watch Jamie Foxx butcher the National Anthem and later prompt the post-fight Tweet of the night from Chris Rock: “The only fight I saw in that boxing ring tonight was Jamie Foxx beating up the national anthem.”

The bell finally sounded, and I watched Round 1 -- with fairly decent video -- live from a Hong Kong living room. Those who appreciated the effort could sent hearts fluttering across the top of the screen by merely tapping the feed with their finger. But commenters soon were demanding that this stop, because it would make it easier to detect this particular feed and shut it down. Sure enough, that’s what happened after a single round. “Hong Kong Phooey!” said one commenter.

But there were tons of other Periscope feeds in play. And I was able to go round-by-round with five different ones while the powers-that-be -- wherever they may have been -- played whack-a-mole by knocking them off one-by-one.

Then came Round 6. I found a small U.S. in-home party whose host was sending the fight out. And this feed stayed up all the way through the concluding Round 12. The picture wobbled at times and pixilated a bit at others. But I could easily see well enough to tweet a round-by-round account using my iPhone. And the price was certainly right.

So is this piracy? It’s hard to see it that way. Those making the fight available to others via Periscope in fact had first paid for it. So was it really that different than someone throwing a big party for 100 or so friends, all of whom got to see the fight via a single PPV purchase? HBO/Showtime, who collaborated on this cash monster, obviously would prefer that the fight be seen by no one other than the original buyer and his or her immediate family. But you can’t stop what turned out to be a new delivery system uprising that firmly put Periscope on the map Saturday night.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, whose company owns Periscope, proclaimed “And the winner is . . . @periscopeco” -- via a Tweet, of course. That won’t make him at all popular in HBO or Showtime executive suites. But Periscope served to democratize a fight that otherwise raked in more money than the annual economies of many small countries. It’s not as if the big roster of A-list celebs sitting ringside couldn’t afford their seats. And both Mayweather and Pacquiao perhaps can still get by with the multi/multi-millions of dollars they earned from 36 minutes of work in a fight that set a PPV purchase record.

We aren’t that far removed from the days when in-home VCR tapings of pro athletic events were “strictly prohibited.” That’s laughable now. Perhaps there are issues to be worked out in regards to what some Periscope users did Saturday night. But in the highly singular event of Mayweather-Pacquiao, those who paid their money then decided to take their chances by using a new technology that in reality can’t be stopped.

Was it Robin Hood robbing the rich and then giving to the poor? No. Because it really wasn’t robbery. It was just spreading the wealth.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net