Foe to friend: Facebook helps Sky TV and Duco shut down Parker fight pirates within minutes

PLUS: Sneddon says more legal action on the way — although, for now, it's with kid gloves.

Facebook was “indifferent” after the Parker-Takam fight was illegally streamed through Facebook Live in May, Duco Events chief executive Martin Sneddon says.

And there was little love lost as Dean Lonergan raised questions about Facebook’s liability.

Fast forward to Saturday night’s Parker-Dimitrenko fight and it was a completely different story.

“We did get Facebook to acknowledge there was a problem and to take an active part in taking down pages,” Mr Sneddon says.

Duco and Sky TV had a team of 13 people monitoring the internet for signs of piracy. Half of them were assigned to watch Facebook, and a new-found co-operation with the social network saw pirates identified within three or four minutes.

In all, around 50 Facebook Livestreams were shut down.

More legal action — but, for now, with kid gloves
Before the fight, Sky TV said it was taking eight people to the High Court over illegal streams of the Parker-Haumono fight in July.

Today, Mr Sneddon told NBR his team was still debriefing on Saturday’s action, but it was probable more High Court action would be brought.

For the time being, it’s about “growing awareness” rather than making an example of someone.

The Sky TV action is seeking nominal damages of $2670, plus costs (the action is being taken by Sky, but Mr Sneddon says his company is supporting it on a logistical level, as well as giving it moral backing).

“Our objective is to make a point without being unduly punitive,” Mr Sneddon says.

 “We want a court ruling that it’s our property and has been stolen. We’re not about killing anyone financially – though if it happens again, we’ll have to think about that.”

Saturday night saw a full-court press. Sky TV chief executive John Fellet says action was also taken for more traditional infractions, such as home decoders being brought to commercial venues.

Still, livestreaming – which can be accomplished simply by pointing a smartphone camera at the live fight (which two people tried to do Saturday night) or a Sky TV screen then connecting to Facebook – is the major new threat.

Many more moles to whack
After being “more or less oblivious” to the livestream threat in May, the Sky TV-Duco anti-pirate team now seems in fighting shape.

But there’s still a long way to go. Some viewers were angry that a Sky sign-up page fell over on Saturday (Sky Go actually fared okay during the three-round bout, though its reputation is still on the floor). Although the pay-per-view cost has been cut from $50 to $40 for the past two fights, and they’ve also been put on Sky’s no-contract Fanpass service, there’s still room for more carrot along with the stick.

And although it’s got all the attention, Facebook Live is just one of many livestreaming services on offer. Others include Twitter, which recently acquired Periscope – the bane of live sport promoter’s lives in the US. There are so more many moles to whack.

“It’s a work in progress. We’re not kidding ourselves. There are some very clever people out there,” Mr Sneddon says.

But he adds, “We don’t have to get every one. We won’t beat ourselves up if we don’t catch every pirate.”

He acknowledges that most of the people who watch livestreams through social media would never have paid for the official stream. And, NBR would add, no true boxing fan is going to want to hop from dodgy-quality Facebook stream to Facebook stream as they appear and disappear.

And Mr Fellet says Facebook has partly fallen into the fold because it (no doubt) wants to monetise Facebook Live content in future, so it wants to be seen to be playing the rules. The same could be said for other commercial services. Amateur outfits don't have a similar incentive, but then again they often have little ability to host multiple streams at once.

Nevertheless, social media streaming is now part of the landscape. Even if someone is made an example of, more outbreaks of piracy are inevitable.

That team of 13 on piracy patrol for Saturday night's fight could become part of the cost of doing business around big events.

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