I generally could care less about boxing. But, the Manny Pacquiao/Rickey Hatton Saturday night fight sufficiently climbed up the hype ladder so high that by the time it started, I had a twinge of an urge to watch it. Trouble is, the fight was only on pay-per-view and weighed in at a hefty $54 charge. Even if I wanted to pay for it, it was clear from Twitter commentary that some cable providers were having trouble keeping up with demand and there was a risk of a lag in the fight's delivery
So, without many assumptions, I turned to the Internets out of curiosity to see if I could find a live stream of the fight. Mostly, what I found was a lot a turns into dark alleys of "CLICK THIS" messages that promised a live fight but likely delivered anything but. I'm sure there are plenty of people saying that all they wanted was to watch a live fight but they only came back from cyberland with a crappy virus.
But, right before I quit looking, I did a Twitter search and saw a tweet from someone who seemed like they might provide a legitimate link (you can be a lot braver when using a Mac). And, boom. Seconds later there was a live feed of the fight as the second round began being broadcast from a user of Justin.tv. (photo above). I was able to watch all of the 45 seconds that remained in the fight that ended with a vicious Pac-Man KO.
For those of you who don't know Justin.tv, the company describes itself as...
"the largest online community for people to broadcast, watch and interact around live video. With more than 41 million unique visitors per month and 428,000 channels broadcasting live video."
"Live video on the Web is starting to take off, judging by the massive jump in traffic that Justin.tv is witnessing. According to comScore, the live video site’s global audience saw a massive jump from 9.3 million unique visitors in January to 15 million in February, which is about the same number of people who went to Veoh and nearly twice as many as visited Hulu.com. Of course, Hulu is only available in the U.S., where it is fourth most popular video site, and its videos are watched on other sites as well. "
With these growth trends in mind, let's get back to the main purpose here as illustrated by the Technically Incorrect column at CNET...
If you thought Justin.tv was just some bloke walking around with a camera on his head, then you have less faith in Web 2.0 than you should.
That's because the site's ingenuity (or, depending on your perspective, ingenuousness or even disingenuousness) has got it a red card from the U.K.'s Premier League and its TV partners.
It seems that Justin.tv, in all its innocence, has been broadcasting live Premier League soccer matches, the rights to which happen to be owned by the Premier League and channels such as Fox and Setanta.
It seems that, thus far, it's been the classic whack-a-mole game of issuing takedown notices to services. With Justin.tv being US-based, it's been an early YouTube situation all over again (minus that Viacom part).
[Side Q for copyright lawyers: Doesn't Justin.tv advertising on this content -- as the "therapy" ad seen deliciously above demonstrates -- complicate matters for a supposed "third party" delivery network? Grokster anyone?]
Regardless, many of this services and tools are based in places like China or run over P2P networks. Here is a helpful round-up of many of the players.
The current state of play reminds you of the lousy experience of illegally downloading music before the OG Napster came around and in the years shortly after the company went legit. That is, those who really want the content will jump through the hoops and be happy with an experience no where near what they could get for buying the content through proper routes. However, most are more than happy to enjoy convenience and quality over chasing down vanishing and/or sputtering streams.
Still, a Napster-like app could quickly capitalize on an obvious and growing interest to see TV content that is either impossible or too expensive to get at home.
Would we then be at the precipice of another battle between so-called inevitability and property rights? (One that includes all the requisite hyperbole and litigation?)
Or will Hulu, TV Everywhere, Comcast's Fancast, and moves to stream the Super Bowl, etc, render this shift irrelevant by providing a consumer experience on the Web and elsewhere that obviates a need and desire to watch a Premier League game while you are traveling or search Twitter for a PPV-like fight?