Could Periscope be the future of illegally streaming live sports?

A woman uses the Twitter Periscope app on her mobil phone to live broadcast the announcement of the 2015 Billboard Music Awards. Could the sharing app impact illegal sports feeds?
JONATHAN ALCORN/AFP/Getty Images

By Matt Yoder

Talented news media scribe Brian Stelter has a very relevant article at CNN today discussing HBO’s concerns over a number of people streaming Game of Thrones on Periscope. For those of you not completely up to date with the newest social media platforms, Periscope is a live stream of your cell phone camera. You could show anyone and everyone in the world what you’re doing or watching simply through your smartphone.  (I could use Periscope right now to show you the fascinating process of me sitting on my couch watching taped curling while typing this article while my puppy naps next to me. THE FUTURE IS HERE!)

Already, people involved in sports media have found uses for Periscope. Teams can show live feeds of players preparing to take the court. Beat writers can stream footage from practice. There’s countless other uses for the new app that haven’t even been thought of yet that provide a window into an element of the world that we previously wouldn’t have access to.

But not everyone is a fan of the ease in which Periscope provides a window into another person’s world, specifically networks that televise content you have to pay for to watch. For the 'Game of Thrones' debut this past Sunday, there were several live Periscope streams of the program where people who are not HBO subscribers could watch the show. Stelter reports that HBO sent take-down notices to Periscope regarding the streams and that the service promises to ban users who are repeated copyright infringers.

But is that enough to satisfy networks? It’s quite easy to imagine how this works, really. All you have to do is aim your smartphone at the television screen and suddenly you’re hosting a worldwide virtual watch party. It might be the easiest way yet to share copyrighted programming.

The impact for the sports world is obvious. We all know that there are a bazillion sites that you can easily find that stream copyrighted sporting events. Whether that content be from overseas or on PPV or from cable or satellite packages, it’s quite simple to find illegal streams. Soccer game that’s not on cable? Big UFC fight? Odds are you’d be able to find a way to watch after about a minute of Google searching.

Imagine how Periscope streams might proliferate for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight coming next month. Could Twitter/Periscope really shut down all the accounts that will be illegally streaming that fight in real-time? It seems to be almost an insurmountable task given the ease and functionality of the app. Instead of going to some random sketchy website based in some other country for illegal streams, now all you have to do is go through an app and watch through someone’s cell phone camera. It simplifies the process not just for those who pirate this content, but those searching for those streams.

This is going to be something the sports world is going to have to confront. Periscope represents a major challenge to illegal streaming for copyrighted broadcasts and especially for pay events. As long as the internet has been in existence, piracy of copyrighted content has been an issue. And with the advances in technology happening all the time, it’s a challenge for these copyright holders that is only increasing.

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