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The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is looking to crack down on illegal live streams of its pay-per-view events, going after users that have uploaded its content to sites where viewers are able to watch those events for free. As a result, UFC says it has subpoenaed live streaming sites Justin.tv and Ustream to get the IP addresses needed to identify users that uploaded videos of those events.
Pay-per-view events are big business for UFC parent company Zuffa LLC, with more than 1.2 million viewers paying for its UFC 116 event earlier this month. At a price of around $40 to $50 per event, the mixed-martial arts promoter’s take in PPV revenue is pretty substantial; while the privately owned company doesn’t break out its sales, it reportedly generated 8.5 million buys in 2009, for approximately $380 million in PPV revenue.
Zuffa claims that on January 2, the night of its UFC 108 PPV event, more than 36,000 viewers tuned in to a stream that was uploaded from a single IP address. Six weeks later, someone at the same IP address served an illegal feed of its UFC 110 PPV event, which more than 78,000 non-paying users tuned into. The amount of revenue lost from those two events alone adds up to around $5 million.
Of course, that’s not to say that the viewers on live streams from Justin.tv and Ustream would have actually paid for access to the event. However, issues surrounding the piracy of live events continue to be a concern for live streaming sites like Justin.tv and Ustream. The British Premier League threatened legal action against Justin.tv in late 2008 over pirated streams of its matches. And boxing promoter Square Ring sued Ustream over alleged copyright infringement last August.
Both Justin.tv and Ustream have said they are working to restrict the amount of pirated content that occurs on their sites, by implementing automated takedown and fingerprinting technology to stop live streams of pirated content. The problem is that for the fingerprinting technology to work, content providers need to make their feeds available for content identification, which requires a partnership with the live streaming sites. Some content companies, like Fox and NBC, have struck partnerships to keep their content off Justin.tv, but UFC doesn’t appear to have such a deal.
We’ve reached out to UFC, Justin.tv and Ustream for comment, but none of the parties were immediately available at the time of this writing. We will update the story if we hear back from them.
Related content on GigaOM Pro: Live Event Coverage: Video Rights Roundtable (subscription required)