Thursday, July 24, 2008

Who Are The Real Pirates?

The core component of boxing’s business model in North America over the past two decades has been pay-per-view television. Fights which used to air for free on broadcast or cable television now cost the consumer 50 bucks or more per pop.

Not coincidentally, boxing in North America has declined and been marginalized over this same period, as the product took itself out of the public spotlight and protected it behind this pricey wall. We now have an entire generation in these parts which has never seen a major world title fight live on television.

In Europe and Asia, where most boxing is still on non-pay TV, the sport is growing, often drawing huge crowds to arenas and sports stadiums, a phenomenon not seen in North American in decades.

At the same time, HBO, the principal architect of this business model, has become an incredibly profitable business, annually bringing in about $1.2 billion in profits – that’s just profits, not revenue.

Even with competition from satellite TV and now Verizon’s FiOS, cable TV rates keep rising, and disgusted consumers are caught in this profit assault.

Working around these profiteers used to be difficult. You had to buy a pirate box and hope it worked as promised. Soon, the cable companies would find a way to disable it, often through upgrading their own technology.

Now our beloved Internet has changed all that. All you need to do is find a web site which streams whatever you want to watch. Some of them require you to download a media player, but some others do not. All you have to do is go to a web site, just like you went to this one or any other site.

This is rarely discussed by that technophobic bunch known as boxing writers, most of whom grope around for a letter-opener when told they have an e-mail. Ask them what they have downloaded recently, and they’ll say their doctors told them it wasn’t serious.

We speak the truth here. It is not our task to protect whoever’s business model is being rendered obsolete by the growth of technology and the Internet. We just tell it like it is.

One of the most popular sites streaming these shows is SopCast.

You will see all “seven dirty words” in a row on these boxing “news” sites before you see that name mentioned.

What is being streamed is openly discussed on forums like the MyP2P Forum, which has a special section for fans of various combat sports.

That’s the reality, like it or not, legal or not. They may be offering pirate streams which violate copyright laws and which offer no compensation to their owners, but they also generally do not charge or make a profit from these streams.

When faced with the growth of peer-to-peer file sharing a decade ago, instead of adapting to the new technology, the music industry decided to declare war on consumers. That is leading to the destruction of the traditional record companies, with popular artists like Madonna distributing their music directly online, or though alternate services like iTunes and others.

The boxing business first has to get a clue that this is happening, which is not even likely until it is too late for them. The only major promoter taking seriously using the Internet to stream fights, and possibly for free, is Don King. Thus far, however, his seems more experimental than anything.

True, it will take some time before these p2p and other services can handle mass traffic. But storage and bandwidth are becoming cheaper and more plentiful all the time, and Internet users are becoming smarter as well.

There is almost no discussion in our obsolete boxing media about the obsolete pay-per-view model. One article which does refer to this phenomenon, “Do Not Pirate This Saturday’s Pay-Per-View” by John Chavez on, oddly argues that it is OK to pirate most boxing shows, but not Saturday’s Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito showdown: “If you call yourself a boxing fan and choose to pirate this Saturday’s Pay-Per-View bout, in essence you’re telling HBO and the other major players in boxing that exciting style match-ups still won’t entice you to purchase the event. To support this weekend’s match is to support boxing as a whole as it will point to the fact that we are educated fight fans that know good from bad.”

I would respond that it is better to be consistent, and either eschew pirating altogether as unethical, or eschew pay-per-view altogether as unethical pirating of the consumers.

Granted, something in-between may be more practical for many people, but once you open the door to pirating as acceptable, it is hard to argue that sometimes it is OK while at other times it is not.

In the end, different groups of people just have different economic interests. And many of them may be pirates of one sort and size or another. You just have to choose, or realize, which type, if any, you are.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

SecondsOut Radio: Charles Farrell, Cotto-Margarito

  • SecondsOut Radio with Eddie Goldman

  • On this week's edition of SecondsOut Radio, host Eddie Goldman begins by criticizing the build-up for this coming Saturday's important welterweight title fight between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito. In particular, the pay-per-view model, the reliance on nationalism, and the failure to use the Internet properly are singled out.

    In our interview this week, we speak with the award-winning boxing writer Charles Farrell. In a lengthy and candid discussion, the topics include the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito fight, the controversy arising from this past Wednesday's rematch between heavyweights James Toney and Hasim Rahman, the major injury suffered by Oscar Diaz in his fight with Delvin Rodriguez this past Wednesday which required emergency brain surgery, and more.

    It is free to listen to SecondsOut Radio, but you must register to gain access to it. Just click here, and listen, learn, and enjoy.

    Thanks, Eddie Goldman

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