The epic matchup between Connor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather on Saturday, Aug. 26, was streamed live on at least 239 illegal streams with millions of people watching, according to Irdeto, a digital platform security firm.
Pirates used streaming capabilities on Facebook, YouTube, Periscope, and Twitch, among other social media platforms, to redistribute the spectacle live. In total, approximately 2.9 million people watched the fight illegally, Irdeto estimates.
The fight was a target for pirates since it combined huge audiences from boxing, where Mayweather is an undefeated champion, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where McGregor is a two-weight champion and huge fan favorite.
Pirates capitalize on large sporting events by either reaping the ad revenue from people who watch the stream illegally on their websites or by confusing unwitting people into paying to watch the fight online.
The cost to watch the fight was $99.95 (high definition) in the United States, 19.95 pounds in the U.K., and 24.95 euros in McGregor’s home country of Ireland.
“Live sports are a cornerstone of global piracy, with thousands of sites providing illegal content attracting millions of viewers,” said Rory O’Connor, senior vice president of cybersecurity services at Irdeto.
The pirates even advertised the illegal streams on the internet before the fight. Irdeto tracked 42 advertisements for the illegal streams in a single day on Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba.
Some of these ads led unwitting people to professional looking websites that offered them to pay to watch the fight.
“I am not surprised by these numbers [released by Irdeto]—that’s right in line with what we saw,” Eric Feinberg, a founding partner of deep web analysis company GIPEC, told Fox News.
“Some of the Facebook streams had 20,000, 30,000 views—I saw at least 25 individual Facebook Live unique video streams,” said Feinberg.
According to Fox Business, the number of legal pay-per-view purchases for the fight could reach 5 million.
The previous record was set at 4.6 million purchases two years ago when Mayweather fought Manny Pacquiao.
Saturday’s match lasted much longer than most experts predicted, with McGregor putting up an impressive offensive in the first three rounds. As McGregor’s endurance waned, however, Mayweather came out the better, winning the fight in the 10th round on a technical knockout.