Going in, I was never under the illusion it was actually going to be the fight of the century. Maybe the most anticipated fight of the century so far. The fight had more action than I expected, but with a predictable outcome. Though it wasn't the most exciting fight of t he century, it may have been the most important. It may actually be The One to change sports viewing, especially the pay for viewing structure.
Periscope and Meerkat, live-streaming applications for smartphones, allowed those that had purchased the fight to stream it and, those that didn't, to view it. It probably cost the promoters, the networks, and cable companies pennies on the dollar, but big companies are not known for their proportional responses when it comes to money and for good reason. Anyone remember Napster? How about buying whole CDs after only hearing a song or two? Yeah. The ability of consumers to share content for free changed the music industry forever. This might, too.
It makes sense for boxing fans to be the pioneers/original criminals. If you want to watch boxing these days, you need a $100+/mth cable bill*, not including PPV services that cost almost as much. If you're a fiscally responsible person living within a budget and don't make a living from watching sports, you probably cut the cable cord a while ago. Showing up at friends' houses with snacks and booze every Thursday/Friday/Saturday isn't sustainable. So, what to do?
Crime is, well, wrong, but companies don't seem to have their fingers on the pulse of their customers wants, needs, abilities, or technology. Sometimes it takes risky action on the part of consumers to get the message across: "We're poor and tired of being ripped off." Some say the solution is to not buy - in essence, vote with your dollar. But what if you're a Browns fan and live in San Diego? Are you not going to get whatever Direct TV or other cable NFL package in the hopes that your extra $50/mth will resonate with the cable company? No, that's stupid. There aren't enough Browns fans living outside of Cleveland and the concerted effort it would take for all expat fans to come together? We don't even do that when the government needlessly sends our kids to war to die or companies poison us. Although, maybe for sports . . . but I digress (onto a soapbox). Most money-making systems won't change unless there are actual monetary consequences *coughbailoutcough*.
I don't think the idea that technology changes the world is true. It's how people use it and in ways the creators of it never anticipated. People's use of these new streaming applications may well revolutionize how we view boxing and all sports. I mean, what sport doesn't require you to have that expensive cable bill if you're a dedicated fan? The demand is there, but the demand curve (the difference between the price of a commodity and the amount people are wiling to pay) is shifting based on quality and emerging technologies. Companies are going to get sliced by the curve if they don't take notice and change.
Possible solutions (for boxing, at least):
1. Discounted or even free PPV events for those already paying monthly fees for HBO and Showtime.
2. Go old school and broadcast fights on the radio. I really wish ESPN would do this with Friday Night Fights.
3. Single-payor/a la carte online streaming purchasing. HBO has taken the first teeny, tiny, baby step towards this. I'm sure a lot of people who don't pay for cable would buy PPV fights or subscribe to an online boxing streaming service. ($15/mth just for Boxing After Dark or an HBO online sports channel? I'd pay and that might be more than they get per subscriber from cable companies.)
Broadband internet at home is almost an inelastic demand.
Things will change. If not because of the technology, then as a result of Mayweather's retirement and Pacquiao's decline. Without superstars off of which to make the big money, companies will have to diversify, diversify, diversify. Whatever people say about the decline of boxing as a sport, they're wrong, because I believe in the fight fans and our ability to soldier on.
*I'd like to thank Al Haymon for PBC on NBC.