Trade Groups: Meerkat and Periscope Are No Knockout Punch—Yet

While entertainment industry associations are aware of the risks that social live-streaming services Meerkat and Periscope could create for live events—something on full display during last weekend's Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match—the groups say it's too soon to freak out about piracy risks.

Together, Meerkat and Periscope delivered a one-two punch—however small—to the extremely valuable pay-per-view system Saturday night.

And for associations focused on maintaining the value of an entertainment experience, that’s raising concerns, though those groups aren’t sounding the alarm just yet.

The two social-enabled apps, which allow for live-streaming of content, have become  popular in recent months, but a turning point may have come when Floyd Mayweather Jr. pounced on Manny Pacquiao: While the fight was selling for $89 or $99 on HBO and Showtime, free streams of the event were easy to find on Meerkat and Periscope.

That wasn’t entirely unexpected. Streams of the HBO hit Game of Thrones have become common on both Meerkat and Periscope, and Major League Baseball has already begun monitoring usage of the services to ensure that games aren’t being shared by fans at the ballpark.

While associations are concerned about the potential effects of piracy—it’s worth remembering that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners took a hard line on Google Glass last year—for the most part their public statements on the technology have been muted. Both groups say the services are small potatoes compared to larger piracy threats like Popcorn Time and The Pirate Bay.

In responding to news about Game of Thrones piracy, Dennis Wharton of the National Association of Broadcasters told National Journal that the threat to its members’ interests was largely theoretical at the time.

“Obviously, we would be concerned about [Meerkat users streaming TV] if it involved delivery of broadcast programming,” Wharton said. “However, we are not aware of any copyright abuses that have been alleged against Meerkat at this point. We’re hopeful that Meerkat users will respect the copyright implications of delivering broadcast programming to users without permission of the rights holder.”

And Variety reported that MPAA CEO Christopher Dodd, speaking at CinemaCon in March, said, “We don’t want the tech world to think we have zero tolerance for new innovations and new ideas that come along.”

But at the same event, NATO CEO John Fithian admitted that “Periscope is scary stuff.” (Still, he later told The Wrap that it “hasn’t been an issue for movie theaters yet.”)

The organization taking the toughest approach to the services might be HBO, which argues that they should be more proactive in preventing copyright-infringing streams in the first place.

“In general, we feel developers should have tools which proactively prevent mass copyright infringement from occurring on their apps and not be solely reliant upon notifications,” HBO said in a statement regarding the use of Periscope to share Game of Thrones episodes.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, Meerkat piracy victims? (handout photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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