Illegally streaming sports is trending, will pose problems in the future

By Leroy Cleveland - September 11, 2022

Harris, in partnership with Sportico, recently conducted a poll to analyze Americans’ viewing habits in the sports world.

Around 2,000 people, representing the following age groups, were surveyed:

• Gen Z (ages 10 to 25)
• Millennials (also known as Gen Y; ages 25 to 39)
• Gen X (ages 40 to 55)
• Boomers (ages 56 and above)

Not surprisingly, 5 percent of respondents claimed illegal streaming (or pirating) was their primary resource for viewing sports.

And among Gen Z participants, a whopping 12 percent say they are more likely to watch sports via illegal streaming than any other medium, such as television, legal streams (such as ESPN and DAZN apps), and social media (YouTube, Vimeo, and etc).

For the same age group (age 10 to 25) television, which was the platform for nearly 100 percent of sports viewing prior to the mid-1990s, is used only 37 percent of the time.

Given pirating is the go-to medium for sports viewing for just 5 percent of the public, we haven’t heard much talk about it. However, illegal streaming has exploded in just the last 5 years, and, based on the Gen Z stats, we can clearly tell where it’s going.

Don’t be surprised if, by the start of 2023, 10 to 15 percent of all Americans say illegal streaming is their primary source for viewing sports.

Live illegal online streams have undoubtedly cost boxing and UFC, alone, tens of millions of dollars apiece in the last 5 years, and it only figures to get worse as the online pirates use technology that makes them are very, very difficult to catch and shut down.

Hackers – The enemies of sports and its fans
Hackers shamelessly – and illegally – stream and rebroadcast copyrighted content not because they are sports fans and want as many people as possible to partake in the entertainment; They do it 1) To make money via the preponderance of online ads showcased in conjunction with the stolen content and 2) to [sometimes] attempt to infect users’ computers with malware via malicious pop-ups and deceptive links when users frequent their sites to access the broadcast.

Once someone’s computer is infected and their information is locked, hackers will often charge a large sum of money to release a user’s data. Other times, hackers will silently take control of a user’s system in an effort to steal credit card and banking information.

Essentially, online pirates make money off the blood, sweat, and tears of the athletes and coaches and then, depending on the medium, attempt to infect users with viruses so they can, again, illegally generate revenue by compromising people’s computers.

How does this hurt sports?
Pirating diminishes the value of sports events – especially big fights in boxing and UFC.


Less revenue is generated because a certain percentage of viewers aren’t paying for the product. As a result, some athletes and coaches earn less for providing the same services – or prices are raised in other areas.

For example, as illegal streaming becomes more popular in boxing and UFC, prices for pay-per-view events will rise. Hence, those who order the events legally are paying not only for themselves but for the tens of thousands of illegal streamers.

Aside from boxing and UFC, the illegal streaming of sports events isn’t widespread enough today to cause major revenue dents but, rest assured, it will be an issue the networks will have to seriously address very soon.

Tags: Culture