Jason Graham - also known as Richards - from Boldon, and John Dodds, sold a satellite and streaming service scam to more than 270 pubs and clubs in the North-East.
The devices allowed landlords and manager to show pay-to-view Premier League football games and boxing matches.
Newcastle Crown Court heard bar bosses would have expected to pay thousands of pounds per month to show the popular sports events to customers on large screens.
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But the pair - by using clever software and complicated computer systems - charged them less than £200 a month.
Newcastle Crown Court heard their fraudulent firm - which offered customers 18 “bespoke” channels to choose from - made the men more than £1.5million.
The court heard their con cost legitimate broadcasters worldwide - such as Sky, BT sports, NBC in America and Fox in Australia - “many multiples of that sum” in lost revenue.
Graham, 44, of Front Street, East Boldon, and Dodds, 64, of Stainton Road, Seamer, North Yorkshire, both admitted conspiracy to defraud.
Graham, who lived above a bar known as the Mid Club in Boldon, also admitted perverting justice by tampering with electronic equipment, which contained evidence, when his home was raided by the police.
The court heard Dodds set up and was involved in the fraud between April 2009 and June 2016.
Graham joined later and his involvement was between 2012 and 2016.
David Groom, prosecuting, told the court: “What the defendants created was their own, highly professional broadcasting service.
“It was being sold to subscribers at a rate designed to undercut any legitimate broadcaster, which they were able to do as they weren’t paying to make any of the programmes or buy from the owners, such as the Premier League.”
The court heard the men covered legitimate broadcasters’ logos with the names they used for their own firm, including Full Effects HD Sports, which meant some of the bar bosses who used their fraudulent firm believed they were simply taking advantage of a legal ‘loophole’ and were not breaking the law.
Some of the pubs and clubs who used the illegal service to show matches to customers have been prosecuted and or sued.
Daniel Cordey, defending Graham, said the former club DJ got involved in a scam that was already underway and now has legitimate work.
Mr Cordey said Graham had been “seduced” by the ability to earn money but is a well regarded and hard working family man.
Christopher Convey, defending Dodds, said the married dad and grandad was highly thought of, with a stack of references and no stain on his character until his involvement in the fraud scam.
Mr Convey said: “It was permitting pubs, in a working class area, to show the match, to show the boxing, that is the reality of the situation.”
The pair were due to be sentenced today