NAGRA Blog: Content owners and distributors can only beat pay-TV piracy by working together

By Christopher Schouten, Senior Product Marketing Director, NAGRA

The threat of piracy has never been greater.

Both Disney and Netflix have recently faced threats from cyber criminals. And while Disney's ransom turned out to be a hoax, Netflix's refusal to pay the price of cyber extortion meant ten new episodes of Orange is the New Black were released a full six weeks before their intended launch date.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. This and all other kinds of piracy are only getting worse.

Research by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) suggests 21 percent of UK consumers have accessed illegal TV content, while 25 percent have watched films illegally at some point in their lives. A survey of more than 2,000 UK consumers by YouGov found that nearly half would cancel their TV subscription within a year of getting hold of a pirated device. Meanwhile in Spain, football distributors lost €271m in 2016 because of piracy. Globally, this all adds up to a whopping US$90 billion dollars’ worth of global unmonetized demand for content due to piracy.

Yet great progress is being made in fighting piracy, particularly around live sports. When it comes to protecting sports content, live watermarking is surely the Holy Grail of anti-piracy for content distributors. It lets you monitor piracy in real time and trace, then kill, the source of the leak so that time-sensitive content keeps its value.

While some might believe that only pay-TV and OTT service providers – the final link in the distribution chain – are responsible for content protection, we're now starting to see more sports rights holders, like the English Premier League, German Bundesliga and Spanish La Liga, focus their efforts on anti-piracy. This can be done through the use of forensic watermarking to uniquely mark the content distributed to each licensee and identify which pay-TV or OTT service is letting their content slip through the net. This ensures service providers who take content protection seriously are not penalised by those who don’t when rights holders go searching for leaks.

To realise the promise of content value protection, security experts like NAGRA can monitor the internet and dark web using a combination of skilled analysts, smart automation, and machine learning to monitor the ever-changing piracy ecosystem. They can then take action to stop the theft of live programming. When this doesn’t work, legal action can also be taken around the globe to effectively shut down and punish pirates. Such actions have led in recent weeks to some of the piracy world’s most popular add-ons and add-on repositories choosing to close down operations due to the threat of legal action.

The battle must however be fought on multiple fronts. The pay-TV industry needs to both cut off illegal content sharing as well as offer consumers compelling, attractive alternatives to pirate sites. There can be no doubt that providing high-quality, easy-to-access content has a positive impact on reducing piracy.

Tracking pirates is a constant race against the clock, and taking them down takes more comprehensive intelligence, automation, and quicker reactions than ever before. The TV industry needs to collaborate, making use of watermarking, intelligence, monitoring, technical and legal actions, if it ever wants to win the fight against piracy.

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