Pay-TV Show takeaways: fighting piracy requires an industry approach

Anti piracy collaboration
In today’s digital world the threat is no longer the amateur offerings we’ve seen in the past. Today, we must take on the sophisticated and tech-savvy business that is commercial piracy. David Würgler, Senior Director of Anti-Piracy Litigation explains.

Content is the lifeblood of the pay TV ecosystem, which is why protecting this valuable asset is essential for long-term success. Unfortunately, it is not just content owners and service providers who see this immense value. For as long as content has been delivered to the viewer, illegal distribution of pirated content has been an issue for the industry. However, in today’s digital world the threat is no longer the amateur offerings we’ve seen in the past. Today, we must take on the sophisticated and tech-savvy business that is commercial piracy. 

David Würgler, Senior Director Anti-Piracy Litigation at NAGRA, addressed this issue during the recent panel, “Defending Content - Protecting Your Service Against Hacking, Piracy, and Consumer Ire” at the Pay TV Show in Denver. Moderated by Ben Munson, Editor at FierceVideo, the panel dove into the key insights on the threats the industry is facing. This is where Würgler confirmed that commercial piracy is the biggest risk to the industry today.

Why? Commercial piracy services are effectively presenting themselves to the consumer as legitimate businesses. They can now offer high-volume, high-quality and stable content with a user experience that looks legitimate at a fraction of the cost of paid subscriptions. Compared to the costly bundles of some paid-TV services, these pirated options are making an offer that some consumers cannot refuse.

Then, at the other end of the spectrum, “free” pirated content is also widely available online. In this case, there are also cultural considerations to contend with.  For example, younger generations are typically predisposed to getting whatever content they want for “free” online. This inhibits many of these viewers from realizing that what they are doing is actually wrong, making it seem socially acceptable to access illegal content. 

However, according to Würgler and his panel of colleagues, the industry is fighting back. Core to this fight is a comprehensive approach to disrupt pirate services by leveraging an arsenal of technology services and solutions, as well as the expertise and knowledge of every player in the TV ecosystem. When these components come together, pirates suffer. If the consumer cannot rely on the pirated service they subscribe to, or the box they bought no longer delivers the channels promised, viewers will be more likely to choose the reliability of a legitimate pay-TV service. 

The good news is that effective anti-piracy technologies and services are already available. “There is no silver bullet in the fight against piracy,” said Würgler, “but solutions like forensic watermarking are key in combatting it.” NAGRA brings a comprehensive approach to content protection with its anti-piracy services and forensic watermarking solutions. Used together, they help content owners and service providers stay in control in an increasingly complex media distribution environment. ​

However, when it comes to industry collaboration, there is still work to be done. The content and TV ecosystem players need to come together to take joint approach to defeat pirates and regain lost revenue. One service provider or content owner acting alone to take on the issue of piracy is not only costly but lacks the clout for effective change, even more so if the content has global appeal.

This is where anti-piracy organizations we work with, such as IBCAP come in, stepping up to drive a comprehensive industry approach forward. According to fellow panelist Chris Kuelling, IBCAP’s Executive Director, “there are tier-one and tier-two operators in the U.S. working together to pool talents and expertise to get a bigger bang for their buck in the piracy fight. For example, it is more effective for a group of providers to get 300 channels off a pirate box, versus one operator working to remove just two channels”. Other organizations we collaborate with in the U.S. that are doing their part include ACE and MPAA.  Globally, NAGRA is involved with Alianza in Latin America,  APAA in Europe, and AVIA/CAP in Asia-Pacific among others.

In addition, an effective anti-piracy strategy must include third-party vendors that, perhaps unknowingly, support the pirate ecosystem. This could include the ISPs, cloud and hosting infrastructure vendors and CDNs that enable delivery of illicit content, or the financial institutions that support pirate payment platforms, or even e-retailers offering pirate boxes on their site.  

When it comes to anti-piracy technologies and services it truly takes a village. Instead of pointing figures or hoping someone else will hand the issue, success will come when all players are involved in the solution. Together, the industry can develop a systematic and standardized approach that will effectively impact the bottom line of the content and pay-TV industry’s primary competitor – the pirates.

For more information on NAGRA Anti-Piracy Services and technologies, please contact