Why We Need to Shred the Sports Content Distribution Rulebook

By Simon Trudelle, Senior Director Product Marketing, NAGRA

2017 was a pivotal year in sports programming distribution.

We witnessed a seismic shift towards multiscreen IP, cloud and data-driven distribution of premium sports content. As a result, sports rights holders have been forced to review their strategies.

But this kind of change requires more than just a review – it needs a completely new distribution rulebook to ensure all angles are covered properly. Launching an innovative initiative is one thing, but ensuring it leads to top- and bottom-line growth is much more challenging.

In addition, illegal content distribution is a growing thorn in the side of sports programming distribution. And rights holders are now being forced to act in the war against piracy.

With a steep increase in the use of illegal streaming devices, viewers from all over the world can access top sports content without paying rights holders for it. Industry research from last year estimated that there were 38 million of these Kodi add-on-enabled devices worldwide, with more than 10 percent of UK households owning one.

This confluence of easy access to illegal devices, combined with of the growing worldwide appetite for live sports, means rights holders are being forced into a front-line position in a war against illegal content distribution.

Subsequently, we’re now seeing key court injunctions play a role in the fight. For example, the Premier League was awarded a High Court order in the United Kingdom for the 2017-18 football season, preventing people from accessing illegal streams of the games.

Also, Times Content Limited (TCL) gained a permanent injunction against websites illegally streaming IPL cricket games in the U.S. Spearheaded by NAGRA’s legal and forensic expertise and in partnership with the International Broadcaster Coalition Against Piracy, Inc. (IBCAP), this is just one in a series of legal wins in the ever-evolving battle against piracy.

But distribution mechanisms aren’t just being disrupted by piracy. There are encouraging and exciting signs of progress for live sports content delivery.  

From the TV viewer’s standpoint, we’ve seen three major areas of development emerging in the last few years that benefit sports fans: AR and VR applications which are highly appealing to tech-savvy super fans, with increasing availability of interactive features on all screens, as well as the broader availability of 4K UHD content which allows for exciting large screen TV experiences in incredibly high quality.

And other developments from the world of sports content are abounding every day and it will be intriguing to see how operators adapt to changing consumer habits. Take the exploding eSports market, for example. With hundreds of millions of fans now tuning in to live online gameplay on a regular basis, it will be fascinating to see how operators factor the growing demand for eSports into their content protection and operational strategies.

Ultimately, taking a holistic approach to content value protection across all networks and screens is crucial to ensuring effective protection against pirates. And to be successful, leagues and rights holders need to embrace this new distribution rulebook and make the right strategic decisions accordingly.

And our objective at NAGRA is to be a positive catalyst that brings about the adoption of new content protection, cyber-security technologies and services that will secure the business model of the entire industry. That way, consumers will be able to continue enjoying the sports they love in exciting and immersive new ways.

If you wish to read more about the services we can offer to help you in your fight against illegal content sharing, please contact us at​