Rising to Meet the Challenge of Content Theft

Rising to Meet the Challenge of Content Theft

The Invisible Millions
While unapparent to many viewers, 2017 threw the levels of piracy faced by today’s content producers into sharp relief. The year’s most anticipated boxing match, Mayweather vs. McGregor, carried a suggested Pay Per View price of nearly USD 90, with an additional USD 10 for the HD version of the event. For many viewers, such an amount was prohibitive. Yahoo!Sport reported pirated streams of the game reached a record-breaking 100 million viewers worldwide, far dwarfing pay per view sales of 4.3 million buys [1] [2].

Content piracy is becoming increasingly pervasive, sophisticated and mainstream. For public service broadcasters in particular, selling local content in foreign markets is becoming increasingly challenging, especially when viewers in those markets already have access to the content through illegal websites [3].

Beyond the Torrent
While peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks were one of the first conduits for content piracy, today a vast number exists, with the tally constantly expanding. Asia is particularly affected—as one of the world’s largest regions for online piracy, revenue losses are expected to double between 2016 and 2022 to nearly USD 20 billion [4]. To illustrate, a new study of the content-viewing behaviour of Singaporean consumers revealed that 15% used illegal set-top boxes to stream pirated television and video content. Also known as Illicit Streaming Devices (ISDs), these illegal set-top boxes allow users to access hundreds of pirated television channels and video-on-demand (VOD) content, usually with a low annual subscription fee [5].

Live-streamed content is also far from immune to piracy, as the Mayweather-McGregor match showed. Illicit access to content via methods such cardsharing—allowing multiple clients or digital television receivers to access a subscription-based television network with only one valid subscription card—are becoming a growing concern.

In Search of a Cure-All
As the number of ways to illegally access content increases, content providers, distributors, content platforms and pay-TV operators need to recognise the fact that there is no silver bullet for ending content theft. Success entails relying on a multi-faceted approach, including deploying anti-piracy technology and services (such as digital watermarking to track unlawful distribution) as well as engaging in industry-wide collaboration—from legal action to lobbying for policy changes and consumer education. South Korea, for example, is set to expand its site blocking measures with SNI eavesdropping, allowing HTTPS sites to be blocked [6].  Meanwhile, TV distributor International Media Distribution (IMD) recently launched legal action in Australia's Federal Court targeting IPTV provider Reelplay, claiming the service is unlicensed [7].

Emerging technologies including blockchain may also be leveraged to provide safeguards against piracy. The fundamental promise of blockchain technology is that it protects digital assets more comprehensively than visual markers by implanting security safeguards within the content to control the duplication, sharing, transferring or selling of ownership, even over an untrusted network. For the time being, video file sizes restrict the use of blockchain, but video virtualisation—drastically shrinking video file size, down to as much as a fraction of one percent of the original—could enable secure blockchain video transactions in future [8].

A final key imperative is intelligently addressing consumer needs—providing compelling, relevant content so consumers don’t feel the need to resort to piracy [9].

As a safeguard against piracy, it will become increasingly key for broadcasters, pay-TV operators, content providers and distributors to partner with a trusted satellite provider—one also equipped with sophisticated encryption techniques and an active interest in engagement with anti-piracy efforts. And being a member of CAP (Coalition Against Piracy) enables SES to be engaged in the global fight against content theft.

[1] Mayweather-McGregor Pirated by Upward of 100 Million Viewers

[2] Mayweather-McGregor Fight Second Richest Ever

[3] Signal Piracy: A Threat to Asia-Pacific Broadcasters

[4] Fighting Video Piracy Will Take a Unified Effort as Asia’s TV and Cinema Industries Boom

[5] Over One-third ISD Owners Purchased from Singapore’s IT Exhibitions and Physical Retail Stores

[6] South Korea Expands Site Blocking Efforts with SNI Eavesdropping

[7] Reelplay IPTV Service Faces Blocking Action in Australian Court

[8] Blockchain May Be The Missing Link For Video Protection

[9] Pay TV Players Fighting Piracy and OTT Disruption