Sports Leagues Must Act Now To Tackle Piracy
With the new football season well underway, live-streaming sports piracy continues to cause significant business challenges for the pay-TV industry. And, it’s not just the operators and broadcasters who suffer lost revenue from the theft of a time-sensitive product. The sporting federations concerned, the clubs and even the fans themselves, lose out as well.
With broadcasters still prepared to pay $3.3 billion for NFL and £4.4 billion for the English Premier League rights, what are the sports leagues doing themselves to control illegal rebroadcasting and streaming?
The solution is driven by a combination of technology, collaboration, and innovation to fight pirate services across all distribution networks. Sports leagues must partner with vendors and service providers, as well as providing their own OTT services if not already the case, to ensure all fans get the best experience possible, anywhere.
The first step is implementing the right technology. The combination of antipiracy services and watermarking technology is a significant step toward fighting commercial piracy — the paid-for pirate services. The two, coupled together, allow service providers and sports content owners to identify illicit streaming services.
They also enable them to identify the source of the content leaks feeding such pirate servers. This is now possible for both broadcast and OTT-distributed sports content, through a unique, invisible identifier (the watermark) added into the content itself.
Taking such steps enables both the sports leagues, as well as the content owners and the broadcasters, to track when a game is being illegally streamed.
Take the example of the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL). It is fighting illegal IPTV streaming of its games, using a unique combination of forensic watermarking, server takedown capabilities, technical countermeasures, legal actions and global network monitoring. Together, this has helped the DFL to protect its revenues and that of its licensees around the world.
When combined with CAS and DRM technology, these measures provide a complete content value protection solution to secure, mark, monitor, quantify, identify and act to stop the pirates in their tracks.
Unfortunately, the fight against piracy cannot stop there. Having the right content protection technology in place is just one piece of the anti-piracy puzzle. Additional strategies will enable sports leagues around the world to really take the fight to the pirates.
No content protection strategy is complete without collaboration, intelligence and legal action. After all, with only a fraction of live sports content distributed directly from the leagues themselves, they need to work with broadcasters, pay-TV operators, OTT providers as well as internet service providers (ISPs) and cloud infrastructure vendors (CIVs) to ensure their content is not illegally re-distributed.
Working with an antipiracy service provider, the sports content owners can gain evidence against the pirates, tracing the illegal streams from the source to redistribution. In some cases, particularly in collaboration with broadcast and OTT service providers, they can even issue a visual warning to the pirated devices used to steal content, that is then used as the source of feeds going to pirate viewers. Tactics like this reduce the number of consumers accessing content illegally, while damaging any potential earning for the pirates.
The last piece of the puzzle speaks to the distribution models. By leveraging flexible distribution models, in particular OTT streaming, leagues and service providers can work together to develop new pricing and packaging models that will address both the needs of both super-fans and casual viewers, increasing reach while driving up profitability. For example, collaboration with distribution partners can help entice consumers back to the pay-TV environment by effectively creating a proactive and virtuous carrot-and-stick model.
Major League Baseball has recognized early on the potential of reaching both its super fans and a global fan base with streaming services. Smaller leagues and federations can also grow their international reach with OTT. Taking these bold, innovative steps to offer consumers easy access to the content they want removes the need, or perhaps the urge, for them to resort to the use of pirate streams.
The good news is that sports leagues do not have to tackle these challenges alone. By collaborating more effectively with vendors and service providers, sports leagues can put the necessary steps in place to innovate how they market their highly valuable content to consumers worldwide.
When we look to the future, we can see clear signs that consumers worldwide love sports and are accessing content from a growing number of commercial pirate services. It’s imperative that sports leagues take serious strides to combat illegal streaming and redistribution of their valuable content — all around the world.
Simon Trudelle is senior director of product marketing at NAGRA, an independent provider of content protection and multiscreen television solutions. He drives market development and product marketing activities, including the Pay-TV Innovation Forum. His areas of focus include next generation cloud, IP, data and analytics driven TV solutions.