Content is now more available than ever before. Video consumption is at its highest level in history. And as the amount of video content grows to meet demand so does the threat of piracy. With the growth of broadband and advanced consumer devices, the threat to the premium video value chain is also evolving quickly. Today, content protection is no longer just about protecting the broadcast signal and the set-top box (STB) but about having an effective strategy for protecting the service, the device and the content.
The impact of piracy
A global threat, piracy takes place in every country that watches television. According to the UK Intellectual Property Office, 25 percent of British internet users admit to illegally downloading at least one movie – with 21 percent admitting to illegally downloading at least one TV programme. And contrary to the view of piracy as a victimless crime, its impact is not small. In 2015, for instance, figures show that piracy cost the Swedish film and TV industries close to $100m, which equates to a quarter of the sector’s total revenue. The estimated global cost of peer-to-peer piracy to content owners and distributors is US$90 billion dollars annually.
The changing threat
Though service piracy, such as smart card cloning, still presents a threat to pay-TV operators, it occurs primarily when using older conditional access (CA) technologies rather than state-of-the-art systems. Better CA technology, together with the ubiquity of high-speed broadband, has driven pirates online. Today, pirates record the output of the STB or even use high-quality cameras to film the image on the screen before distributing it over the internet. And they are getting increasingly sophisticated at doing so.
Many illegitimate content streaming services are now so well packaged and advertised that they strongly resemble legitimate pay-TV and OTT services. One illegitimate service offers 2,000 streamed pay-TV channels from the largest content providers around the world for only €130 per year, which is the price for a single month of triple-play service in the US. Another pirate IPTV provider even created an 18-minute American-style infomercial with stars from the music industry endorsing their product. It’s no wonder then that some consumers buy these services without knowing they are illegal.
Finding a solution
There are several ways to attack this threat; the legal route is one option. Earlier this year, US providers DISH and TVB, alongside Chinese broadcaster CCTV, filed a lawsuit against HTV which had allegedly set up a pirate broadcasting network to capture programmes and distribute them online.
But in the long term, the best way to fight the threat of content sharing is to insert an imperceptible watermark in the video or audio to enable the rights owner to pursue the leak directly and turn it off at the source. Forensic watermarking is also a key part of the MovieLabs Enhanced Content Protection requirements and will be required by most Hollywood studios for the licensing of 4K and HD HDR content. While visible fingerprinting was often used in the past, this both disrupts the experience and gives pirates the opportunity to remove or cover up the fingerprint.
That’s why Kudelski Group acquired Civolution’s NexGuard technology. Technologies like NexGuard’s watermarking solutions represent a leap forward in the fight against piracy as they are resistant to any attempts to tamper with them. Using a watermark enables companies like NAGRA to scan the internet and pirate streaming services for illegally redistributed content. When such content is identified, it empowers the rights owner to take steps to stop the illegal flow of content, helping to keep the value of content in the legitimate value chain.
When integrated with CA and DRM systems, watermarking and the associated detection services will ultimately form a closed-loop solution, protecting content for delivery to any device. Ultimately, illegally-distributed content can be then automatically detected and shut down at the source, offering 360-degree content protection and a fast and effective response to content theft. Through the tight integration of these important technologies and services, the Kudelski Group continues to play a leading role in the holistic protection of the premium video value chain.
Photo: Conceptual image demonstrating content piracy (courtesy of NAGRA)