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How to counter the piracy threat

Simon Trudelle, Senior Director, Product Marketing, NAGRA
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Piracy is one of the biggest challenges facing the Pay TV industry today. Research from the 2019 Pay-TV Innovation Forum shows that the number of households worldwide who use illegal TV services grew from 11% in 2017 to 17% today, a clear sign that action needs to be taken to stop the piracy onslaught before it’s too late.

Piracy is not a new problem. But we as an industry had established a strong foundation and solid business rules to address it. The same thing needs to happen today in the new era of online distribution: the ecosystem as a whole has to act together – infrastructure, distributors, content owners – to combat new threats that are emerging.

There is a sense of urgency. Senior executives throughout the industry should no longer be asking themselves whether they should invest in content protection, but whether they’re investing enough in the right areas to protect business models now and in the future.

But before we can look for the solution, we need to first identify the source of the problem. Given the fact that anyone connected to the Internet can be anywhere in the world, it’s difficult for providers and content owners to keep track of where their content is being stolen from. And, as more direct-to-consumer (DTC) services with exclusive content come online, including valuable sports content, the problem is only going to grow unless action is taken.

Once the precise threat has been identified, service providers, content owners and technology companies must work together to stop it, looking at a three-pronged approach of infrastructure, legislation and technology.

With protected infrastructure and solid legal frameworks in place, technology can be an even more effective way to tackle the piracy scourge. Counter-measures include incorporating forensic watermarking into the content to track where the theft took place, to monitoring and IP blocking.

And by blocking pirate streams you create an additional benefit – making viewers feel frustrated with unreliable pirate services, leading a return to legitimate TV services. If you want to watch something and it does not work, you give up. Pirate consumers are no different.

For an operator’s anti-piracy activities to be truly successful, they need the support of legislatures across multiple territories to create legal frameworks that enable them to block streams wholesale and work with the authorities to arrest the criminals.

It’s a complex situation with different legal regulations around the world, but as pirates become more international, so must the activities that can stop them – and that’s only possible with the help of governments and industry associations. Failure to act can lead to a significant negative impact on regional and local economies, affecting citizens and global economies. Inaction can even damage international relations.

There is no silver bullet to address the piracy challenge. It requires a holistic approach that enables total service protection from a wide range of threats and incorporates robust anti-piracy services and technologies that can intercept pirate streams, disrupt pirate infrastructure and block access to pirate services. With the proper legal framework and the right strategy in place, operators and content owners can boost their defences and safeguard their valuable content assets from piracy.

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