It’s no secret that piracy causes significant revenue losses and impacts subscriptions, leaving rights holders and broadcasters with a host of challenges. A recent report revealed that piracy rates for film and television in US streaming services are expected to rise from 22% in 2022 to 24.5% in 2027. In fact, estimates suggest that streaming services in the US alone could face a staggering loss of $113 billion to piracy by the end of 2027.
This issue is particularly striking in the world of live sports pay-per-view (PPV) events. Recently, Showtime Sports executive Stephen Espinoza highlighted that big fights aren’t taking place due to rampant PPV piracy, as some fans opt not to purchase pay-per-view fights and instead turn to illegal avenues to watch the bouts for free. Espinoza stated, “Our best guess is [that] buys are being depressed by at least 30 to 40% [due to digital theft].” These figures indicate the tough situation for content creators and distributors alike.
Piracy significantly affects the live sports industry, causing a substantial erosion of revenue that could otherwise be secured from consumers using legitimate services. The pervasive nature of piracy, exacerbated by the proliferation of illicit streaming platforms and unauthorised content sharing, has made it increasingly difficult for subscription-based platforms and PPV events to maintain appropriate levels of profitability. Consequently, both established and emerging content providers face mounting financial pressure as a portion of viewers continue to opt for pirated content over official channels.
Furthermore, piracy not only impacts the immediate revenue streams of the legitimate platforms but also has long-term implications for their growth and sustainability. When content creators and distributors struggle to generate sufficient income due to piracy, they may be forced to cut back on investments in new productions, ultimately leading to a decline in the quality and variety of content available to viewers. As Espinoza points out, “I understand the pay-per-views have gotten expensive, and right now, economically, it’s difficult. But the reason some of these fights aren’t getting made is literally because of the piracy.”
Content providers grappling with piracy must tackle the issue head-on by implementing solutions that make it increasingly difficult for theft to occur and for stolen streams to be redistributed illegally.
Fortunately, a range of cutting-edge technical solutions can empower rights holders in their fight against piracy. Protective technologies, such as advanced monitoring and imperceptible watermarking, can be employed to expose infringers almost instantly. These solutions allow providers to detect stolen content at speed, allowing them to revoke the identified subscriber’s access to instantly put a stop to content fraud. These automated monitoring systems offer round-the-clock piracy detection, enabling successful protection for sports content that faces illegal distribution, even when re-encoded to evade detection.
Efficient monitoring enables the rapid issuance of takedown notices, disrupting pirate viewership before it can gain traction. Watermarking discourages large-scale fraud by tracing illicitly retransmitted content back to its source for legal action. Although some criminals may persist in their activities, the increasing difficulty in accessing pirate streams due to prompt takedowns could deter many, as the challenges begin to outweigh the rewards.
The enormous demand for live events and PPV content is exemplified by the recent prize fight between Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis and Ryan Garcia which generated an estimated 1.2 million PPV buys despite widespread piracy. This massive demand highlights the potential for converting hordes of fans consuming illegal pirated versions into paying viewers, presenting a significant opportunity to engage diverted audiences and generate new revenue.
By employing cutting-edge technology and leveraging efficient anti-fraud solutions, companies can effectively detect, deter and disable piracy, and begin to convert viewers of illegal content into revenue sources. Addressing the issue of piracy head-on will help to safeguard the future of the sports and entertainment industry and ensure that broadcasters and operators continue to be able to deliver high-quality, engaging content to audiences worldwide.
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