TelevisaUnivision & Friend MTS: The challenge and opportunity of content security

Last month the 2023 SportsPro OTT Summit USA hosted the movers and shakers of the industry, revealing insight into the largest sports broadcast and streaming market in the world. Chris Gibbs of Friend MTS and Alvaro Jeanneau of TelevisaUnivision caught up to discuss why they think content protection is now more than just a compliance matter; it’s a core part of business strategy to keep revenue secure. Read on for the highlights of this insightful talk and learn more about the impact content fraud is having on the global sports market, the challenges of keeping content secure during the FIFA 2022 World Cup and the future landscape of content protection.

Just to set some context, could you tell us about TelevisaUnivision, the recent merger and what geographies and content types you distribute and work with?

TelevisaUnivision is a combination of two of the largest and most important iconic Spanish language brands. Together, we reach a 100 million unique viewers each day and have a 60% share of the Hispanic, US and Mexican markets, which is quite outstanding. It was a lot of years of work and now we’re one big happy family. We have a commitment to deliver what Spanish-speaking audiences want. We have recently launched ViX, our OTT platform, which has an AVOD and SVOD tiers. We are trying to address 600 million Spanish-speaking viewers around the world. Here is a little showcase of our portfolio of brands which is across the spectrum of broadcast TV, radio, and digital and now with ViX we’re going into the streaming world.

Televisa Univision graphic

Content fraud is a fact of life for all media organisations. What does content fraud mean for your company and what challenges does it present?

Had you asked me this question two years ago, when Univision was a domestic business monetising in the US primarily, I would have told you that I probably didn’t care much if someone was ripping us off in a territory where we couldn’t monetise. But now that we have a global business, now we have a subscription service, we have a paywall, piracy has a more direct impact on our operations. We’ve had to rethink our strategy. We’ve had to reassess vulnerabilities. The piracy problem isn’t just a compliance matter for us. There are some very good insights that you can gather from piracy.

I guess from your perspective it’s turning anti-piracy from a tick-box and a cost-centre to uplifting revenues and business?  

Looking at piracy from a compliance lens misses out on very important information. Piracy can oftentimes hint you where the market is going, pirate consumers can be early adopters. If we go back to the 90s when MP3 technology was being developed, one of the first adopters of  MP3 technology were pirates, because it was a very cheap way to share files. The business community took some time to catch up on this new technology. We all know what happened to the music industry. I think we need to lean into the problem and try to learn from the segment which is growing and changing every day.

It’s very insightful, thank you. Recently, you were involved in the distribution of the World Cup from Qatar. What solutions did you use and what were the challenges that you saw?

Luckily we had you guys at Friend MTS to take care of the FIFA IP, and we doubled down on the detection front. We were using manual effort as well as some automated tools to help us track the content, identify it and then send it for takedowns. We saw some interesting trends.

I have been following the World Cup for over a decade now. When we first started streaming sports content we were dealing with as many as 10 unique hosting sites that were propagating infringing content. It’s rather easy to get the content now with social media. As time progressed, in 2014 we saw as many as 100 different unique hosting sites. Some of them were compliant, and some of them were extremely non-compliant. And you know how the story goes, these sites keep popping up because pirates looking for the path of least resistance. In 2022 during the World Cup, we saw as many as 350 unique hosting sites.

It really shows that the terrain is very fragmented when it comes to people that we are enforcing against. Some of the jurisdictions that we are chasing are non-compliant because pirates choose places where they know we are not going to go after them. So it’s becoming increasingly difficult to mitigate this problem. But again, going back to my earlier point, if you are only going to look at it through the compliance lens, you are missing very important business intelligence that can be used to form some critical decisions.

“Looking at piracy from a compliance lens misses out on very important information. Piracy can oftentimes hint you where the market is going, pirate consumers can be early adopters.”

Could you talk about your ViX OTT offering? What it comprises and what is its reach?

ViX hasn’t been around for too long but we already have 25 million unique monthly users on the AVOD tier alone. This signals that the Hispanic market was craving the offering that spoke their language. TelevisaUnivision has probably one of the largest libraries of content. Televisa’s history goes back over 60 years of producing content in Mexico and distributing this content around the world.

Vix graphic

ViX is one of our leading tools against piracy because if we don’t make the content available, the consumers are going to search for it and they are going to find it on a platform where we are not able to monetise. We are trying to have a very robust library offering which includes some past Liga MX games and we’re trying to serve our sports audience. It’s one of the very important parts of our audience – one of the few live content viewers. It’s really hard to find live viewers and sports continues to be that content vertical that keeps on delivering.

Sports betting is another thing that we’re thinking about as a business. Producing exclusive content for ViX and changing the narrative to make sure that our concert reflects how younger audiences want to see sports. And making sure we were acquiring the rights that audiences want. Liga MX continues to be the greatest growth story and when we launched TDN back in the day. When you look at the growth of sports it’s quite outstanding. There is a huge appetite to consume sports content.

It’s on us to make sure we are finding the right content, that we are bundling it together and putting it in a product that can compete and beat pirate alternatives. Pirates are hard to beat as they will package a Kodi box that has a lot of regional channels that are not feasible for us to license. It’s hard to compete with pirates but we think that ViX is part of our solution.

“We have to make sure that pirate devices and offerings are not viable substitutes for our services so that consumers continue to come to us and we keep monetising.”

I guess, it’s what you have been referring to before – it’s not about beating the pirates, it’s about using the business intelligence from content protection and making sure that you have got the right product proposition in the right place with the right pricing so that you could convert viewers from consuming pirate content to being paid viewers. 

Absolutely, we have a big challenge. We know that Hispanics in Latin America over index in piracy. We have a new product that is launching. We have to create brand awareness and it’s a marketing problem. Part of the job is taking down content that is illegal. But also let’s retarget those confused consumers that might not know that ViX is around, let’s retarget the people that might not know that there is a legitimate alternative and make sure they know about ViX and that they can consume content legitimately. It’s a different angle on how we can look at piracy from a distribution and sales standpoint. Let’s use pirate data to know where we’re licensing out formats next. Where are we acquiring rights where we know that it’s a particular appetite for something, let’s inform distribution decisions, content acquisition decisions can be informed. And certainly, the product design can be informed, we can identify vulnerabilities of our product, understand where it is leaking, so that we can build a product that is more resilient and more robust. We could easily focus on just compliance rates, and the story would be very grim, compliance rates historically have been trending down but again that’s missing a big portion of the picture.

That makes absolute sense. If we look at the future, as you have just said, the landscape of illicit content distribution is increasing and evolving, what do you see the future holding for your business and what are the future challenges?

I think, convincing Hispanic consumers in Latin America to pay with credit cards online is a big hurdle that we need to get through, account sharing is definitely a big hurdle, and competing against the fully loaded black box offerings is very difficult because rights are very expensive to secure and oftentimes these are sold at a regional level. We have to make sure that pirate devices and offerings are not viable substitutes for our services so that consumers continue to come to us and we keep monetising. To me, it is a critical business challenge that requires collaboration with internal stakeholders across the board, with outside organisations and outside vendors. The more we can talk about the piracy problem, the more collectively we can help each other to tackle this problem. It’s going to mean something different to me as a content creator, broadcaster than to a movie studio. It’s a completely different way that the problem affects me but it’s good to talk about it.

And I guess it’s recognising as well that irrespective of the architecture and topology of the supply chain with CAS and DRM, there is always going to be leakage, it’s a fact of life, it’s about accepting that but at the same time working intelligently to reduce that leakage?

Piracy is a fluid problem. The pirate will learn, change and adapt and become resilient. And then you also have to change as you go. So we have to stay on our feet and also take it as an opportunity to lean in and learn from the piracy problem. Learn who your next consumer could be, learn who your early adopter could be, learn and not just whack pirates.

Thank you Alvaro for your insight! 


You can watch the full conversation on our YouTube channel

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