What is the most effective approach to countering live sports content fraud today?

Today, content fraud is increasingly damaging for content owners, broadcasters and service operators. By the end of 2027, losses due to illegal content distribution are predicted to reach $113bn for streaming video providers serving US consumers. Elsewhere the number of piracy instances has reached equally big proportions: an IPSOS study revealed 72 million piracy instances in Italy that included films, TV series and live sports programming.

According to this study, sports programming alone reached 11 million instances for the researched period, with a loss estimated at €267 million. As has long been the case, live sports events are frequently the target of illegal redistribution; in the UK, for example, a reported 3.9 million people accessed live sports through illegal streaming sites in 2022. These very tangible losses for legal rights holders include, among others, a decrease in Pay-Per-View sales. 

In order to keep the revenue and investment in valuable content secure, content providers, rights owners, and broadcasters must understand their existing vulnerabilities and current threats, and take steps to secure their streams and assets. There are many different content protection services and solutions on offer today, but it’s important to understand which ones are the most suitable and effective in disrupting the specific illegal activities that are targeting your business. Any content protection and anti-piracy decisions need to rest on the solid foundation of real-world intelligence about the fraudulent activities affecting your content and its distribution. 

Data driven decision making

For many broadcasters and platform operators this real-world data intelligence-based approach is already proving to be the most effective way to counter modern content fraud. The intelligence gathered and analysed by content protection providers that deploy large-scale full service video identification, monitoring and forensic watermarking solutions, allows them to effectively target the threats that are most damaging for your business, including capture and re-streaming, and distribution and post-distribution attacks (such as CDN leeching). This full service, data-based approach efficiently identifies breaches and leaks and provides the intelligence and technology to address them.

For instance, if you are a content owner relying on original and exclusive content to attract and retain subscribers, it’s crucial to ensure that there are no leaks that render your content strategy ineffective. You can utilise detailed insights into the consumption of pirated content with rich data from a multitude of piracy sources to understand if content fraud is impacting your exclusive streams and assets, seal any leaks if those are discovered and adapt your content protection strategy to prevent any future damage to your brand and revenue. 

End-to-end protection

The successful implementation of any intelligence-based content protection strategy relies on the security services and solutions that are available to realise it. Effective Conditional Access (CA) and Digital Rights Management (DRM) solutions, the initial “lock on the door”, are the foundational security components and are a must for protecting content on its way to the viewer. Post-distribution solutions then need to be in place to protect content once it has been delivered, to secure assets and streams against tampering with HDCP protection, screen recording, etc. and prevent any unauthorised redistribution.

For live sports content, post-distribution security solutions need to be highly scalable and perform at speed to preserve the value of this content in real time. To achieve scale and speed, content monitoring solutions need to be highly automated. Digital video fingerprinting is one of the key components that allows identification of captured video content in seconds by checking thousands of streams simultaneously.

Once identified, piracy incidents need to be reported and, where appropriate, taken down. Therefore automation is also important for enforcement processes, enabling tens of thousands of takedown notices to be sent automatically in real-time. Scalable automation also enables escalation procedures (e.g. to ISPs) to ensure rapid piracy disruption in cases of non-compliance.

For takedown, probably the most effective post-distribution content protection tool is video watermarking. When deployed with critical security technology (such as code obfuscation or app hardening solutions) it can provide equally robust security for OTT and broadcast distribution. It also works in both live and on-demand environments. Watermarking has no impact on the delivery of the live content where latency can be a big issue. Neither does it have any impact on the quality of experience as it’s completely imperceptible. At the same time, it’s a very efficient security solution that supercharges anti-piracy operations by allowing the rapid identification of the source of illegal content distribution and the ability to shut it down before any further damage is done. 

Blocking of content is another measure that is becoming ever more popular to counter live event content fraud. This involves blocking network requests to pirate services by their IP addresses, so is referred to as IP blocking as well as Dynamic Delivery Server Blocking, the latter reflecting the real time nature of the process. It’s quite easy for pirates to move to new IP addresses in real time but with Dynamic DS Blocking rights holders can rest assured their content is protected against any circumvention attempts. Content protection and anti-piracy companies also provide legal support as part of the blocking service as the pertinent injunctions need to be in place for such service to be deployed.


Content fraud is an issue that will affect your bottom line, whatever your business. For rights holders, fraud can weaken rights values and negotiation positioning; if you are a broadcaster or a service operator, fraud impacts your bottom line. The only effective approach to countering large scale, technically sophisticated fraud is by understanding exactly how your business is affected. With this data, you will be able to make informed content protection decisions and choose services and solutions that are the most suitable to solve your challenges and secure your content end-to-end.  An approach based on real-world data intelligence is the most effective one to preserve your revenue and investment in valuable content. 

Want to check if your content is pirated? Have live sports content to protect? Get in touch, we are here to help.

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