Who is really responsible for protecting content?

Premium sports rights continue to be the fuel that drives the global pay-TV business.

The recent announcement that the English Premier League had increased revenues from Sky and BT Sport for its domestic TV rights by over 80%, shows that there is no indication of a slowdown in the cost of acquiring the very best content for your platform. One of the contingent elements of this high valuation is the assurance that the matches licensed are available exclusively on the platform paying the big bucks. However, a quick search of the internet, shows that there is a multiplicity of sources of premium sports content that are available to view by people who have not paid the required subscription to the rightful owner. Indeed, the content thieves (let’s not use that fluffy term pirates), are increasing the routes for an illegitimate viewer to access this content, in the same way that the OTT services of pay TV platforms are increasing the number of devices that can access the legitimate subscription.So who has the task of ensuring exclusive access to content in market? Is it the content owner, who is being paid a very significant sum by pay-TV operators to gain exactly that? Or is it the pay-TV operators themselves, who are already investing very significant amounts in content security such as CAS and DRM?

The most effective solution is probably a hybrid effort. The content owner has an innate advantage in the battle with content thieves in that they have ultimate Ownership or copyright of the content. This means that they have the legal right to target Content Thieves anywhere in the world, who are misappropriating the video feed from one of its licensees. By working with technology and service providers who can identify the infrastructure supporting illegitimate content feeds, and making use of established take down and enforcement procedures against compliant sites and services, the content owner can protect the interests of both itself and all of its licensees around the world. However, that still leaves a significant number of services that are non-compliant (i.e. they do not respond to legal notices to cease and desist the retransmission of illegitimate content).

It is in these cases that the broadcaster is best placed to target the content thieves. The pay-TV platform has the advantage of knowing who each of its subscribers are. If an illegitimate feed can be tied to an individual subscriber, then appropriate remedial/legal action can be taken. In the last 12 months there have been a range of new technologies and services introduced to broadcasters, which can do exactly that. These services allow the subscription that is the source of the illegitimate stream to be identified, and then subsequently terminated, whether the source is a set-top box or from an OTT service delivered to a computer or mobile device. This means that, regardless of whether or not the infrastructure provider is compliant, the pay-TV operator can regain control of the content they have paid for, and ensure that only legitimate subscribers are able to access their fee.

However, for this to work on a global scale, it is vital that the content owners ensure that ALL licensees utilise these new services, as the security put in place all broadcasters around the world is only as strong as the weakest link. Content thieves will target broadcasters where best practice has not been followed, and they will become the source for illegitimate feeds, which will impact other broadcasters in other territories around the world.

The Wall Street Journal reported on May 8th that revenue from sites running pirated movies and television shows [...]

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