Over the course of 2020, piracy has seen significant growth, with film piracy rising by 60 per cent in some countries during the Covid-19 pandemic and research from OpSec Security finding that 29 per cent of consumers increased the frequency with which they accessed pirated content during their country’s lockdown.
For the broadcast industry, this is a worrying trend that only looks set to worsen, driven by a number of factors, ranging from the ease with which consumers can now access this illegal content, to the fragmentation of the broadcast market. Not only are audiences now required to subscribe to a number of different services should they wish to access the wide range of content being made available but they are also regularly having to wait to access it due to new streaming platforms increasingly staggering their launches. As a result, consumers in some territories are having to wait months or even years to watch exclusive content – sparking consumer frustrations.
These frustrations at having to subscribe to multiple services and waiting for access to the latest releases, alongside the ease of obtaining the overabundance of illegal content shared online, are acting as driving forces behind the high volumes of piracy being experienced by direct-to-consumer platforms.
Consequently, broadcasters and direct-to-consumer platforms must do more to ensure they are able to protect their content from pirates, not least because of the financial damage piracy causes, as annual global revenue losses from digital piracy in the movie industry are thought to be between $40 and $97.1 billion. Further to this, as pirated content is often in downgraded quality, content providers could face reputational damage due to being associated with a poor consumer experience. With such high stakes and millions of people spending more time at home this winter, it’s vital broadcasters and content providers take action to protect their content from being accessed illegally around the world.
Embracing multi-platform piracy programmes
One of the most effective ways for streaming platforms to protect their content is to implement a multi-platform piracy programme covering video-on-demand streaming sites, proactive search delisting and cleaning the first two pages of popular search engines. This strategy should also cover open source apps such as social media sites and Telegram which can be a hotbed of pirated content, as shown by recent research from OpSec Security. The research uncovered that over a fifth of content from a multi-national SVoD provider was showing up on social media sites and Telegram, either in the form of links to watch or illegal copies. In addition to monitoring here, broadcasters should also frequently review cyberlocker sites, such as DropBox, and peer-to-peer networks, like BitTorrent, to further reduce exposure to the spread of infringing content.
For broadcasters and streaming providers, covering all bases in this way and ensuring their regional piracy coverage remains current, will enable them to better protect their content and gain a more in-depth understanding of where and how it is being shared. Using antipiracy tools and working with the experts will help content owners to identify where their content is being shared and misused and enable them to immediately enforce on infringements and therefore stem the sharing of their content illegally. As some technologies are also able to pinpoint the source of the leaked content, it may also be possible for broadcasters and streaming providers to take legal action against pirates.
Protecting content based on geography
Streaming platforms may also wish to consider geo-blocking – a technique favoured by Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and BBC iPlayer, for example, to restrict the availability of specific internet content to a geographical location. Historically, geo-blocking has been a popular anti-piracy method, allowing media players to prevent regional spill over by ensuring DVDs had restricted international distribution and could only be played in devices in the intended region. Such strategies continue to be applicable in the digital age despite the lack of physical infrastructure. For instance, nowadays, a user accessing Netflix from the US will have a different range of content available to them compared to one logging in from a European country. Although some users may be able to circumnavigate geo-blocking technologies through the use of VPNs, this method is, by and large, an effective way to limit the availability of certain content, which can be a licensing or copyright issue. To further strengthen their anti-piracy efforts, content owners should also work with trade associations such as MPA and ACE to take a united approach to tackling piracy.
Safeguarding exclusive content
Currently, illegal downloading of copyrighted materials takes up almost a quarter (24 per cent) of global bandwidth – a figure that is likely to increase due to the continued launches of new D2C offerings, propensity to stagger release schedules and the growing cost of multiple subscriptions for consumers. On top of this, pirated content is now just three clicks away – making it easy for even the most novice of internet users to find illegal or unlicensed content online.
With their revenue and reputation at stake, it is crucial that D2C platforms put the protections in place to mitigate the risk posed by piracy, slow it down and ultimately divert those looking for their content to legitimate services. Essential to this will be implementing anti-piracy tools and working with the right partner to tackle piracy head on and safeguard their business.