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Strategies for winning the war on piracy

Viaccess Orca's director of security products Kevin Le Jannic discusses how broadcasters and OTT platforms can keep their content safe from pirates

Video piracy is a significant problem today for service providers. The video streaming environment has caused an explosion in the number of ways that content is stolen and redistributed. Premium content, such as sports events, movies, and TV series, are especially appealing to pirates since they tend to attract a higher audience and profits.

Parks Associates estimates that video piracy will cost pay-TV and OTT providers $12.5 billion in lost revenue by 2024. Broadcasters and pay-TV operators need to protect their brands, investments, and reputation. While Conditional Asset Systems (CAS) and Digital Rights Management (DRM) provide some protection, more sophisticated anti-piracy technologies are needed. By embracing real-time, end-to-end monitoring; dynamic watermarking; and other advanced anti-piracy measures, broadcasters and operators can be empowered to fight the war against piracy.

Effective Monitoring is Essential

Monitoring is the first important step toward ending piracy. Through real-time monitoring and forensic analysis, broadcasters and operators can identify content that has been pirated on search engines, social media networks, and other video streaming platforms. Monitoring can be automated or manual. Currently, there are some interesting developments in AI monitoring of video piracy attacks, both deployed and under development. For instance, AI-powered fraud detection services can help operators detect pirates’ specific behaviours when they are trying to circumvent content protection or when restreaming content illegally. Credential sharing is another example of behaviour that can be monitored and detected by observing the location of devices and content consumption patterns.

It’s critical to have an anti-piracy solution that reviews the entire video distribution chain, from content acquisition to delivery to multiple end-user devices. looking for weak points. Throughout the monitoring phase, the anti-piracy solution should identify questionable content usage, password sharing, integrity of data between multiple sources, and consistency of content consumption workflows.

Often, consumers are unaware that the pirated version of programming is also available from their local service provider. Monitoring is advantageous for converting a pirated stream into a legal revenue stream. In particular, monitoring and analytics provide valuable consumer usage and behavioural data — even for the pirated content — that can be used to target legitimate content to them. 

Dynamic Watermarking is a Must

Hackers today are everywhere, and they aren’t easy to identify, often hiding their identity behind proxies or obscure streaming platforms. By implementing dynamic watermarking technology, broadcaster and operators can identify and stop the source of restreaming within seconds.

A key advantage of dynamic watermarks is that they are entirely invisible to users. In addition, dynamic watermarks are agile and swift, compared with legacy watermarking, which is static. Dynamic watermarking relies on sophisticated DRM with anti-debugging, anti-tampering, and other security features to disable applications and cancel content licenses when an issue has been detected. Dynamic watermarking is not just defined as being performed in real time, though this is critical, especially during live broadcasts. Being software-based is an essential feature of dynamic watermarking as this ensures the technology is constantly updated to address the increased sophistication of modern video piracy.

When broadcasters and operators combine dynamic watermarking with tools, such as a web crawler and a CAS/DRM solution that provide counter measures to remove rights, it will ensure first-rate protection. A web crawler scans the web, finding URLs where content has been leaked. Progressive measures can then be implemented to stop the stream, ranging from simple online notification to law enforcement involvement.

Detecting Piracy in the Real World 

As an expert in content protection, Viaccess-Orca is heavily involved in helping broadcasters and operators reduce piracy. Recently, VO monitored three high-profile football games in Spain to determine the extent of piracy. Spain was the ideal choice because it is a mature TV market featuring one of European football’s richest leagues, La Liga, as a prime target for content piracy.

Using an anti-piracy solution, VO detected 2172 live streams on live streaming platforms, 183 live streams on user-generated content platforms, and numerous Twitter posts offering live links. All in all, 310,192 views of the illegal streams were detected over the course of the three games on social media and user-generated content platforms alone. 

The Coalición de Creadores e Industrias de Contenidos, which represents most of the cultural and entertainment sector in Spain, found that the majority of people (50 per cent of Spanish viewers) cited having difficulty differentiating between legal and illegal websites as the top reason for pirating content. This demonstrates that piracy is prevalent in the real world, especially for premium content like live sports. The study from the Coalición de Creadores e Industrias de Contenidos also calculated a displacement rate of 68 per cent for live sports content compared with 8 per cent for movies and 12 per cent for TV series. Based on the data, one could conclude that if live sports content were not available through pirate services, 68 per cent of infringers would subscribe to a legal offering. Given that about 11 per cent of Spanish households are watching football matches illegally, this represents a big market for operators and broadcasters. With real-time program monitoring, analytics, and dynamic watermarking, broadcasters and operators can effectively combat piracy and start to reinstating lost revenue.


Consumers are watching more and more live content on an ever growing number of devices, and piracy techniques continue to evolve and increase in severity. To address advanced forms of piracy, broadcasters and operators need content protection that goes beyond traditional CAS and DRM. By using an anti-piracy service with real-time, end-to-end monitoring and dynamic watermarking, broadcasters and operators can ensure video streams are secure and that their investment is protected.