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How does the Disney empire strike back against space piracy?

Analysts assess the risk of fans pirating the new Star Wars TV series

With Disney’s new streaming service finally launching in the US, Canada and the Netherlands today, there are still millions (or even billions) of viewers who won’t be able to access its content, in some cases for at least four months.

Disney Plus has been promoting its exclusive original content for months, whetting fans’ appetites with glimpses of a new live action Lady and the Tramp, The World according to Jeff Goldblum, and new Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian. But with the announcement that the new SVoD won’t launch in Western Europe until the end of March 2020, how does Disney protect content that many fans would give Darth Vader’s missing right hand to watch now?

“High-value shows like The Mandalorian will drive incredible consumer demand, and just like Game of Thrones, will be a target for pirates,” Tim Pearson, senior director, product marketing, at NAGRA tells TVBEurope.

“In today’s increasingly fragmented digital world, there is a segment of the market that will just pick up their smartphones and search for what they want to watch, and find illicit options. For providers like Disney Plus, competing with such free alternatives is just not sustainable.”

“With the right technologies in place, service providers like Disney Plus can identify which legitimate clients the stream is leaking from, and then stop the distribution through that point,” Pearson continues.

“In the case of The Mandalorian, preventing leaks and if needed, identifying the source of any leak is critical. Anti-piracy actions can also be taken to bring down pirate resellers and illicit streaming services. Finally, in markets where it is legally possible, blocking access to pirate services is another effective approach to stopping piracy.”

At heart, it appears content is the main reason behind Disney’s decision to hold back its launch in the UK and western Europe, as Futuresource’s principal analyst David Sidebottom explains: “If it were to launch simultaneously globally, it would have differing content line-ups in different countries, due to the existing licensing deals that are still running in most countries with third-party pay-TV and/or SVoD providers. 

“The most high-profile content is movies in the first pay-window, particularly given Disney’s stellar Box Office line-up in 2019, therefore it is set to hold out launching in a country until it can offer these first run movies,” he adds.

In the UK, Sky currently has exclusive rights for Disney’s first run movies, with the deal thought to run well into 2020. “Therefore, for first run movies, it should have little bearing on piracy,” says Sidebottom. “But on the Disney Plus exclusive The Mandalorian, it won’t be available until 2020. Given the likely pent-up demand to watch the show, it will be interesting to see how fans react or choose to access the shows if they can’t wait.”