Online video piracy is growing and becoming one of the most significant threats facing Pay TV service providers. With a prior focus on low-resolution streaming through web sites that were notoriously riddled with inappropriate advertising and malware, streaming piracy has transformed to match consumer demand for high definition multiscreen delivery. In the past pirate streaming sites have targeted the highest profile sports events; now pirate services are delivering whole channel packages into smart devices (mobile, tablet, smart TVs), IPTV set-top boxes, and plug-ins for video streamers and other such devices.
According to piracy monitoring specialist Friend MTS, in the last month alone its online threat analysis has uncovered over 12,000 unique instances of HD channels (1280 x 720 frame size or higher) on pirate services, being sourced from Pay TV service providers around the world. Expand this to SD resolution, often targeted at mobile devices, and the number increases to over 22,000 channels. With almost no operator is exempt, content is being source from the smallest to the largest Pay TV providers in the market.
The demand for premium content, in every language and into every market, has led to a surge in the supply of pirate services offering a high-quality user interface. The video quality offered is unprecedented, rivalling that on the Pay TV platforms themselves. Bitrates of 4-6 Mbps for HD channels are common, with 1 Mbps H.264/AVC for SD channels. Even an Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) channel being delivered in HEVC at 15 Mbps is on offer.
To effectively monetize live content, both the service providers that distribute content and the rights owners that license it need to ensure that it is available exclusively through licensed channels. Wide availability through illegal services or sites diminishes the value of the content, as paying viewers opt for the cheaper or free options made available by the pirates. Increasingly, rights owners are requiring their licensees to implement greater levels of platform security in order to gain access to their ultra-premium content. But deploying additional security is not always possible or practical, especially on older platforms. And sometimes even the enhanced protections deployed on newer platforms is defeated by pirates, so content remains vulnerable to piracy.
A new approach is needed. Traditional takedown mechanisms such as sending legal notices (commonly referred to as ‘DMCA notices’) are ineffective where pirate services have put in place infrastructure capable of delivering video at tens and even hundreds of gigabits per second, as in essence there is nobody to send a notice to. Escalation to infrastructure providers works to an extent, but the process is often slow as the pirate services will likely provide the largest revenue source for many of the platform providers in question.
For live events the need for a timely detection of piracy and an effective response is even greater.
So, what does one do?
Cisco is pioneering a new approach to piracy prevention. Its Streaming Piracy Prevention (SPP) service utilizes technology to locate illegal redistribution of content on the open internet and closed pirate networks. Using a forensic watermark it identifies the subscriptions/sessions used to source the content, and shuts down the source through the video security system – all in real-time. The process is fully automated, ensuring a timely response to incidents of piracy. Gone are the days of sending a legal notice and waiting to see if anyone will answer; SPP acts without the need to involve or gain cooperation from any third parties, enabling an unmatched level of cross-device retransmission prevention and allowing service providers to take back control of their channels, to maximize their revenue.
In order to tackle live event piracy, Cisco and Friend MTS (FMTS) have partnered to put their respective technologies to work. FMTS’s market leading piracy monitoring capabilities feed the Cisco SPP service with real-time pirated video feeds found on the open Internet, which are used by SPP to locate the source of the leak and shut it down.