Regional Vice President, EMEA, Friend MTS
In the media and entertainment world, content is king and central to your business model – critical investments and revenue that must be secured. Content piracy is nothing new and the pervasive idea that “piracy is not a serious crime” still writes it off as nothing more than user misbehaviour. Commercial piracy today is a full-time job, stealing and reselling for profit, driving significant illegal business activities. The numbers speak for themselves: the value of pirate video services will exceed US$67 billion by 2023, according to Parks Associates.
Larger Attack Surface: Increased Risk
While content pirates aren’t opposed to a challenge, they prefer an uncomplicated route to their illegal payday: unmanaged OTT environments offer an easier target for pirates to illegally redistribute high-value content across multiple channels. The magnitude of the issue? The number of SVOD subscriptions skyrocketed during the pandemic as binge-watching time increased, and they’re predicted to rise further to reach 1.5 billion by 2026 according to Digital TV Research. In addition to that, early release windows now allow pirates to have easier access to the most valuable Hollywood content.
It’s not enough however to only secure content on your OTT services. While the dramatic subscription increase of 65% is driven mainly by subscriptions stacking (based on Digital TV Research analysis), pay TV will still continue to deliver more revenue: the prediction by Omdia is US$217 billion total revenue in 2025 vs US$115 billion for online video.
No Gap Protection through Collaboration, Technology
Content security requires a concerted effort from multiple players in the media ecosystem, and it is crucial to work with the various content hosting platforms, including social media, and with infrastructure vendors. Our established working relationships with online platforms allows us on a daily basis to ensure pirated videos are removed from many popular platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Telegram, Twitter and Reddit, to name a few. And, our most impressive wins in the fight against the piracy of live high-profile sporting events have been made in close collaboration with internet service providers (ISPs) that use our intelligence to implement dynamic delivery server blocking. In simple terms, it’s about cutting off access in real-time to the video delivery servers that pirates are using rather than, for example, blocking pirate sites prior to an event taking place.
No gap protection across your distribution chain requires regular security reviews of your technology vendors to check for vulnerabilities or security gaps. This is where we collaborate with our partners like Akamai, Bitmovin and Intertrust, and ask questions like, “Is the client hardened enough?,” and, “Can the DRM license proxy be worked around?” This closes any gaps between content security components and helps ensure immediate remediation of live and VOD content streams when piracy is detected.
Across piracy networks, key anti-piracy measures to ensure protection without gaps include the comprehensive global detection of stolen material across all redistribution channels (both legitimate, for example social media platforms, and illegitimate - pirate apps, devices, subscription services, etc.) as well as forensic watermarking that allows us to pinpoint subscription accounts being misused and consequently remove access to content being restreamed into piracy networks (for the complexity of such networks see p. 116 of the EUIPO report).
As a technology-based services vendor, the recently launched 4th generation evolution of our Advanced Subscriber ID (ASiD) forensic watermarking service is aimed at supporting no gap platform protection. In order to achieve this, you must protect all types of content (live events, linear channels, and video on demand/VOD) in all device scenarios which can mean a mixed-mode deployment of the different ASiD watermarking solutions (Embedded for STB, Client-composited or Edge-switched for OTT). And, when we talk about large-scale mass deployment, efficiency is key. The single watermark extraction pipeline shared by all of the ASiD solutions can help achieve this efficiency with uncompromised security.
Collaborating for a Safer and Stronger Media Ecosystem
Content protection is linked with protecting consumers from fraud, from the malware risks that illicit content often carries, and from illegal content such as child abuse material. To protect not just Internet users but the victims of these crimes, we have donated our video fingerprinting technology to the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC). Collaboration with law enforcement organisations and various regulatory groups is paramount to ensure a safer and more enjoyable space online for all.
Drawing on more than 20 years of experience in the content protection space, we firmly believe that no gap protection and concerted collaboration are essential to lessening the impact of content pirates, and accordingly protecting valuable video content, securing revenue and protecting consumers. Key stakeholders – rights holders, platform owners, and content creators – have a role to play in achieving this security goal and creating a stronger media ecosystem.