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Protect to prosper

by Adrian Pennington on Jun 19, 2017

At the end of last month (May 2017) German media company Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland shuttered its pay-TV channel RTL International, having failed to reach necessary subscriber levels despite only launching in January 2016.

It blamed the failure on illegal streaming sites. “First analyses clearly show that a major reason for this [lack of subscribers] is the success of globally acting piracy platforms streaming the broadcast signals of many domestic German channels over the internet illegally and in many cases free-of-charge,” explained Stefan Sporn, SVP International Distribution.

This is among the most drastic but far from the only impact of piracy which is surging in demand and wrecking the global market.

In MENA, over half of viewers in Egypt and in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) admitted to watching pirated video content, according to research carried out by security firm Irdeto.

TV content piracy and illicit downloads caused French rights-holders a $1.47 billion loss in 2016, with 13 million internet users involved in the practice, according to a study from EY consulting.
Pirate torrents remain highly popular, with Pirate Bay having 234.5 million visits in February 2017 alone.

Kodi, a legal set top box platform with over 35 million active users worldwide, is the latest to be hijacked by pirates forcing Sky and BT to take legal action in the UK.

Piracy has become such a big industry that it almost has to be looked at as competition, according to Rob Pinniger, associate director for content security, Virgin Media. Speaking at TV Connect in March, he added that pirate services are reaching scale and can even look like they’re legitimate, charging monthly subscription fees.

“It’s important that the TV industry unites to combat this form of piracy because it loses more than $90billion a year globally in revenue to this and other kinds of content theft,” advises Christopher Schouten, senior product marketing director at content protection and multiscreen systems firm Nagra.

Live sports most at risk

Piracy takes many forms, from key sharing of broadcast services to content sharing of live events and premium VOD titles over the net. A quarter of those surveyed in the GCC by Irdeto and 31 per cent in Egypt stated that they are most interested in watching pirated movies currently shown in cinemas.

The issue is particularly acute around the high value properties of live sports, more and more of which are pouring onto OTT platforms. Live sports were the second most popular illegal streamed content in GCC, with 23 per cent in Egypt.

Research by Sport Industry Group (SIG) into the viewing habits of the younger generation in particular, finds that piracy has become normalised among this generation while the take-up for traditional subscription services is far less than among older viewers.

According to the survey, 54 per cent of millennials have watched illegal streams of live sports and a third admit to regularly watching them, compared to only 4 per cent of over-35s.

Eighteen to 24-year-olds are also half as likely to have subscriptions to pay TV services such as Sky or BT Sport (12-24 per cent).

“Unless we are careful we will have a generation of young people who consider pirated sports content to be the norm,” said SIG chairman Nick Keller. “That’s a significant challenge not just for rights holders but the whole sector from sponsors and athletes to ticketholders.”

Millennials influencing change

Irdeto’s research into MENA also revealed that millennials are among the most likely to illegally consume content. Additionally, 20 per cent of 18-24 year-olds in the GCC and 23 per cent in Egypt pirate more than once a week.

The survey also uncovered an interesting shift that is occurring in the region regarding content consumption habits. While laptops remain the favourite device for consuming illegal video, mobile devices are growing in popularity. Of those surveyed, 33 per cent in the GCC and 35 per cent in Egypt stated that smartphones or tablets are their most frequently used devices to watch pirated video content.

“Millennials are influencing major changes in how consumers watch pirated video content in MENA,” said Khaled Al-Jamal, Irdeto’s director of sales. “This shift to mobile devices to consume pirated video content serves as a signal to the media industry that further innovation is required in MENA to meet consumer demand.”


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