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Piracy Spikes with Millions of Offers, Threatening Pay-TV

There are more than 2.7 million advertisements on e-commerce websites, including Amazon, eBay and Alibaba for illicit streaming devices—indicating that content theft by pirates has become a full-fledged business and a formidable competitor to established pay TV operators.

According to Irdeto, it’s a true cross-channel effort, with advertisements found on social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and other prominent social media platforms. Pirates are becoming more business savvy and expanding their product marketing of illicit streaming devices. Citing data from SimilarWeb, the Irdeto report shows that the growth in global traffic resulted in more than 16.5 million visits per month to the top 100 pirate IPTV supplier websites. The US and UK led all countries with more than 3.7 million and one million site visits per month, respectively.

The report also shows that a typical pirate supplier offers an average of 174 channels, with some pirate suppliers offering more than 1,000 channels. This content comes in at an average subscription cost of $194.40 per year or a staggeringly low $16.20 per month—much lower than the average US cable cost of $103.10 per month. In some cases, despite the illegal nature of the offering, these low costs and the compelling content provided sway consumers to choose a pirate device over legal cable, satellite or OTT services.

Typically, consumer choice comes down to content, value and convenience when selecting a service. Pirates exploit those three needs by offering services and devices that rival their legal counterparts. Without the costs of legally acquiring the rights and content, pirates are able to take valuable market share in the process.

“To keep these growing pirate businesses at bay, content owners and operators need to understand the factors that go into consumer choice, including a full picture of piracy and strategies pirates use to grow into legitimate businesses,” said Rory O’Connor, vice president of services, Irdeto. “Content owners and operators need to make sure they are implementing a comprehensive, 360-degree anti-piracy strategy. This includes detection, monitoring, source identification/watermarking, intelligence-gathering, investigations and enforcement. With the right information and a trusted security partner, content owners and operators can prevent piracy while also adapting offerings to more closely match consumer demand.”

Also, while some consumers are aware that they are purchasing pirated content, others do not realize that the subscriptions they are purchasing are pirate operations. As pirates have grown and refined their business practices, Irdeto has seen an increase in pirates creating professional websites, technology and services, fooling some consumers into thinking they are purchasing a legal service. In addition, the top 100 pirate IPTV suppliers add credibility to their offerings by providing legitimate-looking devices powered by Android, Linux, Kodi and Roku.

“Like any growing business, pirates are now diversifying their portfolio by adding new technology and more content options to their illegal offerings,” said Mark Mulready, senior director of cyber services and investigations, Irdeto. “Our data found that of the top ten channels offered, half were sports-related. This clearly indicates that pirates are listening to their customers and addressing consumer demand by offering more live sports content, including baseball, football/soccer, mixed sporting events, tennis and motorsports. As pirates continue to add to their portfolio, it is becoming increasingly important for content owners and operators to adopt a 360-degree anti-piracy strategy designed to continually adapt and grow with the changing market.”

Interestingly, baseball tops the heap of pirated live sports, at 25.2%, followed by football/soccer at 23.4%, mixed sporting events at 13%, tennis at 10.5% and motorsports at 8.9%.

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