Premier League Piracy Shuts Down Polish Broadcasts

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Poland’s Canal+ Sport has reduced its coverage of English Premier League games due to piracy in the UK.

Canal+’s pay-television channel NC Plus typically shows Premier League matches in Poland on Saturday afternoons at 4pm local time; but, because some bars in the UK are using imported, illegally installed NC Plus decoders in order to show the games, the broadcaster said that it was bearing the consequences in the form of scaled-back licensing.

“Recently in the UK there have been cases of illegal broadcasting of the English league matches in pubs and other public places using NC Plus decoders,” the company said. “As a result of these actions, we do not have permission to transmit coverage on Canal Plus of matches being played on Saturdays at 4 p.m. We regret that the wrongful act of a small number of people outside Poland led to an undeserved punishment for real football fans.”

The types of decoders can be purchased for as little as $30, from one of hundreds of websites, mostly in China. Content security specialist Irdeto USA said that these suppliers set up the boxes to automatically pirate content from various pay-TV sources—making it so that bar owners need zero technical know-how to use them. It’s such a popular avenue that sales of the devices have surged, with more than 2.4 million illegal boxes in use worldwide.

This past weekend was the second in a row that pirates prevented Polish fans from seeing games, and the company said that it didn’t know when coverage would return. It did say that it plans to make it up later.

“We would like to assure everyone that the total number of matches broadcast live across the season will remain unchanged and we will take any action to resolve this unexpected situation,” the company said.

In February 2015, Sky Plc and BT Group Plc. agreed to pay $7.7 billion for the UK rights to live English Premier League soccer for three years. Piracy is costing them $553 million a year in new revenue, Irdeto estimates. Increasingly, these companies and law enforcement are going after pirates, though it can be very difficult to parse an illegal feed from a legitimate one.

“There’s a lot of old-style detective work,” said John McGowan, director of operations for Glasgow ID Inquiries, a company that hunts for unauthorized broadcasts of soccer games and other sports events. Speaking to Bloomberg, he added, “Walking around, going into pubs to see what they’re showing, paying attention.”

Photo © mooinblack/

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