Piracy Sports Broadcasting

Real-Time Piracy Enforcement: The Answer to Sports Broadcasters’ Vengeful Prayers

The window of opportunity in elite sport is incredibly narrow, in every sense: careers are short; entire matches turn on split-second incidents; and mass content piracy surges up around a particular event and then disappears again like smoke.

Those first two facts of sporting life, however cruel, are part of the fabric of any game. But the third – the everyday household piracy that drains vast subscription, pay-per-view and advertising revenue from professional sport – is a blight on the business, and it is something we can tackle.

Time, of course, is of the essence. Every time a sporting event takes place that is worthy of being broadcast, there is an online smash and grab. One or many pirate sites prepare to pirate the stream; they publicize it via sites such as Reddit from around 48 hours ahead and share the spectacle in real-time with many thousands of people.

Then it all vanishes until the next time – ghost sites that materialize for the duration of the match and then evaporate, or sometimes shape-shift back into apparently respectable domains.

Like so much on the internet, this activity imagines it is covert, but it actually takes place in plain sight – if you know where to look. A company like ours is able to monitor these pirate feeds: we know where they are, how many people are watching them, who operates them and how they make their money – usually through programmatic advertising, typically from careless legitimate brands whose ads have washed up on the internet’s wilder shores.

In their vengeful fantasies, broadcasters picture themselves simply cutting these streams dead, turning off the spectacle in mid-flow. It seems like a tall order – pirates are clever, and the internet is less controllable than that – but it is an increasingly realistic prospect.

On behalf of broadcasters, we can tackle a real-time pirate event on two fronts, through a strategy of demonetization and de-indexing that uses all the intelligence we pick up from watching the pirates come and go.

Demonetisation, as the term suggests, requires that we follow the money. We know these sites make their fortunes from ad revenues drawn from the legitimate ad exchanges. So each time we see new illegal links doing the rounds for a premium broadcast event, we have several levers we can pull.

By approaching integrated ad exchanges, we can request real-time blocking of the pirates’ ad supply, which turns off the cash tap for the big event and in turn disrupts their ongoing profitability. With a strong case, this can be made to happen almost instantly.

Likewise, by monitoring the advertising inventory of these sites, and reporting it directly to brands’ ad-tech partners, we can persuade them to pull lucrative ads from the pirate domain, in everyone’s interests. Invariably, this can be achieved within less than 24 hours, again often with long-term consequences for the pirates.

Combined with ongoing industry outreach, that is how we can demonetise pirate operators, both in general and right down to the level of their specific events.

De-indexing, meanwhile, involves the patient and timely reporting of pirate listings to the major search engines. They are big companies with procedures and policies of their own, but given a fair wind, they will often oblige within 24 hours, immediately taking down pirate search rankings and, in many cases, demoting domains in the longer term.

Combined with other powerful tactics such as takedown notices to the remarkably many app stores that host pirate apps, our approach has yielded material results. We have succeeded in 89% of our attempts to de-index offending URLs, and we calculate that we have now blocked $30m in pirate ad revenues. Where pirates can’t profit from their streams, and they struggle to maintain a search presence for them, the commercial rationale of the enterprise falls flat.

Now, there are many pirates, and many more will try their luck. The legitimate content business will never fully extinguish the flame of piracy, just as you can’t swat every wasp in the world, even with a million rolled-up newspapers.

But while you may not be able to swat them all, you can clear the immediate area. And where premium sporting events are concerned, a real-time response to real-time piracy offers content owners a fighting chance of doing the same.

This article was originally published in AITHORITY.

Sports Broadcasting

Catalysing the Indian Sports Economy through Broadcasting

“Light-touch regulation is the key to cutting through the clutter of customers and the development of the sports broadcasting industry”       – Matt Kurlanzik, 21st Century Fox

The global market for sports generated around USD 700 billion, or one percent of global GDP in 2014 (KPMG). A 2019 report in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health valued India’s sports market at only USD 2.65 billion – indicating a large upside that is yet to be tapped. Sports-broadcasting contributes a major share to India’s sports market, through sale of broadcasting rights, sponsorships, and creation of private leagues. Therefore, realising greater value in the Indian sports market is contingent on growth of sports-broadcasting.

Unfortunately, India’s sports-broadcasting industry currently suffers from excessive legislation that throttles current market value. For instance, the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007, mandates sharing of private signals of events of ‘national importance’ with the public broadcaster. This leads to the erosion of private broadcasting revenues. Importantly, the legislation does not set any guidelines defining ‘national importance’, often leading to ad-hoc decision-making.

Incongruent Interests

At a FICCI Frames panel titled “Sportsonomics”, Vinit Karnik, Business Head – Entertainment, Sports & Live Events, at Group M, highlighted that the Indian Government’s approach towards sports-broadcasting is imbalanced.  In particular, industry-stakeholders seek a balance between enhanced consumer-access, and value-generation through sports-broadcasting, which should ideally complement each other. Panellist Nitin Kukreja, CEO of IQuest Enterprises, stressed the need for a comprehensive framework that outlines objectives and details implementation of the mandatory sharing law. This would imbue the legal framework with required predictability. John Medeiros, Chief Policy Officer of the Asian Video Industry Association highlighted that consultative rulemaking processes, along with regular impact assessments of legislative frameworks, will help strike a greater balance.

Ad-hoc Decision-Making

Chintamani Rao, a media expert, pointed out that predictability of rules is a necessary precursor to greater investments in the domestic sports industry. Citing instances of unpredictability in rulemaking, he highlighted that notifying stakeholders about events of national importance is often done just weeks prior to the scheduled broadcast. Still further, there appears to be no apparent transparency around this process. Matt Kurlanzik, Director, Government Relations, Asia, 21st Century Fox, added that “ad-hoc regulation throws a wrench into the sports broadcasting machinery which functions with the expectation of revenue flow from a particular event”.

Another legacy issue in India’s sports-broadcasting ecosystem stems from government ownership of much of India’s sporting infrastructure: stadiums can be commandeered for various events, particularly by various state governments. According to Atul Pandey, Chairman, Sports Live Entertainment, this inevitably leads to the de-prioritisation of events run by non-government stakeholders, which in turn, creates a barrier to the growth of private leagues.

Featured Photo by John Matychuk on Unsplash