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Post COVID-19 Effect: Rising Piracy Steals the Ball from Broadcasts…

By Tomer Shlomo

Anti-Piracy Security Group CTO

Post COVID-19 Effect: Rising Piracy Steals the Ball from Broadcasts of Returning Crowdless Football Matches

Oliver is a die-hard Liverpool fan. He will do whatever it takes to watch a match. He attends games at his beloved Anfield stadium as much as possible and he spends lots of time in the pub, as his pay TV package doesn’t show all the Premier League games. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Oliver has had to settle on VoD recordings of the historic games. He’ll never tire of watching the Champions League final, Istanbul 2005! Now that live matches are resuming, but with no spectators, Oliver needs a new solution. Liverpool is about to finally take the league title after a 30-year drought, and he is not going to miss that. Subscribing to all the services that offer Liverpool games is unaffordable. Oliver has been on unpaid leave; he’s having trouble paying his bills and he can’t afford his pay TV subscription anymore. But then he sees it! He’s on a Liverpool fans’ forum, and there’s a banner advert for an IPTV service that offers “all games all channels” at a much lower price than he’s been paying…

Oliver is a typical example of a football fan these days and the pirates know it. Piracy in this new era is increasing, and an intensely proactive approach is needed to fight it. With the return of Bundesliga matches to viewing screens, and the more-recent restart of EPL and Series A games, albeit with no spectators because of mass gathering restrictions, the pirates are ready and waiting to pull subscribers away from legitimate services.

Synamedia’s Anti-Piracy Group observed a high increase in users subscribing to pirate networks providing sports and VoD content during the COVID-19 lockdown. Because of the expected high demand when matches return, pirates began making their networks more robust and resilient, and planned ways to circumvent protection mechanisms used by content rights owners, such as IP blocking. Synamedia’s Proactive Defense technology, including enhanced IP blocking, uses deep accurate intelligence to identify the pirates’ circumventions and efficiently overcome their efforts.


Viewers of Pirated Content

Synamedia’s Proactive Defense system closely tracks pirate networks and behavior, looking for trends and shifts. We monitor pirate operations, prioritized by their size, and track their position in the pirate industry as they change over time. Following the return of Bundesliga and EPL, the quantity of those viewing pirated content during football games increased. 

The data in the graph above, garnered by Synamedia Intelligence, presents piracy viewing rates during and after the COVID-19 lockdown period. While VoD consumption increased during the lockdown following high demands by viewers, the graph shows a major increase in viewers of live piracy content during May and June. This increase can be attributed to the return of live football to our screens. Since the return of the Bundesliga and Premier League on May 16th and June 17th respectively, pirate services have experienced a higher viewing rate, for games played in an empty stadium than they did when showing regular games in March.


Pirate Network Quality and Circumvention of IP Blocking

Pirate IPTV networks typically offer high-quality video and a good service experience in order to increase churn from legitimate TV OTT and pay TV services. And so when Synamedia did indeed track several pirate networks as they performed significant upgrades to their network infrastructure and introduced circumvention measures that will not be specified here for obvious reasons.

The following graph, based on data obtained by Synamedia’s domain intelligence, shows the rapid increase in the creation of new piracy domains as a circumvention of legal takedowns and IP blocking.


Fighting the Pirates

Content rights owners and broadcasters should proactively defend their streaming rights, to fight these pirates of the digital seas by offering attractive subscription packages to their viewers on the one hand and by deploying anti-piracy and security solutions on the other.

Firstly, deep intelligence is always a good weapon to assess and understand your opponent. Synamedia Proactive Defense Intelligence assembles a comprehensive intelligence picture, per content type, that allows for building a strategic execution plan against piracy.

Secondly, tracking changes pirate operations in real-time, while identifying their weak spots, is the most effective way to deal with countermeasures.

Thirdly, constant intelligence metrics for assessing impact allows verification of effectiveness over time.

During these last few months, the piracy threat has clearly increased, and is not proportionate to content owners’ current toolbox.

At Synamedia, we believe that by changing the modus operandi, we can tip the scales to our favor – Join us!

If you want to learn more about our security solutions, check out our Video Security solutions or feel free to contact us.


About the Author

Tomer Shlomo is the Anti-Piracy Security Group CTO at Synamedia. He leads the team in charge of anti-piracy reconnaissance, intelligence collection and data science. Prior to working for Synamedia, Tomer worked in several positions in the cyber-security field as threat intelligence team lead at Akamai, head of research at a cyber-insurance startup and CTO at the Israeli Defense Force.  Tomer holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from the Israeli Technion and an MBA

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