Stealing live OTT streams – piracy on the open seas of the internet

piracy

A survey by Irdeto found that there are more than 2.7 million adverts on e-commerce websites like Amazon, eBay and Alibaba for devices that play out illegal streams of live content. Online piracy is a big problem that undermines the value of live sports and entertainment for broadcasters or content distributors.

Billions of dollars are spent every year on media rights for premium content. This has led to pay TV services becoming more expensive than ever as they compete for viewers and subscribers.

With more content available on demand than ever before, established networks face a battle to help them protect their investment and stop the growing numbers of cord-cutters.

Online platforms are benefitting hugely from these cord-cutters – just look at Twitter’s delivery of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football, or Facebook’s continued interest in live sports. Most media owners, whether they’re traditional broadcasters, the leagues and teams themselves or new rights holders, now have an online service in place.

And, as a result, the piracy of those live streams is rife.

With so many legitimate online services now common place, it’s much easier for digital pirates to get their hands on streams to distribute them illegally. This content theft will damage the live production and distribution industries. But what can broadcasters, content distributors or media owners do to protect content they’ve paid a lot of money for?

One of the things they should consider is watermarking their content by adding a unique, trackable code to their live streams.

In principle, to enable content owners to monitor their programming at every stage of delivery, a unique watermark can be added to each version of the stream as it’s created. This way, the owners of the content, no matter the version or destination will always be able to identify the watermark’s origin. Those fighting online piracy can always see where the content has come from, find out how it was stolen and turn off the leaky tap.

A lot of TV is currently distributed over third-party content delivery network services, which means content is anonymised because users don’t have visibility over its source. In this scenario, content owners are delivering one version of the program which is routed through the third-party network as the live stream is requested. This only gives the owners of that live program a single opportunity to watermark it at the beginning of the delivery process so it can’t be tracked after multiple versions have been made.

Building you own CDN gives you more options to fix this. Today’s online pirates need to be hunted down with the help of new systems and technologies. And not only does implementing your own TV CDN create a more cost-effective, scalable way to deliver content but it also lets media owners protect their valuable content.

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