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How Can Direct-to-Consumer Platforms Better Protect Their Exclusive Regional Content?

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Piracy is on the rise, with the pirating of films having increased by 40% during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those looking for pirated content can find it just three clicks away. As the broadcast industry becomes more fragmented, with more content than ever available across a multitude of services, the problem is likely to get worse. With more streaming platforms coming online, some consumers who want to enjoy a wide range of content are turning to piracy to avoid having to subscribe to the multiple services they would otherwise need.   

Furthermore, new streaming platforms are increasingly staggering their launches, entering different markets over a period of months or even years. As the average consumer doesn't like to wait and wants immediate access to the latest releases, the over-abundance of illegally obtained content and the ease of getting it has made piracy the inevitable outcome for far too many. Therefore, consumer frustration at being unable to access highly anticipated content is acting as a driving force behind the growing volumes of piracy direct-to-consumer platforms are experiencing. This is demonstrated by the fact that research has found that pirated U.S. TV shows receive 126 billion views a year, with the vast majority of viewers located outside the U.S.. Consequently, as more broadcasters and direct-to-consumer platforms make their content available to different regions at different times, sometimes up to a year after launching in the U.S., they need to ensure they are able to protect their content from pirates.

After all, piracy is an extremely damaging phenomenon, costing the U.S. alone almost $30 billion a year and resulting in 560,000 industry job losses, while annual global revenue losses from digital piracy are between $40 and $97.1 billion in the movie industry. It can also damage a content provider's reputation, as pirated content is often in downgraded quality, resulting in that provider being associated with a poor consumer experience. For content owners and providers, the stakes are extremely high, so how do they put a stop piracy and protect their content from being accessed illegally around the world?

Implementing a Multiplatform Piracy Program

Streaming platforms must protect their content by implementing a multiplatform piracy program covering video-on-demand streaming sites, proactive search delisting and cleaning the first two pages of popular search engines. They should also cover open source apps such as social media sites and Telegram, the latter being a hotbed of pirated content. OpSec Security has identified for a multi-national streaming content provider that links to or illegal copies of 21% of their streams are showing up on social sites and Telegram, receiving over 1 million views. Additionally, broadcasters should also monitor peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent and cyberlocker sites like DropBox to further reduce exposure to the spread of infringing content.

By covering all bases and ensuring they keep their regional piracy coverage current, broadcasters and streaming providers will be better able to protect their content and gain a more in-depth understanding of where and how it is being shared. Using antipiracy tools and working with the experts will help content owners to identify where their content is being shared and misused and enable them to immediately enforce on infringements and therefore stem the sharing of their content illegally. As some technologies are also able to pinpoint the source of the leaked content, it may also be possible for broadcasters and streaming providers to take legal action against pirates.

Geo-blocking Strategies

Another option for streaming platforms is geo-blocking, a technique favoured by the likes of Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and BBC iPlayer to name a few. A geo-blocking strategy restricts the availability of specific internet content to a geographical location and was a popular antipiracy method before streaming, when media players prevented regional spillover by ensuring DVDs had restricted international distribution and could only be played in devices in the intended region. While the strategy has changed due to the lack of physical infrastructure, the premise remains the same. For example, nowadays, a U.S. resident accessing Netflix from the UK will have a different range of content available to them compared to somebody logging in from the U.S. While some users may be able to circumnavigate geo-blocking technologies through the use of VPNs, this method is, by and large, an effective way to limit the availability of certain content, which can be a licensing or copyright issue. In addition to this, these content owners should work with trade associations such as MPA and ACE to take a united approach to tackling piracy.

Protecting Valuable Content

In recent years, the explosion of direct-to-consumer offerings, propensity to stagger release schedules, and the growing cost of multiple subscriptions for consumers, is resulting in increasing amounts of piracy—particularly as it has never been easier for even a novice internet user to find illegal or unlicensed content online. Currently, illegal downloading of copyrighted materials takes up almost a quarter (24%) of global bandwidth—a figure that is likely to increase due the overabundance of illegal or unlicensed content available to consumers online. With so much at stake for direct-to-consumer content owners, most notably lost revenue, reputation damage due to consumers viewing downgraded copies and job cuts, it is vital they put the protections in place to mitigate the risk, slow it down and ultimately divert those looking for pirated content to legitimate services. It is only by working with the right partners and implementing antipiracy tools, that direct-to-consumers platforms will be able to turn the tide on piracy and futureproof their offering in an increasingly saturated marketplace.

[Editor's note: This is a contributed article from OpSec Security. Streaming Media accepts bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]

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