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OTT Leadership Summit Preview: SVA on Streaming Video Piracy

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Will 2019 be the year content owners are able to get tough with video pirates or will we see more tech solutions that curb—but never quite solve—the problem? In the OTT Leadership Summit at Streaming Media West, a panel of industry experts will examine the state of streaming piracy and explain what content owners can do to secure their assets. Jason Thibeault, executive director of the Streaming Video Alliance (SVA), will moderate the discussion, so we asked him for a preview.

Streaming Media: We hear a lot about new piracy solutions. Is the problem getting fixed or getting larger?

Jason Thibeault: It's definitely getting bigger. There's a lot of optics right now on the issue, especially as live streaming is ramping up, and everyone is looking at how we might prevent increasing threats to live stream security. That may include watermarking, DRM, tokenization, and other, more manual processes, to ensure that people aren't re-streaming.

People with Kodi boxes seem to have no difficulty getting any content they want. Is this a problem the industry can solve?

Unfortunately, not right now. Many of the pirates streaming via Kodi boxes are located in Eastern Europe (think Ukraine, Poland, etc.) and there is little content providers can do to shut them down. Sure, they can work with Interpol and other local agencies, but it’s a real hassle. And when they take one down, another dozen spring up. The technical challenges to prevent “stream leakage” are significant. For example, you can watermark content, DRM it, etc., but if the pirate just puts a HD camera in front of the monitor and re-streams that, there is no technical solution right now to stop that.

What steps are major studios taking to safeguard premium content?

Well, content owners in general (not just studios) are starting to layer a lot of different operational and technological solutions together to create comprehensive security strategies. For example, streamed content may go out with a watermark and DRM. The content owner may also be monitoring incoming IP requests for content (a very manual process; AI will make this better over time) to identify patterns of piracy. There are also other tweaks and configurations that can be made to better obfuscate and protect origin IP locations.

Are there solutions on the horizon that you believe will lead to strong results?

There is some exploration into blockchain, but, unfortunately, the way it’s architected now, it’s not good for high-volume, low latency transactions (which is why the finance industry hasn’t adopted it yet). If that gets fixed, maybe blockchain can be used to authenticate players. Again, even that doesn’t get around the issue of re-streaming with a HD camcorder… Right now, it’s super difficult for content owners to police piracy. They can shut down the big ones, but savvy pirates are learning how to use the cloud against content owners. For example, a pirate can easily setup an account using a small CDN (like CDN777) with a temporary email. Once CDN777 gets a takedown notification and, if they comply, the pirate simply switches to a different account and continues to re-stream.

It seems the only thing that’s really helped curb piracy is offering viewers access to content at a fair price. Is the industry spending money on the wrong things when it invests in anti-piracy technology?

Well, yes and no. There is ALWAYS going to be theft. No matter how cheap the content is, some people just refuse to pay when they can steal it. And the cost to implement lots of different security mechanisms and processes can be expensive. So, the content owner really just has to make a choice about HOW MUCH piracy they are comfortable with. I’m wondering, though, if content owners aren’t thinking broadly enough about how to combat piracy. Rather than trying to stop it, perhaps they should invest in the content experience and include features in their player (i.e., interactivity, supplemental content, social engagement with actors in the content as it’s playing) that pirates can’t replicate. I mean you can’t steal a social stream, right? If content owners do that, then perhaps people who might steal content would be swayed by a better experience they’d be willing to pay for. Piracy would simply dwindle.

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