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  • March 8, 2022
  • By James Clark General Manager, Media & Entertainment, GeoComply Solutions Inc.
  • Blog

Helping Movie Superheroes Face Down the Streaming Pirates

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There's nothing movie fans like more than a blockbuster where a superhero prevails over their nemesis. From Spiderman and Batman to the Black Widow, the superhero always wins. Back in the real world though, the fight for justice is not quite so easy.

Streaming movie piracy has surged since the Covid-19 pandemic became a catalyst for change in movie distribution and consumption.  But releasing movies in theaters and streaming services on the very same day—or at the very least, dramatically shortening the theater-to-streaming release window—is proving to be just too much of a temptation for dishonest streaming pirates.  

Pirates of the Caribbean (and Elsewhere)

In 2021, most of the movies that topped the piracy lists for more than two weeks in a row were released simultaneously in theaters and on streaming services. According to the piracy monitoring website TorrentFreak, Black Widow was the most pirated movie in the world in the three weeks after it was released on both Disney+ and in theaters on 9 July 2021. And Mortal Kombat and Godzilla vs Kong also topped the pirated movie charts for four and three weeks in a row respectively, after their dual debuts in theaters and on HBO Max.

Some studios have announced that they will launch movies in theaters first this year,  followed 45 days later on streaming services. While this might persuade avid fans of a particular superhero or other movie franchise to travel to a theater, many more will prefer to wait 45 days, and then stream it either legally or illegally. Without doubt, there will still continue to be a considerable number of movies that get the simultaneous release treatment. 

Either way, the numbers are, and will remain, worrying. Box office revenues for Black Widow nosedived 41 percent during its opening weekend, and dropped 67 percent between the first and second weekend. The National Association of Theater Owners in the U.S. laid the blame squarely on streaming piracy. 

While the initial pain is felt by theater owners and actors whose earnings are pegged to box office takings, the scale of this revenue loss from piracy is a huge cause for concern for the entire movie ecosystem, threatening future investments and jobs. 

Broadcast Restrictions by Country

To maximize revenues from movie releases, most studios do content distribution deals with broadcasters and OTT providers on a per-country basis. Differential pricing based on expected audience demand and other local variables means that a streaming service might pay for rights to show the movie in the U.S. but not in Mexico, for example.

While distribution agreements with the studios require streaming providers to protect the assets from being viewed outside of their territory, this model is only as good as the weakest link. Any streaming service without comprehensive geo-piracy detection measures in place will quickly become a magnet for for-profit pirates and individuals using VPNs or proxies to access new releases not available in their country or on services they subscribe to. 

Geo-Piracy Detection to the Rescue

Fortunately, there are a number of solutions available that detect and prevent geolocation fraud and geo-piracy, allowing streaming providers to flex their superhero muscles and immobilise pirates in the time it takes Batman to land a 'kapow' on Joker.  This allows streaming providers to protect valuable territorial rights, meet their contractual obligations with rights owners, and ultimately helps to protect the entire industry's future revenue streams by securing business models.

A good place to start in the search for a solution is with your CDN provider, as some of the gold-standard VPN and proxy detection solutions are already fully integrated with leading CDNs such as Akamai and Amazon CloudFront. This "turn on and go" feature makes the implementation as easy as flicking a switch.

Superpowers Plus!

As well as detecting and blocking casual and for-profit pirates, these solutions offer an extra hidden superhero power that is well worth knowing about. By countering sophisticated threats from commercial fraudsters, streaming services can also prevent casual account sharing which goes hand in hand with industrial-scale credentials sharing and fraud.

These content freeriders put significant strain on streaming services' infrastructure and load up unnecessary costs. By getting these pirates off their platform, streaming providers benefit from increased infrastructure capacity and reduced costs. This in turn allows them to serve their legitimate subscribers better, increasing loyalty, and protects their own hard-won subscription and ad revenues for years to come—as well as jobs across the entire ecosystem. Exactly what you'd expect from a superhero streaming service.

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

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