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CES Report: Irdeto Highlights Ease and Growth of Set-Top Piracy

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Irdeto has a message for rights holders and broadcasters: Set-top box piracy is growing and it's a lot easier than you might think.

"Online piracy is now a lean back experience," says Mark Mulready, security director for Irdeto.

From a suite at the Wynn, Irdeto executives are demonstrating just how simple it is for households to get hundreds of the most desirable premium channels for much less than the cost of a cable or satellite subscription.

But this demo isn't designed to entice would-be pirates; it's intended to show broadcasters what's already going on at a massive scale all around the world.

Over-the-top piracy has evolved. It's growing rapidly on both mobile devices and set-top boxes (STBs) that are marketed like legitimate services. The demonstration shows several set-top boxes and websites for pirate subscription services that are so similar to legitimate products that many people might not realize they're streaming illegal content.

Not only is the hardware attractive, so are the products. Pirates offer all the premium live content a viewer could want, as well as massive video-on-demand libraries and professional-looking user interfaces and program guides.

Irdeto's job is to shut this down, and it does this by working with law enforcement agencies around the world. In the demo, Mulready highlights some of the tools Irdeto uses, such as CAS, or conditional access systems. With CAS, each content stream is fingerprinted with its own invisible code. When Irdeto briefly makes the code visible, it can see which user streams and being pirated and shut them down. Irdeto covertly buys pirated content to understand where it originates.

In the new world of OTT piracy, the pirates go after paid media subscribers and offer them better deals. A pirate STB with a 12-month content subscription might cost $300 to $700. The average price is a low $387.49. People tap into this world by buying pirate STBs and a subscription, or by loading third-party pirate apps onto insecure platforms such as Roku.

The top three nations for piracy are Brazil, the U.S., and France, and the most pirated shows of last year were Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Breaking Bad.

"These device are mainstream," Mulready says. "They are a direct replacement to your paid media set-top box in your living room. No longer do you have to get on your laptop or computer and look for pirated streams. it's lean back versus lean forward."

Pirates offer all the latest premium content organized in attractive interfaces. 

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