Until recently, live events such as sports, music and TV shows could only be consumed through TV channels, usually through paid subscription services. But thanks to developments in digital technology and the internet, the way in which consumers can now stream live events has changed, with the ability to tune in on their preferred device, at home or on the move, anywhere there’s an internet connection.
But these technological advancements represent both exciting opportunities and significant threats for the major players in the live media industry.
The true cost to rightsholders, broadcasters and consumers
Thanks to this ever-evolving technology many brands have enjoyed global success, attracting viewers and fans from across the globe and raking in record consumer ratings. Most of these live events are locked behind paywalls, these often vary in price from one-off payments through to monthly or annual subscriptions. As content becomes more accessible, viewers become more demanding and less willing to pay.
Cyber criminals are increasingly retransmitting these live broadcasted events free of charge through websites and social media channels. The importance of protecting live broadcasts has never been greater.
These Illegal streams are extremely harmful to rightsholders and broadcasters and their existence results in a loss in sales and is detrimental to their brand reputation.
Whilst consumers may benefit from enjoying the broadcast free of charge, they are often viewing a far inferior quality stream, and more concerningly unaware of the dangers. These illegal broadcasts leave them wide open to a variety of risks including viruses, spyware, spam, the theft of personal data or even their payment details.
But just how big is the problem of piracy in live events?
At Smart Live Protection we support broadcasters and rightsholders across the globe. In fact, we have either monitored or protected more than 750 live events since January 2019. National events include the English Premier League (EPL), the Copa Del Rey in Spain, the Indian Premier League cricket (IPL) and various football league and cup matches throughout South America. During this time, we have also covered events at an international level including the Champions League, Formula 1, NFL, NBA, Roland Garros and the British Open.
What were we up against? Well, in this time we delisted more than 18,000 URL’s on Google, over 27,000 videos on YouTube, 37,000 links on Facebook and 14,000 on Twitter. Other channels we monitored and protected included Twitch, Periscope, Instagram and blog posts.
Our association with Google through its TCRP (Trusted Copyright Removal Program) allows us to quickly detect the infraction and delete the offending URL. But that’s not all, we also have special agreements with the main social networks which enable us to delete videos from YouTube and Twitch instantly, and from Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, and Instagram in just a few minutes. This has proven to be very effective, especially for live events broadcasters.
Having witnessed the enormity of the problem firsthand, it’s clear that it’s causing significant damage to the industry, but how do viewers feel about these illegal streams? Well let’s find out…
Consumer habits and conscience
We, at Smart Live Protection conducted an exclusive research study in order to gain insights into the habits, behaviors and beliefs which drive so many consumers to illegal, free content.
An astonishing 71% of respondents confirmed that they have watched live pirated events on the internet through both social media channels and pirate websites, whilst 72.62% claim to know one or more people who have. These two statistics alone highlight just how widespread piracy has become, and the enormity of the problem faced by official broadcasters.
Of those that admitted to watching pirate streams, 57% confessed to recommending a website or social media network to a friend or family member, and 12% have recommended both.
We also questioned consumers on what type of content they´re watching, why they choose to tune in to illegal broadcasts, and just how often they consume live content this way. The answers to which, plus many more can be found in our free Smart Live Protection consumer research study.
The damage caused by these illegal streams is significant, in fact an illegally broadcast promoted or streamed in social networks can cause official broadcasters to lose up to 1,250,000 viewers.
The reduction in the number of viewers for legitimate broadcasters has a direct and negative impact on advertising, revenue and even the future of these events. Currently record fees are being paid for the exclusive rights to show Premier League and Champions League football, the NFL and the NBA and more must be done to prevent pirate streaming and to protect these investments.
But are consumers aware of the impact of their actions, and what do they believe to be the main factors responsible for driving the piracy of live events?