Protecting live broadcasts against piracy – Rugby World Cup 2019

We at Smart Live Protection protected the Rugby World Cup 2019 semi-finals and final. Discover our data and findings relating to piracy during the three live games.

Throughout the three games we detected 2,544 illicit URLs, 973 of these were found on Twitter, 39% of the total...

It was a Friday night and four friends met up to discuss where to watch the Semi-finals and of course the final of the Rugby World Cup. There were two huge fixtures that weekend, and excitement filled the room. The following day England would take on New Zealand and, on the Sunday, Wales had a showdown against South Africa.

The problem was that none of the four friends had paid to watch the match and the time difference, as it was being held in Japan meant that it was unlikely that they’d find a bar which would be broadcasting the games live.

Finally, they hatched a plan to stream the game through an illegal source online, problem solved!

This exact scenario was being played out across the globe that weekend, in fact every weekend, and not just limited to international sporting events, highlighting the importance of protecting live broadcasts online.

The Rugby World Cup 2019

This is the first time that a Rugby World Cup has been hosted in a country outside of a tier one nation (England, France, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa). Despite this, the official Rugby World Cup Japan 2019 website, predicted that the tournament would reach 800 million households across 217 territories, setting new viewing and broadcast records for the sport. These record-breaking stats were forecast in part due to it being the first RWC to be held in Asia, but also thanks to the commitment made by World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont who stated:

“Our mission is to grow the global rugby family and our Rugby World Cup 2019 broadcast plans reflect that mission… providing more content to more people with more innovation than ever before.”

A total of 34 cameras were used during the semi-finals and final which helped to cover all angles of the match. This coverage set new standards, providing a richer viewing experience, with the aim of delighting existing fans and attracting a new generation of rugby enthusiasts.

But these numbers could have been far more impressive when we consider those consumers who, despite those commitments to provide greater accessibility and a superior viewing experience still choose to view this memorable tournament through pirate streams.

The damage caused by piracy and the importance of protecting live broadcasts

Live broadcasters are investing in anti-piracy solutions to tackle the growing problem of illegal rebroadcasts to protect the reputation of the events and their investments. These illegal broadcasts are having a detrimental effect on revenue.

To gain a greater insight into the level of illegal streams which are being shared during global sporting events, we decided to monitor both semi-finals and the final of this year’s rugby World Cup in Japan… what we found was truly eye-opening!

Which platforms are pirates using and for what purpose?

Facebook and Twitch seem to be used by pirates sharing live streams of the tournament. These platforms permit users to share links quickly amongst peers, boosting viewing numbers for the content.

Twitter is the ideal platform for pirates wishing to program bots that post fake or deceiving URL’s. A short description accompanies these URLs which in this case included variations of the teams or tournament name to help entice clicks. Blogger is then often used as a “bridge” from these URLs, directing consumers through to landing pages which request personal data or payment information in return for access to this live content.

YouTube is mostly used for hosting fake videos with the purpose of displaying links in the commentary section to drive consumers to other locations where they may gain access to the live stream, or more likely to websites collecting a variety of personal data.

Smart Live Protection RWC semi-final monitoring figures

After monitoring both semi-finals we would like to share our findings with you. Throughout the two games we detected almost 1,500 infractions across several digital channels.

During the semi-final of England Vs New Zealand, we identified 372 infractions on Facebook (56%), Google (16%), YouTube (12%), Twitter (11%), Blogger (4%) and Twitch (1%).

Interestingly, more than 75% the URL’s discovered throughout the two semi-finals were detected during the Wales Vs South Africa match, with a total of 1,117. These were found across the same digital channels; however, the split was different… Twitter (52%), Facebook (28%), YouTube (13%), Google (6%) and Blogger (1%).

Protecting live broadcasts against piracy - Rugby World Cup 2019

Most of the links we detected were “promoting links” rather than “live streaming links”. “Promoting links” are used to trick consumers into believing that once they click, they will be directed through to the live stream. Instead they are led through to blogs or websites which exist to promote counterfeit products, or to pages which are designed to gather personal data or payment details in exchange for access to the live broadcast.

All live streams were detected in a matter of minutes and eliminated before they reached 1.000 viewers. In fact, the number of viewers for any one video ranged from 20 to 620 in the worst case, and we achieved an elimination rate of 95% of those detected URLs. 

The Rugby World Cup final

So, it was decided, England and South Africa had progressed through to the final, the biggest stage in world Rugby. Expectations were high for both rugby fans and broadcasters alike with a record breaking number of viewers expected to tune into the action.

We at Smart Live Protection monitored and protected the final (as we had done for the semi-finals) and once again our findings painted a rather astonishing picture. We identified over 1,000 illicit URLs (1,055) during the 80-minute match.

Protecting live broadcasts against piracy - Rugby World Cup 2019

As we had already discovered during the semi-final matches, most of these links were being shared through the following platforms: Twitter (33%), Facebook (28%), YouTube (27%), Google searches (10%), Blogger (1%) and Twitch (1%). The similarities didn’t stop there, once again “promoting links” outweighed “live streaming links”, and keywords were mainly in English, which was perhaps less surprising when we consider the teams competing in each of the three games.

In conclusion

In total we detected 2,544 illicit URLs, 973 of these were found on Twitter (39%), 811 on Facebook (32%), 470 on YouTube (19%), 228 on Google (9%), 34 on Blogger (1%) and the final 9 on Twitch.

Protecting live broadcasts against piracy - Rugby World Cup 2019

Our findings highlight the importance of protecting live broadcasts against digital piracy, especially across social platforms where links can be added quickly and shared with ease. For live broadcasters the emphasis must be on detecting and eliminating these infractions as quickly as possible, limiting the damage inflicted by these illegal retransmissions.

Even though on this occasion we monitored an international sporting event, it’s a problem which must be addressed by broadcasters of all sizes across all industries. Not only are broadcasters at risk, but also those consumers who choose to access pirate content increase their chances of getting a viruses, spyware, the theft of personal data and even payment details.

At Smart Live Protection our association with Google through its TCRP (Trusted Copyright Removal Program) means that we can quickly detect infringements and delete the offending URL. But that’s not all, we also have special agreements with the main social networks which enable us to remove 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 for those whose strategy involves protecting live broadcasts online.

Do you want to know if your live broadcasts are being retransmitted online?

Your live events could be at risk from digital piracy, request your free Live Broadcast Scan today…