How do pirates get ahead of OTT video providers?

blog_pirate_ott_headerThe biggest rivals for Over-The-Top (OTT) streaming services are not just their direct competitors, pirates are ranking high up on that list as well. As streaming TV shows, films and more content has become popular, pirates compete to be the first ones to make them available. This article will detail how pirate streaming sites work and how it affects you as an OTT provider.

How does piracy in video entertainment work?

Today, streaming content on pirated sites takes little to no effort. The sites have a sophisticated look and feel – meaning that viewers may not even be aware they are on an illegitimate website. They are organized into many categories, hosting content from major OTT providers such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max. The amount of content that is available on pirated sites tends to be huge, as the owners of the site may upload items from several OTT providers combined. For example, iStreamItAll, which was a well-known streaming site, provided roughly 118,000 TV shows alone. Additionally, these websites are quick to upload fan favorites. A recent example was when Game of Thrones prequel, ‘House of the Dragon’ which was set to air on the 21st of August 2022 on HBO Max, was ready to watch several hours early through pirated domains.

Who are the pirates behind streaming content?

There are usually two main categories of digital pirates: hardcore and casual. The former is those who involve themselves by researching and executing methods to circumvent cybersecurity protection. The casual users are less extreme and are only interested in consuming pirated content. Over the years, TV shows and movies have become the most popular pirated materials. Apart from accessing them on an OTT platform, pirates deploy other efforts such as ripping DVDs or Blu-ray discs, Camcorders in theatres, accessing Screeners (early releases) or utilizing Webrip to get the content. While casual pirates might see only the benefits of consuming free content, they overlook the risks that these websites accompany. Streaming their content not only can expose the consumer to malware, viruses, and fraud but also can contribute to bigger organized crimes.

How does streaming pirated content impact legit providers?

In short, illegal streaming sites affect you in significant ways, mostly concerning your valuable assets. As pirated content is watched at a staggering 230 billion times a year, here are a few significant points of impact:

  • You lose out on revenue. It has been estimated that the US economy faces up to $71 billion each year from video piracy. Alongside the fierce competition with legitimate streaming providers, having to stave off pirates adds to the pressure.

  • Your OTT platform’s popularity declines when users have figured out ways to find cheaper, or even free pirated streaming options. Researchers estimate that the time spent streaming on a pirated website displaces almost the same amount of time that viewers would have spent on legitimate providers’ platforms.

  • Your number of subscribers can drop drastically once the video content is more easily accessible on pirated sites. About 27% of US broadband households are accessing such sites rather than paying for video content from legitimate providers.

  • You may suffer a domino effect when sales deteriorate and pirates ‘steal’ away paid viewers. Researchers point out a link between the effects of piracy and job losses, which may impact the industry’s innovation capabilities, stunting video content production.

While calculating the true economic impact of piracy is complicated, it is good to understand the effect it has on your business and the concerns it has over OTT service providers’ content security.

Do pirates profit from streaming content?

Pirates profit from streaming content quite dramatically. They are estimated to make almost $1.3 billion by distributing content, often on multiple websites, across the internet, in addition to their ad revenue. They also encourage viewers to buy ‘premium’ viewership and in extreme cases may also earn from stealing sensitive information on their networks and user credentials.

What can be done about pirated streams?

There is some good news. The industry has already shut down some major pirated sites throughout the years. In 2019, Openload and Streamango, which were two highly watched streaming domains, were brought down by a leading content protection coalition called Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE). A well-known German streaming site met the same fate in 2020 which was then followed by the shutdown of seven more in 2022. Additionally, individuals engaged in big piracy schemes have also been caught, such as the YouTube star ‘Omi in a Hellcat’ who was found to have had a multi-million-dollar illegal TV streaming empire. In order to bring such cases down, rigorous coordination is needed between law enforcement agencies and external cybersecurity firms. What can you, as an OTT provider, do about pirated streams? It starts with taking the necessary steps to protect your licensed content and securing it with an end-to-end anti-piracy solution.

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