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As OTT Powerhouses Win Sports Rights, Will They Stop the Pirates?

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  • Media & Entertainment

We are seeing eye-watering deals as streaming services flex their muscles in the live sports arena. In fact, some commentators believe we have reached a tipping point for broadcasting rights in sports. 

Now, the downside is that sports broadcasters and video streaming providers stand to lose more, contract- and revenue-wise, should their content be leaked by geo-pirates. This makes an even stronger case for having comprehensive content protection in place.

The World of Sports Broadcasting Rights – One Big Roller Coaster Ride

According to Parks Associates, 55 percent of pay-TV households consider live sports an important factor in their service decisions. But despite its influence, the world of sports media rights is constantly changing. Just when you think you have hit the jackpot or bottomed out, there’s another surprise around the corner.

For example, the UK’s bellwether, the Premier League broadcasting rights, reached a high of £5.1 ($7.07 billion) in 2015, then fell 10 percent to ($6.24 billion) in 2018, and has now rolled over the same  £4.5-deal with pay-TV and free-to-air providers for the next three years.

Streaming Services Flexing Their Muscles

Meanwhile the value of rights for domestic leagues in Europe appears to have peaked. Earlier this year, DAZN became the first streaming service to win exclusive rights to a major domestic league with Italian Serie A football. 

This was followed by the news that Amazon Prime Video had acquired the rights to more than 300 exclusive Ligue 1 matches in France, for a reported €250 ($295) million a year.  Meanwhile, Amazon Prime Video inked a ten-year agreement with the NFL for the U.S. streaming rights to 15 games per season.

A Recurring Theme: Geographically-Restricted Broadcasting Rights

Have you noticed the common thread linking these new deals? They are all restricted by territory.

The onus lies with the streaming provider to ensure that pirate viewers located in other countries don’t mask their true location to watch these geo-restricted live events. Without this ironclad guarantee, geo-pirates will run amok, and the impact will be felt all the way down to the grassroots organizations.

Illegal viewers primarily mask their location through the use of a VPN or DNS proxy, and the numbers are quite shocking. According to Global Web Index, 31 percent of internet users use VPNs and out of those, 51 percent use them to access better entertainment content. Another study by SMG Insights showed that 54 percent of millennials admit to having watched illegal streams of live sports – one-third of them on a regular basis.

Keeping Illegal VPN and Proxy Viewers at Bay

For these big distribution rights numbers to be viable, ensuring the games are only viewed by people located within the specific country is crucial. The best way to do it is by utilizing our industry-standard VPN and proxy detection solution, GeoGuard. Leading streaming providers, such as beIN Media and Amazon Prime Video, already trust GeoGuard to comply with their contractual obligations by blocking VPNs and proxies.

GeoGuard is already integrated with CDNs including Akamai and Amazon Cloudfront, making it very easy to deploy and an effective solution against VPNs and proxies. With this reassurance, OTT providers can focus on delivering a stellar user experience, secure in the knowledge that geo-pirates won’t be impacting their contract licence and business model.

Read our latest white paper to learn more about how to stop geo-piracy and geolocation fraud in their tracks – and protect your high-value content: “The Next Generation of Content Protection: Moving Beyond IP for Location Verification.”