OTT’s burgeoning health can’t avoid piracy alert

The OTT landscape is about to go into overdrive. At IBC2019, much of the talk on the show floor has been about the growing dominance of global OTT players and the imminent fight back by traditional media as merged conglomerates launch direct to consumer services.

These are high stakes with billions of dollars on the table which presents an unprecedented challenge to the industry’s attempts at security – and a golden opportunity for pirates.

Parks Associates estimates that video piracy this year alone will cost pay TV and OTT providers U$9.1 billion in lost revenue. That number will swell to north of U$12 billion by 2024, a staggering 38% growth rate.

Content redistribution is the primary form of attack now. According to the research firm, 27% of US broadband households currently engage in some form of piracy or account sharing. Quite simply, consumers can get to pirate content too easily.

Tackling piracy is a complex issue but an effective strategy boils down to two things – speed and the combination of technology and services to locate and shut off access to pirate services. A closed loop so to speak.

According to Frank Poppelsdorf, VP, Product Management, Irdeto, “the type of asset requiring protection will most likely dictate the tech solution. Watermarking embedded at the headend is typically more robust, works better on any device and will leave less of a visual mark on the content. Analysis of attacks can be used to take preventive action.”

Poppelsdorf adds that, if quick detection and immediate shut down is of the essence, which it will be for live content, then client-side watermarking is the better bet. There is work up front to integrate the solution into the client device but this is still an essential line of defence.

But not the only one. To close the loop, Irdeto advises tech such as concurrent stream management to limit the damage credential sharing has on your business and enforcement through services such as investigation and prosecution assistance.

None of these are easy or cheap to implement, monitor or respond to in-house which is why an increasing number of operators are reaching out to security specialists with the right skillsets to securely manage these solutions on their behalf.

Lau Zuydervelt, Product Marketing Specialist at Irdeto explains, “the solutions range from management of the headend components to cyber services. It might be to strategically assist a DTH broadcaster’s launch into OTT VOD or to swiftly remove ads for pirate devices from e-commerce platforms.”

It is all intended to remove the complexity and expense of content security for operators’ focus on core content service competencies.

Growing subscriber numbers and an increased number of services do signal a very healthy OTT market, but more services and aggressively promoted content could incite more piracy over time.

The industry is also conscious of pending subscriber fatigue, when consumers reach a limit as to what they can afford or are willing to pay for. When that happens, they will resort to pirate tactics to get the content that they want.

As Parks Associates analysts put it, “Most pirates …are not simply thieves looking to steal content, but are video enthusiasts who engage with many different services.”