We all know the pay-media world is changing. Old business models are under pressure. Digital viewing habits are relegating TV to the 2nd screen. Industry experts all talk about who will triumph in this flux. One ‘brand’ which you rarely see as a serious contender: Online Pirates. But why not?

The usual suspects
Never before have consumers had so much affordable content so easily accessible. The technology advancements opened the door for OTT providers and content owners to go direct to consumers. All trying to fulfill consumers’ growing online viewing demand. These competitors you know. And you’re no doubt aware that the platform owners, e.g. Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple are also entering the fray.

Even when you look at the industry differently, as Matthew Ball and Tal Shacher did in their interesting ‘After TV’ article ; the players who could perform the roles of Scale Feeds or Social Feeds are still the usual suspects.

Invisible competitors 
But it’s the unusual suspects that you should be really concerned about. The invisible. Yes, online pirates.

The same technology advancements which made it easier to create and distribute high quality content also made it easy for pirates to steal and distribute that same content. Unhindered by rules and regulations they adapt quickly to meet consumer demands. They’ve always provided an OTT like service: ad-based or subscription across all devices to meet the online viewing demands of their consumers. They offer hundreds of channels: live sports, VOD, TV series, in multiple languages all at much cheaper prices than legitimate providers. Consumers don’t need to download numerous apps: e.g. Netflix, HBO, MLB to get their chosen entertainment mix. With the pirate service, it’s already consolidated – all in one!

What’s more, given their sophisticated operations, global reach combined with their extensive content portfolio online pirates could easily perform the role of being a Scale Feed.

Beating the competition 
Being blind to or ignoring piracy as a competitor, or worse still, pointing the finger at each other will only exacerbate the problem. Providing convenient, easy to use and affordable content is certainly part of the solution. But entrenched piracy requires a stronger collaborative industry approach including technical, legal and educative measures. Content owners, operators, broadcasters and platform owners need to work together to maximize the value of the content and protect their consumers.

Imagine if rights owners and operators carved out an anti-piracy fund as part of their content deals? This would ensure that all parties in the chain benefit from the latest technology including content protection and watermarking as well as proactive enforcement and investigative services.

Online pirates are your competition now and will be in the future. To prevent online piracy growing as a scale feed we need to work as a team.