We’ve received overwhelming feedback from our recent Video Piracy & the Pandemic webinar. The topic proves to be an important one during this unprecedented time in history. We fielded some interesting questions during the live Q&A chat, and we are still receiving inquiries.

We thought it would be valuable to summarize a few of the key points from the webinar, highlight some Q&As and share the survey results based on attendee input.

Video Piracy Models

Steve Hawley, Managing Director of Piracy Monitor, kicked off by citing global stats and noted that fragmentation is a major factor driving piracy. One study found that 54% of consumers turn to piracy if they can’t find content on a legitimate service. He also correlated the global spread of COVID-19 and piracy activity.

Steve went on to explain the difference between individual pirates and commercial pirates – those that are profiting from illegal streaming services. He categorized professional piracy into four models:

  • Pay TV approach – Often legitimate-looking sites that offer live, linear TV and VOD service packages streamed via the internet.
  • Ad-supported approach – Pirates fool programmatic ad networks that they are legitimate, which allows them to display legitimate ads – the majority from branded campaigns. They make money from ad impression revenue from the advertiser.
  • Hardware approach – Pirates sell pre-configured ISD (illicit streaming devices) via online pirate retailers. BeoutQ is the largest example of this type of pirated broadcaster out of Saudi Arabia and it has taken three years to even secure a conviction.
  • Reseller approach – This model takes the hardware approach one step further by bundling programming, creating a user experience, app store, etc. and reselling it to a broadband provider so they can offer video as a value-add to their subscribers. The pirates brand the “all-in-one” service with their logo and reseller it as a legitimate service.


I am constantly amazed at the lengths that professional pirates will go to profit from unauthorized video services!

Deterring Piracy

As Steve set up the main piracy problems – including credential and password sharing – I shared some strategies on how video service providers can best address current piracy concerns, while retaining consumer loyalty. And it might not be what you think.

You can listen for more details, but basically my main takeaways for video service providers are:

  1. Don’t let fear of piracy hold your business back
  2. Understand that the technology exists today to distribute content – with more trust
  3. Continue to make it difficult for professional pirates to profit from your services

Q&A Highlights: Service Operator Challenges

The live Q&A chat prompted meaningful discussion and valuable idea exchange. Here are some highlights:

Is there evidence that piracy-related behavior has changed over the past 6-8 weeks?

Based on several “off the record” conversations, all have said that the amount of piracy is way up (20% or more). Plus a significant increase in interest in piracy is apparent from Google searches and relevant keywords used in forums. (20-100% increase). There isn’t enough data yet to plot any trends. But there’s little doubt that piracy has increased over the last month.

Is there a robust way to prevent credential sharing for OTT/SVOD streaming services?

First, we need to ask ourselves what type of credential sharing we are trying to prevent. There is a difference between, for example, a parent sharing their credentials with a child that lives in a different place, and a user that put its credential up for sale. We should also ask ourselves if it’s worth it. What is the real revenue loss due to credential sharing, and how more restrictive systems affect the loyalty of paying customers?

In order to reduce credential sharing, we need to reduce the motivation by providing affordably priced packages to match the target demographic. We should also limit the number of clients that can stream video simultaneously. Finally, we should educate consumers of the risks of credential sharing, which can lead to credit card and identity fraud, password dumping attacks, and unauthorized payments.

How can we fight piracy, protect content or more aggressive law? How can we change permissive governments to change protective copyright laws?

Adequate laws are important and many governments around the world are in fact putting stronger regulation in place. But this must go hand-in-hand with law enforcement and the court systems so that they can be enforced. Piracy Monitor regularly covers global piracy cases, such as this recent one in Taiwan. In parallel, Verimatrix is working with organizations like the AAPA in Europe with example-investigations. Regardless, a sound technical protection platform is needed to work with realistically strict law enforcement and limits in investigative capacity.

I would like to know your opinion on Google’s, Facebook’s, Twitch’s, etc. anti-piracy policies and their real effectiveness. Do you think they could be doing much more to prevent it?

Social media, search engines and big online warehouses have made some progress with initiating automated investigations for takedown of illegal content, as well as allowing fast takedown triggered by external party requests. Still that can be improved and organizations, like AAPA, are working hard to improve the situation.

If content owners continue to move to a D2C model does this mean that they could move to their own in house security solutions?

Content owners can develop their security solution in-house, however, developing a solution that is both secure and can scale is not trivial at all. Any video content security solution must withstand known and future attacks, which by itself requires expertise. But security is not enough. The solution also needs to work with different services, multiple devices, and cannot impact user experience. Given unlimited time and funding, anyone can develop a solution that is secure, fast, compatible and scalable, but why, if they can get a solution that meets all of their needs, at a fraction of the in-house development cost.

How Are Operators Navigating COVID-19?

We also received responses to the webinar survey. While these responses on not statistically significant, it does provide some anecdotal data points on how the industry is currently feeling about video piracy.

What these results tell me is that the threat landscape continues to evolve, and service providers need to be diligent in staying one step ahead of pirates. However, it is not just about increasing and reinforcing content protection, but also how to make your business more resilient to better respond in times like these.

We’d love to hear more about your piracy challenges, and of course how we can help. Contact us or email [email protected] to connect.

We encourage you to also sign up for Steve’s Piracy Monitor newsletter to stay informed.