The reality is that if a content owner is selling to multiple licensees, and Licensee A is successfully securing its content but Licensee B is not; the customers of Licensee A are likely to notice and leave, thinking: “If I can get it for free why should I pay?” This creates a further problem as Licensee A is likely to ask the content rights owner why they are paying so much for their content when it is being pirated all over the internet. This deteriorates the value of the business for all parties – except for the pirates. That’s where licensee-level watermarking (or network ID) becomes important. This gives rights owners the ability to see who is causing the problem and work with them or, in a worst-case scenario, retire the license.

The silver lining is that today, we see more sports rights holders – EPL, Bundesliga, La Liga and others – putting more effort into anti-piracy, starting with implementing forensic watermarking. Using this technology, rights owners uniquely mark the content distributed to each of their licensees so that they can identify which pay-TV or OTT service provider is the source of pirate services.

For service providers, the implementation of forensic watermarking for their broadcast and streaming services will prove to be the ultimate weapon against piracy, allowing them to track the source of pirate feeds back to the individual user that is illegally redistributing their broadcasts. When combined with piracy monitoring and response services, this enables service providers and rights owners to monitor piracy in real time, trace the source and kill the service to ensure that time-sensitive content retains its value.

Security experts like NAGRA can monitor the internet and the dark web and use a combination of skilled analysts, smart automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning to monitor the everchanging piracy ecosystem and its players, then take action to stop the theft of live programming and help maintain the value of content to the business. The process is fully managed, ensuring a timely response to incidents of piracy. Using automated takedowns through unwitting piracy enablers like ISPs, CDNs, payment service providers, search engines and social media can accelerate their response times to piracy. And when that content is watermarked, this response can be close to realtime, with leaks shut down at their source via the CAS or DRM system. Gone are the days of sending legal notices by registered post and waiting to see if anyone will answer.

The increasing speed of piracy means tracking pirates is a constant race against the clock. Taking down pirates requires more comprehensive intelligence, automation and a faster reaction than ever before. That’s why the TV industry needs to take a combined approach – with watermarking, intelligence, monitoring, technical and legal actions – to finally win the battle against pirates.