Piracy rates for independent TV channels in France exceeded the European average in 2022, said a November 2023 report by ACCES (the Association of Thematic Channels) of France, where revenue loss has reached €500 million per year.
Adding cultural programming such as concerts, theatrical performances and game shows raises the estimate to more than €1 Billion per year in France alone. The study estimates that 5.1% of French consumers access illegal sources, corresponding to illegal income of €63 per year, per individual.
Across the European Union, piracy of live sporting events has continued to increase, from an average of 0.42 accesses per user per month in 2021 to 0.55 accesses in 2022, an increase of 30% in one year, based on EUIPO data quoted in this report. Only the UK has a higher piracy rate.
Site blocking process seems cumbersome, marginally effective
There’s little disagreement that the site blocking process works: the report noted that site blocking reduced illegal consumption by 23% between October 2022 and March 2023, which builds on successes reported by the French regulator Arcom in 2022. Arcom had received 51 piracy referrals for 481 illegal domains, which resulted in blocking of 835 illegal sites from January through September of that year.
But while the process works, blocking requests must flow to ISPs through Arcom, and blocking doesn’t stop the original act of hacking by pirates. Also, one can argue that the low conversion rate to paid services only supports a view that blocking isn’t a complete answer against piracy. Only 7% of those encountering a blocked illegal site turned to a legal site.
In May, 2023, the European Commission urged member states to continue to take “‘effective, appropriate and proportionate measures to combat illicit retransmissions of sporting events or other events’, so that an intervention can take place without waiting for the latter to end.”
“In order to ensure the full effectiveness of detection measures and optimize intervention capabilities, the Commission encourages ‘the use of adapted and scalable methodologies’ (identification by a domain name, an IP address, a URL, etc.).” The EC also recommended recognizing a status called “trusted flagger” for “stakeholders making notifications of illegally broadcast sports content,” aimed at reassuring ISPs that blocking requests are coming from legitimate parties.
The EC also recommended that video providers recognize and understand newer service models: both legimitate and illegal. For example, to recognize and work with aggregators like Amazon Channels, YouTube PrimeTime, and understand how ‘piracy-as-a-service’ models have magnified the piracy threat.
Encouraging guidance but no parameter-based regulation was forthcoming. This is in contrast to Italy, for example, which mandates 30-minute turnaround for a blocking request.
There’s a vested interest in protection. In France, independent thematic channels reach more than 80% of households (24 million French households with 37 million individual consumers) and produce €1.2 billion (nearly €2.8 billion including Canal+) in revenue. Programmers have adapted well to the evolution to digital, by offering hybrid on-demand/linear distribution, free and paid business models, and both operator-managed and open-Internet distribution; including 5G mobile broadband access.
Among the 126 thematic channels in the study, two thirds of programmers offer at least one app that supports connected TV environments. Half of them offer a SVOD service and nearly two thirds are developing ad-supported offerings. Many of these channels are available across Europe and worldwide. OTT has only accelerated worldwide distribution.
New Paths of Growth for Thematic Television in France. Updated November 2023. Report. November 13, 2023. The Rencontres Annuelles de l’Acces (Association of Thematic Channels). Original in French
How the piracy of sports broadcasts (damage) the economic model of TV channels. Article. November 16, 2023. by François Quairel. The Media Leader FR. Original in French
Why it matters
While site blocking works, and while France is among the EU countries that has taken a pro-active stance against it, blocking has the greatest impact on the demand-side of piracy by reducing the availability of stolen programming to consumers. But few consumers convert to legitimate paid services while nearly half of those blocked simply seek illegal services elsewhere.
Blocking does not stop pirates from obtaining the programming itself. In addition, not all pirate sources are reported or mitigated.