Predictions for IBC 2020: Video Piracy Edition

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By Steven Hawley

At September’s IBC conference, I focused mainly on video security. The large pay TV security technology suppliers have built comprehensive portfolios consisting of conditional access for traditional pay TV, digital rights management for streaming services, analytics for ad-optimization; complemented by professional services for techincal assessments and integration.

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These larger suppliers have also have offerings in the middleware and closely related service delivery platform categories. At this IBC, all of these companies positioned them as part of a complete breakfast: service creation, service delivery and video experiences that are attractive and relevant to consumers, presented securely.

And all of them offer piracy detection and anti-piracy solutions for rights-infringement. But even though they’ve all been offered for years (many years in the cases of Viaccess-Orca and Irdeto), these systems still feel… a bit separated from the rest, like silos. None of these suppliers were explicitly positioning them as parts of their integrated service delivery and security platforms – yet.

So, prediction #1: Piracy will move from being a peripheral concern in the industry, to the mainstream. While the Mayweather boxing match was a poster-boy for piracy in 2017, in retrospect it was an isolated incident. But situations like beoutQ are too big to ignore, jeopardizing some large media companies, including beIN Media, which claims to be the largest media distributor in the world.

Prediction #2: These leaders in security technology will begin to position piracy and anti-piracy as the logical extension to their portfolios – and add feedback loops that communicate potential piracy events to – and trigger anti-piracy responses by – service management and security. Not only by shutting down a stream or a device to disable a pirate who is redistributing widely, but also, to present legitimate incentives to well-intentioned end users. AI will be called upon, to help minimize false positives, suggest which action to take, and automate the process.

Prediction #3: There will be more industry talk about consumer education, but sentiments may not quite align with the problems consumers are trying to address. Study after study indicate that most consumers are willing to subscribe to pirate video services – even when they know it’s not legitimate – simply to save money and ignoring the risks. Others say that consumers are more likely to resort to piracy to get that one TV show that’s not available through the services that they already subscribe to, rather than adding another service to receive it.

This last one will reflect a realization that technologies alone won’t solve the problem of piracy. And consumer education (or is it “scaring the consumer”) alone is not enough either. The media industry needs to re-think its walled-garden approach to content exclusivity. Sounds like the a-la-carte debates of old, doesn’t it?

So another burning question goes to whether or not the Hulus, Netflixes, AT&Ts, Disney-plusses, Apples and others of the world will learn from their pay TV ancestors, or will they – in a future year – repeat the 10%/quarter losses now being felt by pay TV?

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