DAZN: Taking a different approach toward content discovery, using AI

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By Steven Hawley, Managing Director, Piracy Monitor

When asked about piracy, the first reaction by many industry stakeholders is to blame pirate distributors who sell stolen credentials or operate illegal streaming sites.  But social media is another piracy channel that can’t be ignored, where video and other audiovisual content are integral to the experience.

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Another widely made assumption is that the main intersection between artificial intelligence and anti-piracy is to discover anomalies in usage, such as license requests being made from unlicensed territories, or by unrecognized devices, or hundreds of requests made by the same user, or the detection of rapid requests being made through automation.

This is why a news item caught our eye recently from the sports streaming service DAZN, which has been using a different kind of discovery platform to detect illegal streaming across social media channels, using AI not by sensing anomalous use, but by recognizing content. DAZN’s press release said the platform has the potential to be 98% effective.  So we reached out to Videocites, the platform’s developer.

“Videocites started in 2014 as a technology company, to track video usage,” explained Eyal Arad, co-founder and CEO.  “But unlike others in the anti-piracy domain, we started as a video search engine. We take videos from any source, create a proprietary visual fingerprint, and then search social media using artificial intelligence,” he said.

How it works

The Videocites engine measures engagement metrics for every stream, both for legitimate instances in places where they are expected, and for illegal instances in places where they are not supposed to be; both for short excerpts and full video; and presents its results to rights holders in real-time.

But just because a video was discovered, does that mean it’s piracy?  On one hand, yes, if the platform finds a short-form version of a video that was not licensed.  But not so fast: the rights holder might want to find opportunities by partnering with partners and influencers.  Not only social influencers, but even with fans and UGC creators.

Another challenge to distinguish what might be suspicious, since someone may have dubbed audio in a different language, or the video might no longer resemble the original because it was produced for use as click-bait.

Piracy in the eye of the beholder

“The rights holder has to make the ultimate decision. The difference between pirated content and legitimate fan engagement is really a matter of the client’s policy,” said Mr Arad; “and every media company has its own policy.”  In one example Videocites measures programming for a the NBA, where it identifies instances that are being shared across social, and then, per the league’s policy, enforces the content that is piracy (live streams, long game footage), while measuring and even encouraging legitimate fan engagement.

The Videocites platform operates in the cloud and can scale to hundreds of virtual machines running in parallel, so all illegal streams can be discovered quickly.  Once a video is detected, the Videocites benchmark is to validate its legitimacy and act according to the video provider’s predefined policy, all of this is performed within five minutes;.  The industry average is 30 minutes at best.

Further reading

DAZN Group adn Videocites join forces to fight piracy.  Press release. June 2023. DAZN Spain.

Why it matters

“By quickly eliminating pirated broadcasts on social networks, we interrupt the viewing experience, which discourages the use of illegal links in favor of legitimate streaming services,” Sandeep Tiku, CTO of DAZN Group, acknowledged. “In short, the theft of intellectual property will be reduced and a fair and sustainable digital environment will be promoted, safeguarding the interests of broadcasters, rights owners and athletes. The potential of this solution is enormous,” Mr. Tiku added.

Artificial intelligence seems to come up in almost every conversation these days, not only by individuals and companies that create or distribute valuable content, but also by technology companies helping them fight illegal use.  AI is also being used to produce by bad actors to trick consumers into taking illegal services. Nobody is quite certain yet as to whether AI is an opportunity or threat – Piracy Monitor says ‘yes’ to both – but Videocites is harnessing its best qualities in some interesting new ways.

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