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A peek behind the curtains – who is watching pirate sports streams?

By James Clark, Director of Global Sales at GeoComply

So, who’s watching pirate sports streams? The frightening truth is there are a lot of people. In fact, a report from Synamedia in partnership with industry analysts Ampere Analysis, shows that the number is so large that service providers and rightsholders can unlock up to $28.3B in new revenue each year by reducing sports streaming piracy. Interestingly, the report noted that 74% of sports fans would be willing to switch from illegal streams if a legitimate alternative is available or if the illegal streams become unreliable.

Sports rights boom years feel like a distant memory and these doldrums have simply been exacerbated as the pandemic shut down sports events or at best played to empty stadiums. But there is light at the end of the tunnel: Ampere Analysis finds that with insight about pirate users’ motivations and behavior, sports rights holders and operators can turn their fortunes around with targeted interventions including disrupting streams and incentives.

The Sports Pirate Next Door

Pricing piracy: the value of action reveals that the viewers most likely to watch pirate sports services are a far cry from the familiar image of an online pirate or cybercriminal. They tend to be younger people and are often families with children. They are avid sports viewers with many watching 10 or more different sports using connected devices.

The research paints a picture not of criminals determined to defraud their favorite sports teams and content providers – but of consumers who turn to piracy when they feel they have no other choice. As we know from our own customers, watching content not readily available locally or content which is priced cheaper elsewhere are major drivers of people using VPNs.

Addressing the Sports Piracy Triggers

While there is a hardcore of pirates who will turn to illegal services obtained through the darker corners of the internet, for most it is a lot less malicious. Instead, sports fans look on Google for tips about how to watch a sporting event that they otherwise can’t readily access, or don’t value enough to pay the asking price. But these are the “lazy pirates” who most likely would become paying customers if the rightsholders, broadcasters and OTT providers provide the right incentives to do so.

As streaming providers address the triggers that lead consumers to seek out illegal services, they have the power to transform piracy from a cost of doing business into a revenue opportunity. With an understanding about pirate users’ motivations and behavior, OTT providers can target interventions at those viewers most likely to switch to legitimate services.

Capturing Revenue Currently Lost to Piracy

With so many complex and expensive anti-piracy solutions on the market, we think the industry is missing an extremely effective anti-piracy solution that’s right under their nose. Of course that’s GeoComply’s GeoGuard DB which is used by broadcasters and OTT providers worldwide to identify and block users trying to illegally access their geographically restricted content via a VPN or proxy. Not only is it relatively inexpensive as far as anti-piracy tools go, but it is as easy as flicking a switch to go live through one of our CDN partners such as Akamai or Amazon AWS CloudFront.

And as the report shows, if the illegal streams become unreliable, the ‘lazy pirate’ will be more likely to purchase a valid subscription, allowing the OTT broadcaster or streaming platform to capture some of the $28.3B currently being lost to piracy.

To learn more about how to stop geo-piracy, contact solutions@geoguard.com or read our whitepaper, Stopping Geolocation Fraud and Content Leakage via VPNs and DNS Proxies.

*Research Methodology
The online quantitative study of over 6,000 sports fans aged 18-64 was undertaken in March 2020 by data and analytics firm Ampere Analysis. Consumers were pre-filtered and chosen based on their experience of watching sport on TV. The study was run in 10 markets: Brazil, Egypt, Germany, India, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, UK and USA.