We conclude our series of reports analyzing in detail the illegal streaming of matches from the summer’s football event in Russia, by charting how pirate activity peaked in the last stages of the tournament.There have been plenty of interesting statistics to emerge from the recent World Cup. CDN specialist Akamai, which was supporting the streaming efforts of 55 broadcasters at the event, reported that it set a new single-match peak for live streaming across its network of 22.5Tbps, comfortably surpassing the 6.88Tbps peak from Brazil four years previously. The BBC recorded 66.8 million match requests during the competition across its online services, including 56.3m live ones. And speaking to IBC365, Alexios Dimitropoulos, analyst at Ampere Analysis, estimated that overall between 10-20% of all World Cup viewing occurred online.
The figures we have uncovered in our exclusive series of reports looking at illegal streaming during the course of the tournament are equally as impressive, though a lot less celebratory. The one fact that is crystal clear is that piracy grew dramatically as the tournament progressed.
Football Illegal Streaming on the Rise
The full details are available in the report, but the headline trends are as follows:
- Links to illegal live streams of matches skyrocketed as the month-long competition unfolded
- Facebook has been consistently the most common source of sharing
- The number of Facebook links alone grew close to 3x during the course of the tournament
- Facebook and Periscope are by far the top two link hosted domains in terms of illegal link hosting
It’s instructive to look at the anatomy of one of the matches at the quarter final stage and the monitoring we undertook with our anti-piracy services, Eye on Piracy. During the course of the day’s match between Brazil and Belgium we detected 3684 illegal links on Google, 47 illegal videos on YouTube, 262 illegal streams on Facebook, and 269 on Periscope TV. We estimate that the total audience for these streams was in the region of 2 million people.
Analyzing the Pirates and Their Platforms
One of the main sections of our third report looks in detail at the pirate platforms that are disseminating content, as well as profiling the individuals that tend to be behind the majority of the activity. We share some of the key findings, though not all, as some of the information uncovered has been of a serious enough nature to require handing over to the relevant authorities. This we will cover in a further report around the time of IBC.
The pirate networks we investigated tend to be both well organized and very keen to hide their activities. They use standard stream protection techniques and proxy servers, authorizing only specific domain names to connect to their servers. These authorized domains are shared on the link farms allowing public access to the stream. Services are typically hidden behind protection services, while the vast majority of the bigger outfits also use their own CDN rather than rely on known services.
The report delves further into the structure behind a typical pirate website, looks at their potential revenue streams (which are typically ad-based), and also asks who the pirates are. It also features a very interesting interview with Ido Shneior, Chief Customer Officer at Charlton, who provides the perspective of a content owner and sees one of the fundamental principles underlying the way the modern internet is structured, anonymity, as being at the root of the piracy problem.
“As we see it, the digital assets revolution (bitcoin, XRP etc.) is very similar to the Internet revolution, with one major difference,” he says.
“It can already be seen that businesses that offer ownership of asset accounts for holding or trading digital assets are obligated to identify their users by requiring an ID DOCUMENT and PROOF OF RESIDENCE.”
His argument is that this needs to become a far more widespread practice across the internet and social media to protect content in the future.
Football Illegal Streaming: The Future
Our examination of events from this summer’s football has been instructive to say the least. We have charted a rise in illegal streaming that matches the far more publicized increase in legal online streaming numbers, and we have seen how social media plays an increasingly important role in distributing the links in turn.
We believe that the fundamental shift in the number of people accessing content via streaming means that it is time to reassess many of the assumptions that underpin the whole business of content. As we conclude, with the European Copyright Directive currently being revised, this is perhaps the ideal time to review notions of copyright and the responsibilities that all stakeholders in the process, from consumers to social media platforms and ISPs, play in its continued existence.
We shall return to the subject of illegal streaming running up to IBC.