Nagra: What’s the long-term impact of piracy on sports content?

Sports content is available anywhere - whether it comes from traditional broadcasters, OTT streaming services, social media or pirate streams.

By Ivan Verbesselt,
SVP Marketing, NAGRA

Three out of four of these distribution channels are great for rights owners; they've given them more international reach than ever before. But we cannot underestimate the impact of piracy on their business model, especially in the long term.

Consumers today, especially in emerging markets, have a hard time telling the difference between free content released on YouTube and Facebook by sports leagues or broadcasters, illicit IPTV and web streaming services, FTA ad-based OTT content (from national broadcasters), and paid OTT TV (from pay-TV service providers).

And to add to the confusion, we as an industry face the ongoing challenge of effectively enforcing copyright and intellectual property laws across the internet, where server infrastructure is dotted all over the world and the legal framework differs by country.

Digital intellectual property and copyright laws, even when up-to-date, are still difficult to enforce in emerging countries. This is fertile ground for piracy to flourish.

And from the consumer’s perspective, sports player wages, revenues and transfers – not to mention event ticket prices – are skyrocketing in many parts of the world. So why should they care if mega-rich teams and broadcasters lose out because they watch an illicit stream?

And if you also consider that some markets don’t get access to popular sports content because it’s not distributed, or the pricing is too high for example – consumers invariably go searching for alternative solutions. This is why we have such an issue with IPTV streaming devices that run the Kodi app with pirate add-ons.

The whole situation has led to consumer apathy; piracy is becoming not just effortless, but almost subconscious.

This attitude has two major implications.

First, sports is a content value chain. Events are captured, produced and distributed. This creates jobs and economic opportunities, even when games take place abroad, and especially on a global stage.

And second, FTA content from national public broadcasters ultimately comes from the taxpayers’ pockets, or it’s supported by advertising. All in all, accepting piracy simply destroys the business model and the underlying content value chain, hurting economic life for everyone concerned. In this sense, nothing is really free in the end for the consumer.

So what can be done?

Addressing the piracy challenge requires a multi-faceted approach, complete with new investments in smart access to content, user experience, monetization models, anti-piracy solutions, education, policy changes and more.

To start making real strides in the battle against piracy, sports rights owners have to forge a closer partnership with all stakeholders – including policy makers and governments – to communicate the impact of piracy effectively to consumers, traditional and social media channels and telecom and Internet service providers.

The pay-TV industry, as well as sports rights owners going direct to the consumer, need to continue to invest in OTT streaming, improving user experience, access to content – including streamed content over multiple screens and platforms – and smart pricing and packaging.

In the end, while securing the business model against pirates is key, success is also about delivering a great product and experience, making sure consumers get to the sports content they want to watch on the screen of their choice at the right price point.