Neil Gane | Southeast Asia is beginning to get a grip on sports video piracy

Neil Gane of the AVIA Coalition Against Piracy says there have been encouraging signs in the past year that Southeast Asian authorities are getting to grips with the growing piracy threat in the region.

The threat posed by live sports piracy in Asia has grown and evolved. With legitimate live sports streaming services growing, online piracy today is a more direct competitor than ever, in terms of technical delivery modes and business models. In another disturbing development, in Southeast Asia we are beginning to see a consolidation of bigger players dominating the market for pirated content. As with many other profitable crimes, it was only a matter of time before criminal syndication took over.

But there are reasons for our industry to be upbeat. In Southeast Asia, we are seeing governments increasingly agree that the online world needs to be managed and that there must be effective rules and enforcement procedures to do that. Existing regulatory site-blocking regimes are becoming more streamlined and effective, such as those in Indonesia and Malaysia. Other governments are in the process of enhancing or introducing new site-blocking protocols, including Thailand and the Philippines.

To address the enforcement challenges, collaboration within the content industry remains key. Working collaboratively as part of an international network, as well as within local content coalitions, is at the forefront of a successful enforcement strategy. We also need to work alongside technology platforms, payment processors, app stores and other intermediaries. Disrupting the technological ecosystem of the pirate websites, as well as the illicit commercial transactions at the point of sale, are core to disrupting the wider piracy ecosystem.

Site-blocking is a key feature of the Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) disruption strategy, and by working with local partners and coalitions we have successfully engaged with governments to introduce streamlined and effective regulatory site blocking protocols. Site-blocking is carried out by ISPs, compelled by regulators or courts. There are different ways to block websites, but the most common technique used globally to block content piracy sites is DNS blocking, which works by routing users to an appropriate ‘information page’ instead of the pirate website.

In Indonesia, CAP formed the Video Coalition of Indonesia (VCI) in early 2019 which has grown to include media conglomerates, sports rights-holders, film producers’ associations, domestic terrestrial content creators, pay-television operators, and OTT platform operators. Since July 2019, on behalf of the VCI, CAP has referred over 2,500 live sports and video-on-demand pirate streaming sites and application domains to the telco regulator, KOMINFO,  with the result that an average 60 sites are being blocked every 10 days. The results of this rolling site-blocking strategy have been impressive, with Indonesia fast becoming a leader in video IP protection in Southeast Asia, boosting the growth of local and international legitimate services.

Piracy traffic dropped an estimated 69 per cent between August 2019 and August 2020, and traffic to legal live channels and video sites increasing by an estimated 30 percent within the same period. In June 2020, an Indonesian YouGov consumer survey found a massive 55-per-cent reduction in consumers accessing piracy streaming sites over the past 10 months, with 28 per cent of online consumers admitting to accessing piracy websites compared to 63 per cent from a similar survey conducted in September 2019.

In Malaysia, LaLiga, the Premier League and other CAP members have been referring illicit live sports sites, video-on-demand sites and illicit applications to the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (MDTCA) under their streamlined and fast-tracked site-blocking protocol. Not dissimilar to Indonesia, the results have been encouraging.

A September 2020 YouGov consumer survey showed a 64-per-cent decline in consumers accessing piracy streaming sites when compared to a similar YouGov survey in August 2019. More than half (55 per cent) of online Malaysian consumers noticed that a piracy service had been blocked by the authorities. This appeared to influence their viewing habits, with 49 per cent stating that they no longer accessed piracy services and 40 per cent stating that they now rarely accessed piracy services. 11 per cent of consumers stated that website blocking made no difference to their viewing habits.

The goal of any anti-piracy strategy is to migrate sports fans and consumers back to legal services. The Malaysian YouGov survey reflected some success in this regard, with 20 per cent of consumers saying that they had subscribed to a paid streaming service as a result of the government’s site-blocking campaign, 65 per cent saying they spent more time watching international free/AVOD streaming services, and 15 per cent spending more time watching Malaysian AVOD streaming services.

We are confident that Indonesia and Malaysia will rise to become market leaders in video IP protection in the region, as a result of their rolling site-blocking strategies. We are also confident that other countries in Asia, and other continents, will take note and follow suit, boosting the growth of legal consumption of live sport.

In Singapore, CAP recently managed a series of judicial site blocking applications on behalf of five plaintiffs, including the Premier League and LaLiga. A subsequent YouGov Singaporean consumer survey found that, of those consumers who noticed that a piracy service had been blocked by the courts, 62 per cent no longer accessed piracy websites and 20 per cent said they now ‘only rarely’ accessed piracy services.

This year, despite the many challenges of the pandemic, has demonstrated that effective strategies that can be put in place which disrupt and curb live sports piracy.

The AVIA Coalition Against Piracy is hosting a free, invitation-only “Piracy in Sports” virtual roundtable event on November 6, at 4pm to 6.30pm Singapore time, with speakers from a range of sports bodies.

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