Can we fight against OTT content piracy in Middle East?
The Streaming Lab - MENA #10
Hey 👋 - Yann here.
This is the 10th issue of The Streaming Lab - MENA.
Each Saturday, I analyse 1 topic to better understand the OTT market in the Middle East & North Africa.
Enjoy the show.
This week’s issue is a collaborative work with JP Andreaux, expert in Content Protection with 15 years of experience in the region.
We’ll be looking at piracy of OTT content in MENA: a major concern impacting local and international content creators, distributors, streaming services and consumers.
We’ll go through the 4 following points:
The different types of piracy
The impacts on the market
The strategies to contain piracy
The local initiatives
The different types of piracy
In the last century, video piracy was mainly about buying a VHS off the black market, DVD ripping or peer-to-peer file-sharing.
With the beginning of the streaming era, video piracy grew faster and took different forms, based on existing business models: ad-supported streaming websites & Apps, subscription IPTV/OTT platforms and illegal content monetized on social media.
Ad-supported streaming websites & Apps
The business model of illegal streaming websites & Apps is based on intrusive advertising: banners, pop-up, auto-playing videos, full screen ads, links driving to scam, etc.
The websites are easy to access and, as any other streaming service, they established their brand awareness. End-users now access them as they would connect on Netflix, Shahid or StarzPlay, but without paying for the content.
It can explain why the illegal streaming website “fmovies” reached the Top 4 of the most visited Streaming & Online TV websites last June in the United Arab Emirates.
There are also many illegal streaming websites targeting Arabic audiences: Egybest, Arab Lions, Akoam, Movies land, Arab Seed, Mazzika Today, Shahid4u, Cima4up, etc.
Some of those illegal services also launched iOS & Android Apps. Egybest for example reached the top 6 of iOS Entertainment Apps in Egypt this week.
Subscription platforms (IPTV & OTT)
I’m sure you’ve already heard about Set-Top-Boxes from the black market offering thousands of TV channels for a cheap monthly or yearly fee. There is a reason why: they don’t pay any content licensing fee.
Those IPTV services evolved with the industry and upgraded to an OTT distribution model. The objective: reach more consumers with smartphones and Connected TV Apps.
Illegal content monetized on social media
YouTube, Dailymotion and Vimeo contain a lot of illegal copies of films and TV Series, and generate ad-revenues out of them.
Pirates also use social media (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or TikTok) and messaging platforms (Telegram, WhatsApp or Signal) to promote and distribute illegal content. They even invest in advertising campaigns to drive users to illegal services. Telegram lack of support team appears to be a big issue in the region, as it is complex to report illega
Some Social media platforms have dedicated teams to limit copyright infringements but rights holders and streaming services also have to spend time and resources on this issue for a maximum effect.
Where does content piracy really end?
Other forms of piracy are more controversial: is password sharing a new form of piracy? Can I subscribe to Netflix from India where it’s cheaper and use the service from another country?
We should see more regulations from the streamers in the coming months, starting with password sharing.
The impacts of OTT content piracy on the market
It’s difficult to define the exact cost of piracy for the Entertainment industry in the MENA region. Probably hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
A direct impact is the loss of revenue for the legal streaming services. Shahid, StarzPlay, OSN and the other platforms in the region would grow much faster without piracy, both in terms of subscribers and revenue. They also have to invest in anti-piracy measures with the help of external providers, and it doesn’t come cheap.
Piracy impacts all the Content chain: production houses, distributors, aggregators or agents. On one hand they will receive less royalties, and on the other hand they will have to spend more to protect their content.
The impact of OTT piracy is also on the end-users. They can watch premium content for free or at a cheaper price but there will always be a risk: child-inappropriate content, lack of proper censorship, viruses, malware, fraud and scams, etc.
The strategies to contain piracy
There are 5 main strategies to limit piracy:
Education: Explain where the content comes from, what’s the value of it and how to watch content legally
Protection: DRM, watermarking, geo-blocking, etc.
Monitoring & detection: Web crawling tools
Enforcement: De-indexation, automated take-down notices, etc.
Collaboration: Discussions and information sharing between content owners, broadcasters and Pay-TV services, authorities, ISPs, cloud vendors, payment vendors, social media sites, etc.
All those solutions should work together to maximize the impact. Analytics is also an important part of the strategy mix in order to understand the level of piracy and the efficiency of the actions.
There are several providers of anti-piracy services and technology that are active in MENA (Services as mentioned on their websites):
Synamedia: OTT ServiceGuard, Streaming Piracy Disruption, CSFEye – Credentials Sharing and Fraud Insight, Broadcast Security – VideoGuard, etc.
Nagra: Active Streaming Protection, Forensic watermarking, Threat assessment, Live streaming piracy, Key sharing piracy, etc.
Viaccess-Orca: DRM content solutions, CAS solutions, dynamic watermarking, Anti-piracy services, breach & credentials sharing detection, remediation actions, etc,
Irdeto: Anti-tamper, Conditional access system, Cyber services, Forensic watermarking, HbbTV op App, Multi-DRM, Online piracy detection
Verimatrix: Multi-DRM, VCAS solutions, Application shielding, Watermarking, Edge authenticator, Counterspy, App telemetry & Real-time shutdown, Analytics, Embedded DRM
Friend MTS: Global monitoring platform, Platform ID, Distribution ID, Broadcast ID, ASiD, Piracy IQ, Viper
Digisay: De-listing, Web enforcement, Tubes and social media, Live streaming disruption, IPTV STBs & Apps, Apps store protection, Illegal advertisements, Cyber security services, Forensic & investigation,
Geocomply: Core, Hub, RiskGuard, GeoGuard, IDComply, PinPoint
TMG: Broadcast Compliance, Live Monitoring, Internet Copyright Enforcement, Web Compliance
Athletia: Content Identification & Copyright Protection
Do you have another provider your would like to recommend? Leave a comment ↓
The local initiatives
The best local initiative is the growth of the (legal) OTT industry. There are today 30+ homegrown streaming services targeting MENA users: generalist platforms offering entertainment and sports content and niche players focused on a specific genre.
A major local initiative is the creation of the MENA Broadcast Satellite Anti Piracy Coalition (MENAAPC). Their mission:
“As major stakeholders in the Middle East Satellite TV industry, we share information and align strategies to prevent content pirates using broadcast platforms to steal intellectual property rights and damage our legitimate interests.”
Here is the total infringements by distributors (Gulfsat, Nilesat, Noorsat/Eutelsat MENA, OSAT, Viewsat and Mx1) from 2015 to 2022:
It would make sense to see the MENAAPC coalition focus more on online piracy in the coming years and include all the streamings services that are active in the region as members.
Do you know others initiative against piracy in the region ? Let us know ↓
How to stop OTT content piracy for good in the region?
The short answer is: you can’t. But you can try to contain it with the actions we listed above, and a strong support from authorities.
The best answer is: with the growth and consolidation of the legal OTT market. New local and international streaming services enter the region every year, offering more premium content than ever. one day, Pirates will have no excuse, they’ll have to consume content on legal platforms.
That’s all for today, 2 answers to the question “ can we fight OTT video piracy in Middle East?”
See you online next week. Until then, enjoy The Sandmam on
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