NAGRA’s Tholen on Streaming Piracy: ‘Know Thy Enemy’


Pay TV operators pay a pretty penny to license the broadcast rights for big sporting events. And along with that comes the inevitability of some people stealing that live broadcast.

For Harrie Tholen, VP of sales for NAGRA anti-piracy and NexGuard, confronting illegal streams of live events means knowing who your enemy is, and how they’re pirating your content.

“If it’s a one-time event, you’ll see a lot of [illegal streaming] on social,” he said July 24 during a presentation at the Content Protection Summit East event, part of the Media & Entertainment (M&E) Day at the Microsoft Conference Center in New York. “If it’s a regular event, you’ll see much more [use] of something like IPTV.”

Content owners and operators can act by using a combination of anti-piracy monitoring and real-time watermark detection, disrupting the pirate activity at the source. But knowing what those sources are is the first step, Tholen said.

For sporting events that are happening regularly, IPTV, paid-for piracy is on the rise, with the service acting as an operator for end consumers, and charging a one-off or monthly fee. The quality of the content in this form of streaming piracy tends to be pretty good, Tholen said, but he noted that if consumers are willing to pay an illegal service, they can also be targeted to pay for the legitimate streaming broadcast.

More concerning for operators are the illegal streams that appear on web sites and social media during one-off events, like the Super Bowl. Viewers of those streams tend to not care about the quality of the video, are looking for free or nothing, and are difficult to turn into paying subscribers, Tholen said.

Tholen offered the following advice for sports rights holders: tackle piracy by building a toolbox with automatic monitoring and real-time watermark detection to disrupt illegal streaming, and by identifying a single point of failure for pirate boxes. He said it’s paramount that streaming providers disrupt the relationship between pirates and ISPs, domain name providers, and payment processors, and to take legal action against suppliers and resellers.

“It all begins with monitoring, and you need to monitor very actively,” Tholen said. “Identify the source, and shut it down.”

The 2018 M&E Day also included Smart Content Summit East and Entertainment Production in the Cloud (EPIC) conference tracks, providing M&E technology teams valuable insights into the creation, production, distribution, security and analysis of content.

The event was presented by Microsoft, with sponsorship from IBM Watson Media, Amazon Web Services, IBM, LiveTiles, Microsoft Azure, NAGRA, NeuLion, Ooyala, EIDR, GrayMeta, MarkLogic, Qumulo, Avid, Cloudian, SoftServe and TiVo. The event was produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA), the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA), the Hollywood IT Society (HITS) and the Smart Content Council.

Click here for audio of Tholen’s presentation or here for the presentation slide deck.