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Stand united: Irdeto leading fight against rampant growth of content piracy in Asia-Pacific

By Shaun Lim

While the phenomenon of viewer fatigue is becoming more pronounced due to the sheer number of options available to consumers today, it is also revealing that viewers will continue to gravitate towards quality content.

This, while providing content creators ample opportunities to introduce compelling content on multiple platforms, is also encouraging an unsavoury development – one that is threatening to drain the lifeblood of both content creators and platforms.

Andrew Bunten, Chief Operating Officer for Video Entertainment, Irdeto, told APB+, “Over the years, we’ve witnessed the market evolve dramatically, becoming more competitive with the rapid evolution of technologies and shifts in consumer behavior.

“As piracy methods become increasingly sophisticated, the need for robust security solutions has never been more pressing.”

When it comes to content piracy and protection, Bunten and his team at Irdeto would know a thing or two. Already a global leader in digital platform cybersecurity, Irdeto was earlier this year named by Omdia as the market leader for managed security solutions.

Calling this a “significant achievement” that reinforces Irdeto’s commitment to advancing content protection technologies, Bunten said, “This recognition reflects our dedication to innovation, offering comprehensive solutions that effectively address evolving security threats.

“With a proven track record and a client-centric approach, we pride ourselves on delivering tailored solutions that meet the specific needs of the video entertainment industry. This acknowledgment further motivates us to continue pushing the boundaries of innovation, ensuring that we remain at the forefront of content protection and cybersecurity.”

In an era where direct-to-consumer streaming is reshaping the TV industry’s landscape, and content consumption patterns continue to evolve, the challenges facing the video entertainment industry in terms of content protection are multifaceted and pressing, according to Bunten.

He explained, “Firstly, maintaining robust security measures to safeguard against piracy is paramount, as the proliferation of sophisticated techniques poses a significant threat. The evolution of piracy from a sporadic act to a profitable enterprise demands constant vigilance and proactive mitigation strategies. 

“Moreover, monetising content and implementing rights management frameworks while adhering to studio and geographical regulations are crucial for sustainable business operations. However, amidst these efforts, ensuring an uninterrupted premium user experience remains paramount.”

Perhaps, it does not help matters when some viewers, for whatever reasons, continue to be receptive to assessing pirated content. With the laws of demand and supply in play, content pirates are increasingly turning to more sophisticated methods to navigate existing safeguard mechanisms.

Bunten described, “The emergence of new pirate attack methods, such as content delivery network (CDN) leeching further complicates matters, as it not only facilitates the theft and redistribution of content but also undermines the user experience of legitimate consumers by exploiting the infrastructure of legal services.

“Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive approach that integrates advanced security technologies, stringent regulatory compliance measures, and innovative strategies to combat piracy while prioritising user satisfaction and content integrity.”

Asia: The hotbed of content piracy?

Even when traditional pay-TV was still ruling the roost and the likes of Netflix and Disney+ were but a figment of our imaginations, content piracy has been a festering problem in the Asia-Pacific region.

Unfortunately, it would appear that the problem has continued to persist, if not exacerbated. According to a Bango study released in October 2023, almost half (44%) of Asian consumers admitted to accessing content via illegal piracy sites, with a cost-of-living crunch attributed as the main contributory factor.

Besides cost, factors such as high broadband penetration and widespread access to digital services have also fuelled the rampant growth of content piracy across Asia, said Irdeto’s Bunten.

He elaborated, “These conditions, combined with the region’s diverse markets and rapid technological advancements, create an environment conducive to piracy activities.

Additionally, cultural, and economic considerations contribute to the prevalence of piracy, with some consumers opting for pirated content as a cost-effective alternative to legitimate sources.”

While it will realistically take many more years to eradicate content piracy to an acceptable level in Asia, key stakeholders like Irdeto are not resting on their laurels. 

Actively engaged in supporting some of the biggest operators in the region in the fight against content piracy, Irdeto employs a multi-faceted strategy to address the pervasive issue of piracy in the region, offering a comprehensive suite of advanced content protection, anti-piracy solutions and managed services tailored for the diverse Asian markets. 

At the core of Irdeto’s offerings lies its robust conditional access systems, efficiently protecting content while reducing operational costs for providers, enabling pay-TV operators to safeguard their main business. “Protecting the growing amount of content being consumed online is critical; our multi-DRM (digital rights management) technologies ensure flexible and secure rights management across diverse devices and platforms, safeguarding content throughout its journey to consumers and creating advanced monetisation opportunities,” said Bunten.

Irdeto also utilises cutting-edge forensic watermarking technologies, along with online piracy detection services, for proactive monitoring and swift response to illicit distribution channels. Their payment disruption mechanisms disincentivise piracy operations, supported by expertise in investigations, content takedowns and advanced threat intelligence.

With a holistic cybersecurity approach covering content, platforms, devices, and consumers, Irdeto is vigorously combating piracy’s advanced techniques, including credential theft, content key decryption, session token theft, CDN leeching, and geo-blocking circumvention. 

But, perhaps, more critical is that the ongoing battle against content piracy requires a collaborative and unified approach from all stakeholders, an initiative Irdeto is trying to spearhead.

“Irdeto collaborates closely with content creators, broadcasters, and regulatory authorities in Asia to raise awareness about piracy’s detrimental effects and develop mitigation strategies.

“This collaborative approach involves sharing insights, best practices, and expertise to strengthen the overall anti-piracy ecosystem in the region. By empowering broadcasters and over-the-top (OTT) platforms, we fortify the digital content ecosystem and preserve value for content providers across Asia,” Bunten said.

A unified approach to content protection for traditional broadcasters

While the likes of Netflix and Disney+ are continuing to lead the way when it comes to capturing eyeballs, more and more traditional broadcasters who want to  thrive in today’s dynamic media landscape, need to offer content on both linear and non-linear platforms. 

For these broadcasters, a unified approach that converges strategies to maximise effectiveness represents the way forward, Bunten recommended. “Piracy’s constant evolution underscores the importance of staying ahead and having systems in place to empower operators to remain vigilant.”

He added, “A flexible platform that can promptly adjust to changes while balancing security with optimisation to reduce costs is crucial. Operators should also focus on aggregating content and apps securely, ensuring quick onboarding of premium apps, and providing the best user experience across devices, managed and unmanaged.”

At Irdeto, there is a focus on empowering six vital areas of customers’ video distribution platforms:

  • Content aggregation: Implementing super aggregation capabilities that consolidate content from various sources, premium and local apps into a unified platform, enabling an extensive content library for subscribers. 
  • Operational efficiency: Streamlining operational processes using optimisation tools and services, to manage resources and workflows efficiently, reducing overhead costs and enhancing productivity. 
  • Monetisation strategies: Exploring dynamic monetisation solutions, including innovative pricing models, targeted advertising, and premium content offerings tailored to subscriber preferences, maximising revenue streams. 
  • Enhanced user experience: Prioritising user experience by offering intuitive interfaces, personalised recommendations, and content delivery across devices, driving engagement and loyalty while reducing churn rates. 
  • Data-driven insights: Leveraging data and analytics capabilities to gain insights into subscriber behaviour, content consumption patterns, and market trends, enabling informed decisions and optimised content offerings. 
  • Security measures: Implementing comprehensive security solutions to safeguard content, platforms, and subscriber data against piracy, cyber threats, and unauthorised access, maintaining the integrity of the content ecosystem and enabling business growth.

Particularly, Bunten highlighted the importance of capitalising on data and analytics obtained from all devices to make informed decision-making and optimising content offerings. While the war against content piracy is likely to be prolonged and fraught with challenges, such useful advice is likely to stand broadcasters in good stead, and prepare them for the future ahead.

“By adopting a unified approach encompassing these strategies, broadcasters can effectively navigate the complexities of the multi-platform landscape and preserve the value of their content across linear and non-linear platforms,” Bunten concluded.

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