A quarter of Internet users watch direct TV streams from illegal sources. A hardcore of 5% even has a subscription to pirate bouquets. Rights holders are struggling to organize the response.
A year and a half ago, IPTV hacking and unlawful live streaming were still an emerging trend in France. From now on, it’s a mass phenomenon. Hadopi has just finalized a study on the subject that shows the extent of the damage. Thus, a quarter of French Internet users today use, more or less regularly, an illegal way to watch live TV. Many of them have adopted this usage in 2018 as part of the World Cup and the Champions League. Paid sports content is indeed one of the main attractions of this type of offer, especially since the French market fragmented with the arrival of RMC Sport last year.
The most popular use is live streaming, which attracts 17% of Internet users to dedicated services and 14% to social networks, usually occasionally for major sporting events. About 5% of Internet users regularly hack TV programs, using a dedicated box or an application installed on a connected computer or TV. Like the followers of live streaming, this hardcore is made up to almost two-thirds of men. The difference is that they are a little younger and have more buying power. This is quite logical because IPTV hacking offers are mostly paying.
If these illicit offers are on the rise, it is also because they are rather well made. The “suppliers” have adopted a very professional presentation, with payment by credit card and online technical support. Despite some bugs, quality is at the rendezvous. The image is often broadcast in HD and the graphics interfaces are fluid, especially for IPTV offers. “Since hackers do not use DRM, the change of channels is faster than legal offers,” said Didier Wang, a Hadopi engineer, during a press conference.
As a result, the pirates are seriously starting to walk on the rights-holders’ beds. Thus, 54% of IPTV users and 45% of live streamers have already unsubscribed from a legal offer because the illicit offer was enough for them. A phenomenon of cannibalization that penalizes not only publishers and producers but also the state that does not recover the taxes that should come back (VAT, social revenues, tax revenues). “Not to mention the shortfall relating to the Buffet tax that contributes to the funding of amateur sports clubs,” adds a spokeswoman for BeIn Sport.
Unable to detect
Unfortunately, the response is not so simple. Unlike peer-to-peer hacking, it is impossible to identify users of illicit TV programs. “The technical means that would allow it are too intrusive,” said Pauline Blassel, Secretary General of Hadopi. The only lever that can be used by law enforcement is the detection and dismantling of mafia groups operating these technical infrastructures, as regularly happens under the leadership of Europol. On this occasion, the investigators can get their hands on a file of subscribers, but the lawsuits for these last ones are rare.
Another solution is the blocking by the operators of the sites of a live stream and the shops of online sale. But this requires a court decision, which can take time. The big players of the Internet could also play an important role because it is through their platforms that this “business” is set up. Many IPTV boxes are marketed on AliExpress.com, although it can also be found in some stores in France. Subscription offers are sold directly with the device, or else separately on the Internet, for example through eBay.