Moving beyond the IP address as a means of identifying a viewer or their location is now possible. In addition to tackling content piracy, end-to-end visibility provides broadcasters with a comprehensive insight into viewer behaviour, writes Nick Fitzgerald, Chairman of TV2U as a guest columnist for BroacastPro ME.
Broadcasters have been fighting an ongoing battle with content piracy, with mixed success. The MENA Broadcast Satellite Anti-Piracy Coalition celebrated a bumper summer this year, shutting down 30 pirate TV channels in the region and ordering 26 more to stop violating copyrights. However, a recent report estimates that illegal content distribution in the MENA region is costing the industry more than $750 million annually.
One particular technology has, for many years, been the illegal streamer’s weapon of choice. The VPN has allowed users to circumvent a content provider’s content restrictions and access film or TV shows they would ordinarily have to pay for, or which wouldn’t normally be available due to their location.
Broadcasters have fought back in response, adopting various fraud prevention strategies. For instance, many online streaming services now have a blacklist of suspect IP addresses. They monitor those accessing their services and automatically cut a viewer’s connection if it appears on this list.
Other OTT providers have harnessed geo-blocking tools to overcome the VPN challenge, but just as there will be IP addresses which are not flagged on a blacklist, there will also be many who are able to overcome the geo-blocking restrictions.
Netflix – and likely, many others – took a different approach, and in the past actually allowed users to access its content via a VPN. The now giant OTT player was able to gather a wealth of consumer data, which subsequently helped it to shape its marketing and growth strategy.
Despite some progress being made, a recent report on the viewing habits of consumers from across 30 countries revealed that over half of adults still watch pirated content. So what should broadcasters be doing to ensure that their content is not accessed illegally, and that their revenues are not affected as a result?
Moving beyond the IP address as a means of identifying a viewer or their location is now possible. Streaming platform providers are now able to offer end-to-end content delivery, allowing full visibility of and control over an individual user’s access. This unicast technology places a token on a viewer’s device, which allows the broadcaster to track and identify individuals, pinpointing their location. Data can then be gathered on who’s watching what content, the user’s identity can be authenticated, and a firewall pinhole can be deployed to filter out illegitimate traffic. The broadcaster is alerted to any security breaches, meaning the content being streamed to that individual can be cut quickly without affecting the experience for other users.
The device-agnostic technology can be implemented across STBs, connected TVs, smartphones, tablets – or whichever future device viewers may use to consume content. In addition to tackling content piracy, this end-to-end visibility provides broadcasters with a comprehensive insight into viewer behaviour and preferences, allowing greater service personalisation.
Consumers want digital services tailored to their lifestyle. Content streaming services are no exception, with accurate personalisation the make-or-break for many service providers. Gathering historic, realtime data via unicast technology allows broadcasters to gain granular insight into individual behaviours, develop targeted services and drive new monetisation opportunities.
For instance, as the technology allows full control over an individual viewer connection, tailored ads can be injected into a stream, boosting brands’ ad spend with a broadcaster and potentially increasing viewer affinity with and loyalty to a broadcaster.
Content piracy may never be completely eradicated. Yet the technology is now available to allow broadcasters to keep pace with illegal activity, enhance security and ultimately, deliver a more personal, engaging viewing experience.