Understanding Digital Piracy in OTT and IPTV Channels

Broadcasters and right holders are taking notice of the threats posed by piracy on OTT and IPTV channels. Today’s world is seeing the consumption of video in formats that are far removed from the plain old broadcast television that arrived back in the 1930’s and was the prevalent format for visual content into the 1990s in many parts of the world. As in many areas, however, the internet is disrupting the established paradigms. People now want to view what they want, when they want, anywhere, any time, on any device. Over the Top (OTT) and IPTV distribution channels allow them to enjoy this flexibility.

Unfortunately, this opens up a whole new world for pirates to distribute unlicensed content. Pirate channels mirror the distribution of broadcasters’ content on high-end infrastructure. Picture quality and feeds can be exceptional. Pirates profit by aiming their wares at people willing to pay for content, but they are not paying the rights holders.

We see the problem growing by the day. Consider the size of the OTT world: there are now 81.5 Million Netflix subscribers, 20 million Roku Boxes and an overall expected OTT video revenue exceeding $60 billion by 2023.

Piracy characteristics

We’ve seen a move away from download to streaming piracy. Many people are uncomfortable downloading from Peer to Peer and Torrent networks due to the risk of malware infection. They favor accessing illegal online streams.

OTT piracy is the delivery of an unauthorized content to a set top box connected to the television, or to a mobile or tablet via an app. Pirated streams are often of very good quality and directly compete with legal content.

Some notable recent examples of OTT piracy include:

Roku Boxes

The popular Roku box comes pre-loaded with popular and legitimate apps and gives access to stores with more content. However, pirates are monetizing on popularity of the device by distributing unauthorized content via private channels.


As my colleague Olesia Klevchuk has written, Kodi is changing the piracy landscape. Pirates have flooded marketplaces with ‘fully-loaded’ Kodi boxes promising access to premium content. Consumers often buy into this promise without knowing that content they are getting is unauthorized and pirated, exposing themselves to security threats and costing rights holders millions of dollars.

Best Practices for addressing OTT piracy:

  1. Investigate: Begin by understanding the scale of the problem faced by your company and how OTT piracy is affecting you. Investigate all the parties involved: websites and retailers distributing devices or applications, market places, type of content, streaming servers, content hosting providers, ISPs and others. Use the data collected to design strategies against OTT piracy and prevent further erosion of revenue.
  2. Enforce: Halt the availability of pre-programmed hardware and applications used to access illegal OTT services. Take action to disrupt the infrastructure used by OTT piracy services affecting your revenues by removing illegal content and disrupting access to devices and applications capable of illegal streaming
  3. Use technology: The most effective way to address OTT piracy and disrupt distribution of illegal streams is through the use of technology for speed and accuracy.

For more on this topic please view my recent webinar where I discuss the solutions and best practices in fighting OTT piracy