The Future Of Live Online Sports & Piracy

The Future Of Live Online Sports & Piracy
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In this guest post, Matthew Lynn (main photo), regional sales director at Akamai Technologies, argues that as more Aussies watch sport via streaming services their risk of cyber crime is on the increase too…

Streaming services of all types are becoming the most popular way consumers choose to consume their content, with PwC’s latest Australian Entertainment & Media Outlook Report finding streaming platforms continue to grow their user bases. A key growth strategy for streaming players is content diversity, with live sports being viewed as the key drawcard for A/NZ subscribers as physical events were inaccessible over the course of the pandemic.

Streaming providers have forked out millions to secure exclusive licensing rights to major sporting events, with many launching sports-focused platforms to cater to this market. To understand the value of live sports to media companies, we can look to Disney’s US$71bn (AU$98b) acquisition of Fox’s entertainment business. Even such an eye-watering valuation could not pry away Fox’s sports and news assets.

With sports streaming on an upward tear, streaming providers are increasingly faced with challenges in delivering a secure and seamless digital experience. Major live events have proven to be a lucrative target for pirates looking to exploit vulnerabilities, causing threats to consumer data and revenue security. It is imperative that over-the-top (OTT) providers consider anti-piracy and cybersecurity measures to defend against these attacks, including moving to a ‘Zero Trust’ model or edge solution.

The future of live sports streaming

Sports were hit hard in the early days of the pandemic but quickly bounced back to even greater audiences, highlighting a significant shift in consumer behaviour, media consumption and purchase patterns. Through these times, broadcasters had to fill the live sports void by turning to digital-first channels, extending the fan experience and offering content that keeps eager fans engaged.

With growing financial pressures, the sports industry has been rapidly embracing technology and new viewing behaviours to push the boundaries of what sport viewing used to be. The increased demand for personalisation and interactivity has allowed innovation to flourish, with fans immersing in multi-screen viewing experiences and access to exclusive content to compliment live games. With a post-COVID world on the horizon, these growth opportunities will accelerate the user experience and ultimately drive revenue into the future.

Security considerations for OTT providers

As streaming and connected technologies surge, so do cybersecurity concerns. Nearly 30 per cent of Australians experienced some form of cybercrime in 2020, with digitalisation enabling great advances to piracy in particular. Given the nature of the internet, fragmentation of devices and increasing volume and expectations of online viewers, cybercriminals are modifying their attacks, making it increasingly difficult for OTT providers to control.

As more and more people are streaming on mobile devices, it’s important that streaming services have a robust edge platform that can recognise legitimate traffic from an attack and deliver content to users where they are, regardless of where the company’s infrastructure is located.

With OTT providers spending millions to secure streaming rights, the losses incurred due to piracy of content is of paramount importance. Anti-piracy and content protection strategies have proven to be a positive revenue driver rather than a cost to the business. These measures not only assess and protect against the risks posed by credentials based attacks but allow rights-holders to stay one step ahead.

Anti-piracy measures and handling spikes in traffic

Unexpected surges in internet traffic that disrupt content delivery can threaten viewer’s experience, particularly around hot streaming periods. Providing security teams of media organisations with smarter, more accurate and effective protections through automation and machine learning, ahead of high influxes of traffic is a key consideration.

Many pirates are technically proficient and can adapt their attack patterns to find and exploit weak links within streaming platforms. A Zero Trust approach is designed to provide effective protection against known piracy vectors but also include the ability to adapt to new threats. This strategy assumes the customer’s systems had been compromised, enabling playback only once a viewer had been validated.

For streaming providers, combating piracy can be financially and technically daunting. However, cybersecurity measures have become indispensable to modern OTT platforms. With live sporting events proving to be a strong target for piracy and data breaches, adopting a ‘Zero Trust’ approach or edge solution should not be overlooked.

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