Research: Forensic watermarking could halve video piracy losses

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Findings from research carried out by CDN technology specialist Edgeware and international data and analytics group YouGov indicate that billons lost to online piracy could be halved by putting in place anti-piracy measures.

Edgeware’s study – TV piracy research – watermarking could save billions of dollars a year – found that 50 per cent of viewers who said they would watch pirated content, would be dissuaded from doing so if they knew a programme they were watching could be tracked back to its source using forensic watermarking.

The YouGov and Edgeware online research looked into the extent of illegal online television consumption and the impact of anti-piracy measures. The research surveyed more than 4,000 people globally and found that 39 per cent of viewers are likely to watch pirated content on-demand by downloading or streaming illegally shared versions of popular film and TV. At the same time more than one fifth (21 per cent) said they would watch live events – like live sports – from unsolicited online sources.

Key findings from the report:

  • 29 per cent of viewers watch pirated content at least once per month
  • 39 per cent of viewers are likely to watch pirated TV or films online, and 21 per cent likely to watch pirated sports content
  • 50 per cent of viewers would be unlikely to watch pirated content if they knew it was watermarked
  • The most cited reasons for viewers watching pirated content is its ease of availability (32 per cent), followed by cost (24 per cent).
  • Viewers in Hong Kong are significantly more likely to watch pirated content than those in the US or UK.

Broadcasters and content owners lose billions to online piracy each year with illegal content more readily accessible on live streaming services, which has a huge, detrimental effect on the global TV and film production industry.

Piracy resulting from the downloading of TV and films alone is set to cost the industry $52 billion (€42.36bn)per year by 2022, with the US suffering the greatest loss at $11.6 billion. These figures do not include losses from the live sports market in which rights are worth $43 billion a year. If the 21 per cent of adults who were likely to watch pirated sports events did so, the loss of revenue from live sports events – as outlined in the research – could equate to content owners losing upwards of $9 billion per year.

“The Illegal distribution of programming is a huge problem for content distributors and owners with piracy costing them billions in lost revenue,” said Richard Brandon from Edgeware. “This research has shown that digitally watermarking content as it’s streamed will have a significant benefit. Those watching pirating content could drop by half and then forensic watermarking will also make it faster and easier to identify those illegally distributing content.”

Edgeware’s forensic watermarking solution allows for implementation of a bit-stream based watermark. It allows content owners and distributors to embed a unique visual code which can be tracked to each individual user.


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