As the football world gears up for the showdown between Liverpool and Real Madrid in this weekend’s UEFA Champions League Final, data from digital platform security specialist Irdeto reveals that a total of 5,100 unique illegal streams were detected redistributing games over the Internet during this year’s Champions League knockout stages. Of this total, 2,093 streams were detected across social media channels including Periscope, Facebook and Twitch and are estimated to have reached 4,893,902 viewers.
These viewing figures, combined with the number of UEFA Champions League streams detected across a variety of channels, suggests that more needs to be done to stop the illegal distribution of high profile live European football matches. Web-based streams continue to be the main vehicle for illegal distribution of these matches with 2,121 web-based streams detected (of the total 5,100 streams). However, this was closely followed by social media, where potential advertising revenue drives criminals to illegally stream premium sports.
While the availability of these streams may seem attractive to consumers, or even fool them into believing they’re legitimate, these illegal streams are often lower in quality and put consumers at risk of missing crucial moments from the European games as they are taken down or drop-out.
Pirates also took advantage of illicit streaming plugins for Kodi, the popular media player, with 886 streams identified on this platform. The data from Irdeto demonstrates the importance to content owners and rights holders of tracking piracy, to ensure that with a combination of state-of-the-art technology and proactive services, streams can be removed and action taken against the pirates illegally sharing this high-value content.
“Criminals have targeted premium sports content such as the European Champions League and are earning a fortune from stealing the rights,” noted Rory O’Connor, Senior Vice President of Cybersecurity Services, Irdeto. “This makes it crucial for content owners, rights holders and platform owners to work together and enlist technology and proactive services to take down streams in real-time. The criminals who profit from these illegal streams have little regard for their viewers and are exposing them to cybercrime, inappropriate content and malware infection. Also, viewers of illegal content can face criminal penalties if they decide to share content with friends on social media.”
As with any illegal enterprise, criminals look at consumer demand as a gauge for where to offer their illegal products. They also create professional-looking websites and services designed to fool consumers into thinking they are viewing legitimate content. In the case of the Champions League, the team most targeted by illegal streamers was Roma, with 1,476 streams detected for their matches. This was followed by Real Madrid (1,354 streams), Liverpool (1,252 streams) and Bayern Munich (977 streams). The second leg semi-final Roma vs. Liverpool was the most-streamed match, with 405 illegal streams, representing a potential loss of revenue to clubs and the competition.
In tandem with this, the viewership of illegal streams on social media followed a similar pattern. However, Real Madrid were the most viewed team with 2,856,011 viewers of illegal social media streams of their games throughout the knock-out competition. The most illegally viewed match through social media streams was the Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich Semi-Final second leg which received an estimated 709,393 viewers. Based on the average pay-TV subscription prices in Europe this could represent a loss of more than €14 million per month or €170 million on an annual basis.