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May 3, 2022

Piracy in Sports: Technology trends

Listed below are the key technology trends impacting the sports piracy theme, as identified by GlobalData.

The rise of streaming platforms and increased use of the internet has opened up different ways for sports fans to watch their favourite teams compete other than through traditional cable. Many now watch matches online, and younger viewers often skew towards a multi-screen setup to follow multiple games at the same time.

Streaming/OTT platforms

A possible solution to combat illegal viewing is to introduce more streaming platforms. Over-the-top (OTT) content has become increasingly popular in recent years, with many younger people gravitating towards these services due to the ease of access and diverse range of offerings on these platforms.

Having a universal streaming platform would allow fans from all over the world to be able to closely follow their favourite league, and not be hamstrung by country restrictions or a lack of affordability. However, this would also greatly impact the incredibly lucrative media rights market and broadcasters whose entire economy is based around the acquisition of sports rights.

Increase in quality

The last decade has seen a significant increase in sports piracy, due to the advances in technology for streaming. In the early 2000s, watching sports illegally was often a frustrating pursuit due to the often-poor quality and significant number of advertisements. While the latter has not gone away, picture quality and internet speeds have increased, allowing viewers to access high-quality streams that are almost as good as those who pay for broadcasts.

Security Vs piracy

Illegal streaming is difficult to prevent due to how easy it is to find a hole in the security systems. Essentially, all it takes is one ineffective content protection mechanism within a cable company’s distribution network or an online platform to make a game accessible to pirates. While many of these companies will have the technological infrastructure to handle this, some are likely to have gaps that can be readily exploited.

Piracy and non-fungible tokens (NFTs)

The explosion of crypto in the past year has been partially facilitated by several athletes launching their own tokens. Often worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, NFTs are tokens that can supposedly prove sole ownership of a digital item.

However, NFT piracy is rife and was aided by the creation of a website that claimed to allow users to download ‘every NFT’ on the Ethereum blockchain in one go. NFTs have been heavily criticised by many for their pointlessness, given that other people can copy and access other people’s NFTs.

This is an edited extract from the Piracy in Sport – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.