Klipcorp Helps Sports Rights Holders Gain Legit Viewers with SportsBox
, which focuses on online/digital intellectual property protection for rights holders, has launched SportsBox, a service that finds illegal sports rebroadcasts on social media and shares redirect links to legal content based on viewer location and official local licensee.
The new service builds off of Klipcorp’s strong history in protecting sports rights. As managing director Peter Lewinton told me recently, the company advocates a multi-pronged approach to that protection.
The first thing to understand is the scale of this problem. A BBC article
from July notes that "a third of all Premier League Football Fans watch illegal streams."
Lewinton goes further: He estimates that pirate audiences are typically about as large as the legal audiences for any given sports event.
Real data is hard to come by, since playing cat-and-mouse with the pirates makes it difficult to get a firm hold of their activities in detail. But by sampling thousands of pirate feeds, Lewinton has ascertained that there are three core segments within the piracy community:
- Hard Core—These pirates know what they are doing and are somehow pre-disposed to choosing pirate content regardless of law or inconvenience. Lewinton estimates they represent about 20% of the pirate audience.
- Financially Challenged—These viewers would pay if they could find the content more affordably, but since they can’t they will take the content for free regardless of the legality of doing so. Estimated at 40% of the pirate audience.
- Confused but Capable—These viewers are technically savvy enough to be able to find content online, but find it hard to distinguish between legal sources and illegal sources, and frankly "just watch" the streams assuming someone else will either have paid the rights, or be the target of any anti-piracy investigation. Estimated at 40% of the pirate audience.
Rights holders typically confine their rights to the traditional models of territories, but Lewinton says if there is a single territory where they do not license their content, a pirate will capitalize on that. While that may make no difference to the expected revenue of the rights holder when looking at a "blacklisted" country (from which they had not expected to take revenue anyway), the pirate streams which inevitably emerge to service the blacklisted country’s audiences are rarely geo-blocked at all, and so these pirate streams rapidly spread on social media into the "whitelisted" countries, where the effects on the rights holders or licensees’ expected revenue can be substantial.
So what can be done?
While Klipcorp will work on behalf of clients to help local law authorities to enforce take down of hard-core piracy platforms, such processes can be costly, lengthy, and rarely effective if a small-time pirate pops up for a few football matches and then disappears again. Takedown works to some extent for larger, more established pirates, but it is very difficult (and expensive) to reverse engineer the entire distribution chain and catch the core perpetrators. Consider this the approach to the "hard core" segment.
Dealing with the "financially challenged" segment ultimately comes down to a pricing challenge for the broadcasters themselves. One of the issues Lewinton cites is that many legal OTT models attempt to have a global price for their services, but that approach doesn’t take into account domestic incomes in different countries. So while $5 per month or per game may seem cheap to one community, it may be relatively much more expensive in another territory. For his reason, Lewinton is an advocate of regionalized OTT pricing and argues that this is a model which needs to propagate more widely.
The SportsBox service augments the other more practical technical challenges, and focuses on the "confused but capable" segment. By offering the "confused but capable" viewer the opportunity to watch the link legally and often with some higher guarantee of quality of experience than the pirate offers, the model provides rights holders and broadcasters with a weapon to win back their audience from the pirates.
But do people really opt-in and click on these links?
"Yes, absolutely," says Lewinton. "About 10% of those who see the redirection opportunity at any one time do click through, and we believe that that underlines the argument that given the opportunity to watch legal content, the audience will do so, and in turn that highlights that part of the issue is discoverability of legal, affordable ways to access content. A longer-term view is that 40% of the pirate audience are convertible, and given the size of the pirate audience, that is material."
SpotsBox is at the stage where it is refining the messaging that it delivers with the redirection link, and Lewinton notes that wording and style can have a significant effect.
"Sometimes it is effective to include the SportsBox logo, and appear 'official'—it appeals to some parts of the audience fear of doing something wrong and prompts a switch," he says. "At other times we find that a social media presence which is seemingly a ‘personal’ recommendation to redirect engages better. We are very much at the learning stage of that aspect,"
Klipcorp can and does of course work closely with social media networks to remove pirate material and ensure that services such as YouTube Live and Facebook live are made aware of rights infringements by their own users fairly quickly.
But Klipcorp is also mindful that this is a war with many fronts, and no single solution will rescue the traditional rights models of yesteryear where access to networks was easy to control, and thus defining territories for rights monetization went hand in hand with that control.
"Broadcasters and rights holders are still clinging onto an idea that scarcity of content breeds value. Until they properly embrace the internet and define new models—such as microbilling, snacking, more affordable subscriptions and better discovery than are currently available—the culture and mindset is to continue to try to control distribution, and almost hope the pirates go away. We think that until that culture changes a strong practical option is to isolate those in the casual piracy community and convert them into legal users."
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