October 14 – The revelation last week that middle eastern broadcaster beIN Sport will now, as a result of piracy, be treating all its sports rights acquisitions as non-exclusive, and will be dropping prices accordingly, is a wake-up call to football’s rights owners.
Federations and leagues have been unable to effectively protect their product against the pirate channels. Broadcasters say that they haven’t had enough support from the rights owners to fight piracy with the result that the rights owners now looked to have failed to protect their income streams.
The financial fallout could be spectacular for football, especially when you look at the scale of the problem, even in markets where copyright rules are strict and consumers are used to paying for subscription channels.
A survey commissioned by price comparison website finder.com, found that 81% of people (42.4 million) in Britain streamed pay services in the past year. It shows the scale and rapid maturity of the streaming services.
What is more concerning is that 8.9 million (17% of the population) admitted to illegally streamed TV shows, films and sport over the past 12 months from pirate sites. What makes this figure even more concerning is that it represents the sixth most popular streaming activity in the UK.
While men and women uses streaming services equally, the survey found “men leaned more towards illegal viewing than women, with almost a quarter (25%) of males doing so, compared to only 17% of females. This is likely to be due to the fact that more males are streaming football (14% vs 7%) and other sports (12% vs 6%) illegally than women are.”
Almost one in 10 (9%) admitted to having illegally streamed at least one Premier League game over the past 12 months. This is equivalent to 4.5 million people over the season. In contrast, the most popular games broadcast on Sky last season were only viewed by around 2 million people.
“This means that of all those who illegally stream across the UK, a quarter (24%) view Premier League games. When you look at the numbers of people who illegally stream any type of sport, the number rises to 44% of illegal streamers (or 16% of all Brits),” say the report authors.
Looking at the survey geographically Londoners are far more likely than any other region to watch illegal platforms too, with almost a third (31%) of streamers in the capital saying they used these free services over the last 12 months.
Watching pirated streams also skews massively towards the 18-24 age-group who have no issues with watching content that has been stolen, or admitting to it. “Those aged 18–24 stream the most overall with 95% watching online. This age group is also far more likely to watch illegally, with more than a third (35%) of those who stream admitting to doing so,” found the survey.
“In contrast, those over 55 streamed the least, with only 69% watching online. Additionally, this age group is least likely to stream illegally, with only a 10th (11%) admitting to doing so.”
By failing to effectively protect their rights (in many cases not even bothering to try to), football’s owners have failed to protect their income streams. beIN Sport may have been the noisiest voice in the market when it came to complaining about the state-supported piracy by their Saudi neighbours beoutQ, but their issues cannot be passed off as a geo-political spat. Pirates are stealing football’s much-loved treasure worldwide.
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