For millions around the world, this ‘problem’ can be easily circumvented. Pirate IPTV operations, which supply thousands of otherwise subscription channels via the Internet, are on the increase. They’re accessible for just a few dollars, euros, or pounds per month, slashing bills versus official providers on a grand scale.
This week, however, police forces around Europe coordinated to target what they claim is one of the world’s largest illicit IPTV operations. The investigation was launched last February by Europol and on Tuesday coordinated actions were carried out in Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece, and the Netherlands.
Three suspects were arrested in Cyprus – two in Limassol (aged 43 and 44) and one in Larnaca (aged 53). All are alleged to be part of an international operation to illegally broadcast around 1,200 channels of pirated content worldwide. Some of the channels offered were illegally sourced from Sky UK, Bein Sports, Sky Italia, and Sky DE
If initial reports are to be believed, the reach of the IPTV service was huge. Figures usually need to be taken with a pinch of salt but information suggests the service had more than 500,000 subscribers, each paying around 10 euros per month. (Note: how that relates to the alleged five million euros per year in revenue is yet to be made clear)
Police action was spread across the continent, with at least nine separate raids, including in the Netherlands where servers were uncovered. However, it was determined that these were in place to hide the true location of the operation’s main servers. Similar ‘front’ servers were also deployed in other regions.
The main servers behind the IPTV operation were located in Petrich, a small town in Blagoevgrad Province, southwestern Bulgaria. No details have been provided by the authorities but TF is informed that the website of a local ISP, Megabyte-Internet, from where pirate IPTV has been broadcast for at least the past several months, disappeared on Tuesday. It remains offline this morning.
The company did not respond to our request for comment and there’s no suggestion that it’s directly involved in any illegal activity. However, its Autonomous System (AS) number reveals linked IPTV services, none of which appear to be operational today. The ISP is also listed on sites where ‘pirate’ IPTV channel playlists are compiled by users.
According to sources in Cyprus, police requested permission from the Larnaca District Court to detain the arrested individuals for eight days. However, local news outlet Philenews said that any decision would be postponed until this morning, since one of the three suspects, an English Cypriot, required an interpreter which caused a delay.
In addition to prosecutors and defense lawyers, two Dutch investigators from Europol were present in court yesterday. The hearing lasted for six hours and was said to be so intensive that the court stenographer had to be replaced due to overwork.