The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) was formed by 30 major players including Disney, HBO, and NBCUniversal. Several of the same media giants are also involved in the Coalition Against Piracy (CAP).
CAP coordinates anti-piracy efforts in Asia and is backed by CASBAA, Disney, Fox, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, Astro, BBC Worldwide, National Basketball Association, TV5MONDE, Viacom International, and others.
From the outset, CAP has had the stated aim of tackling the pirate set-top box market. CAP General Manager Neil described their prevalence as “staggering” and a new report published this morning appears to back that up.
The newly released survey, commissioned by CAP and carried out by YouGov, reveals that one in four Hong Kong consumers own a set-top box that can be used to stream pirated TV and movies content.
“TV boxes BossTV (9%), Ubox (7%), EVPad (6%), Lingcod (5%), and Magic Box (4%), which come pre-loaded with applications allowing ‘plug-and-play’ access to pirated content, are among the most popular ISDs amongst Hong Kong consumers,” the study reveals.
It’s claimed that these devices, which often contain piracy-enabled Kodi setups, dedicated Android apps, and players configured to receive pirate IPTV services, are taking chunks out legitimate content distributors’ userbases. The survey offers some evidence to that end and the numbers are significant.
Of the quarter of all consumers who own a piracy-enabled set-top box, almost half (49%) told the survey that they had canceled all or some of their subscriptions to legal pay-TV services as a result.
Slightly more than one in four (26%) claimed to have canceled their subscription to a local premium provider as a direct consequence of owning a pirate box, with 21% saying the same for their international subscriptions. Almost a fifth (19%) claimed to have canceled a part of their traditional cable TV bundle after acquiring a device,
In common with other players in the anti-piracy space, the Coalition Against Piracy has a two-pronged strategy when it comes to presenting this information to the public. In addition to highlighting the damage these devices can do to the suppliers of entertainment, CAP warns customers of the negative issues they face as users.
“The damage that content theft does to the creative industries is without dispute. However, the damage done to consumers themselves, because of the nexus between content piracy and malware, is only beginning to be recognized,” CAP Managing Director Neil Gane says.
“The piracy ecosystem is a hotbed for malware, whether purchasing ISDs from Sham Shui Po’s Golden Arcade [a popular electronics ‘hotspot’ in Hong Kong] or downloading content from infamous torrent sites.
“Unfortunately the appetite for free or paying cheap subscription rates for stolen content, blinkers some consumers from the real risks of malicious malware infection such as spyware,” Gane adds.
While it is certainly possible to download content that contains malware from torrent sites, people who use set-top boxes to stream content rarely do so from torrent sites. Streaming platforms and file-locker sites are the number one source for video and malware almost never transfers to devices in this manner.
The effort to associate malware with set-top boxes running Kodi is nothing new but the claims are not without challenge. A report published by TorrentFreak earlier this month revealed that several major anti-virus vendors are entirely unaware of any such threat.
That’s not to say there aren’t issues with malicious software, of course. People buying ready-configured Android boxes, for example, could have almost anything inserted into their devices pre-sale, so it really is a matter of ‘buyer beware.’
Overall, however, there can be little doubt that these devices are having an impact on legitimate distribution models particularly considering their popularity with younger people. The study found that the boxes are particularly popular with high-income 25-34-year-olds, which is a desirable and valuable market for distributors.
“The illicit streaming device (ISD) ecosystem is impacting all businesses involved in the production and distribution of legitimate content,” says Louis Boswell, CEO of Casbaa.
“ISD piracy is also organized crime, pure and simple, with crime syndicates making substantial illicit revenues from the provision of illegally re-transmitted TV channels and the sale of such ISDs.”
In addition to public information campaigns, CASBAA welcomes enforcement action against those involved in the growing industry.
While these operations are touted as successes, it will take a remarkable effort to stem the tide of this piracy juggernaut which has now spread to every major country on the planet.