Opinion | Why spoof-proofing your premium, live sports content matters – SportsPro Media

James Clark, GeoComply’s director of global sales, on how the next generation of content protection, in particular VPN and proxy detection, can help rights holders protect high-value, territorially-restricted content from geo-piracy.

Opinion | Why spoof-proofing your premium, live sports content matters

Once, we asked the chief financial officer of a Premier League team, what percentage of his live streaming broadcast revenue came from territorially restricted licensing contracts? He had a simple answer: “All of it, 100 per cent.”

As the leading VPN and proxy detection solution provider to broadcasters and sports leagues all over the world, we know just how important it is to have a well-thought-out and robust content protection strategy in place. Especially when it comes to protecting premium live sports content against aggressive, tech-savvy pirates attempting to bypass geographical restrictions. 

Over the past 18 months, the interest in watching live sports via streaming and over-the-top (OTT) platforms has exploded. The 2021 Super Bowl, for instance, saw its streaming viewership increase by a whopping 67 per cent.

Maximizing the value of live sports content

Whether you’re with a league, rights holder or broadcaster of high value live sporting events, such as the Olympics, championship finals or international tournaments, the pressure is on – you only get one shot to maximize revenue with as many legitimate viewers as possible. As soon as the match or prize fight finishes, the value of that particular piece of content evaporates.

Now consider for a moment that approximately three in every 10 internet users use a VPN service. And more than half of them admit their primary goal in spoofing their location is to access territorially restricted content, that’s according to a survey by Global Web Index.

The good news is that this type of geo-piracy can be easily stopped. We’ve been helping sports leagues, rights holders and OTT broadcasters around the world to stop the geo-pirates that are stealing content and putting the entire sports and premium content streaming ecosystem in jeopardy. 

But not only that. When you block ‘dishonest’ users who are on VPNs, you free up capacity to be able to serve honest users better. Ultimately, that puts rights holders and broadcasters in a position to be able to drive additional revenue, while not wasting resources and bandwidth on serving dishonest users.

New spoofing techniques to steal your geo-restricted content

VPN providers are constantly looking for new ways to circumvent location fraud detection systems. Here are some of the new geo-piracy challenges facing leagues and broadcasters, so make sure your solutions provider has them covered:

  • Proxy over VPN: This is a new way to circumvent detection by double-spoofing the IP address through a combination of both a proxy server and a VPN. These attacks often target high-value video streaming services.
  • IPv6: VPN providers are adding IPv6 addresses as yet another option for users to spoof their location. IPv6 provides literally billions and billions of new IP addresses, which are much harder to detect as they’re coming from a VPN.
  • Hijacked residential IPs: This is a nefarious and dangerous technique where free VPN providers and other malicious apps hijack domestic IP addresses (through the terms of service) and then sell them to the highest bidder – usually other VPNs who in turn sell them as a premium-priced option to bypass existing VPN detection. 
GeoComply2 ProxyEgg Opinion | Why spoof-proofing your premium, live sports content matters - SportsPro Media

What else is in a content protection tech stack?

We are often asked by leagues about what other content protection solutions they should be looking at for their tech stack. In the case of leagues and rights owners, often it’s in order for them to provide sufficient requirements in their rights contracts. But here’s a few more things to consider as part of a comprehensive content protection tech stack:

  • Watermarking: If a pirate conceals their identity through a VPN, it can be tricky to pinpoint the source of the leak. But watermarking embeds data that remains attached to a piece of content during the entire distribution process. In the instance of a stolen live sports stream, it enables the rights holders to quickly detect the stream and shut it down.
  • Digital rights management (DRM): DRM allows rules to be set around permissions to limit the access to only specific, authorised users and/or devices, eg. geo-restrictions.
  • User authentication: A multi-factor authentication process is the preferred approach as it’s much more reliable. Rights holders can collect additional information, by utilising location-based services on devices, to safeguard accounts against credential sharing, account takeover and hacking. 

Maintaining a viable live sports streaming ecosystem

It is crucial for any league licensing their content to develop a comprehensive content protection strategy in order to protect it from all forms of piracy and preserve its value. And a lot of the strategy revolves around the value of the content offered, as the higher value the content, the more sophisticated the pirate. 

When it comes to protecting territorially restricted live sports content from geo-piracy, leagues, rights holders and OTT broadcasters need to utilise advanced geolocation fraud detection solutions, which can stop a person who is spoofing their location via a VPN from accessing the content. And make sure it’s a solution that takes into account all the new spoofing methods being devised by VPN providers.

If we want the sports streaming ecosystem to live long and prosper, a multi-faceted content protection approach, including geo-blocking, is essential. 


To learn even more about the effectiveness of VPN and proxy detection in stopping sports streaming pirates, check out our latest white paper: The Next Generation of Content Protection – Moving Beyond IP for Location Verification.

Source of this news: https://www.sportspromedia.com/opinion/live-sports-broadcast-vpn-proxy-protection-geocomply-piracy

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