Piracy of TV content: what to do?


Broadband helps fuel the growth of existing TV offerings, but also fosters rampant piracy. What’s a TV network to do? Better broadband networks and new devices help fuel the growth for existing Premium television channels, but it allows the entry of lower cost competition (such as Hulu, Netflix, and even YouTube) and fosters rampant piracy.

Speaking at the inaugural TV Show Africa conference in Sandton, CEO of HBO Central Europe, Linda Jensen, explained the change in the television climate as the above-mentioned scenario. Pervasive broadband has fundamentally changed online piracy, Jensen said.

As an example, Jensen highlighted a Romanian “BitTorrent service” that illegally made HBO’s popular new series “Game of Thrones” available for download the day after it first broadcast in the US, with Romanian subtitles available soon thereafter. Jensen said that her biggest problem wasn’t the download, but the fact that the service monetised the illegally obtained content. The Romanian site asks users to subscribe for a fee and allows them to do so via SMS. “That is not okay,” Jensen said, adding later that HBO is pursuing the matter in the local legal system.

What can broadcasters do in the face of increased competition, new user demands and piracy? Using HBO’s activities as a case study, Jensen offered broadcasters the following advice to react to the changing television environment.

•Studios have to take a realistic approach: they have to be innovative in releasing product and guarding product, especially in its initial window.
•Have a strong brand with iron-clad brand affinity.
•You need outstanding original programming and a combined product offering that consumers find compelling. Original content means you don’t have to ask permission (or pay) to broadcast on different platforms.
•“Streaming to PC is passée,” Jensen said. You need the ability to play on multiple platforms (such as TV, PC, iPad, and other mobile).
•Creation of net habitat, using services such as Twitter and Facebook, that supports the younger generation and stimulates visitation and usage.
•The subscriber and revenue base that can be leveraged over to the Internet should be a plus for existing players.
•Local product, local affinity, local customer service and support.