Premier League to intensify crackdown on illegal sports streaming

The Premier League is planning to fortify its efforts in the ongoing battle against illegal sports streaming, the latest culprit of which has cost the TV industry an estimated £10m in lost revenue.

Servers in Manchester house raided by police

The organisation revealed it has detected and removed more than 45,000 illegal internet streams showing its matches during the 2013 - 2014 football season.

A Premier League spokesperson told The Drum that this year will see it “undertaking more investigations and enforcement work to protect our copyright than ever before”.

This follows the news of a 27-year old man's arrest by the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), on suspicion of leading multiple illegal live sports streaming websites.

The sophistication of illegal sports-streaming sites is becoming an ever-increasing problem, according to City Police's IP crime unit's newly appointed detective chief inspector Danny Medlycott.

Speaking to The Drum Medlycott said that the suspect's sites alone will have cost the UK TV industry an estimated £10m in lost revenue, adding that those who opt to view illegally streamed sports content were "putting money in criminal’s pockets”.

He added: “Not only is there a significant loss to industry with this particular operation but it is also unfair that millions of people work hard to be able to afford to pay for their subscription-only TV services when others cheat the system.”

With Sky paying £760m a year to broadcast live league games and BT striking an £887m deal to show coverage of the European Champions League, the costs of sports content are growing every year.

A full subscription to Sky sports costs consumers £568 per annum, however internet users are increasingly finding that illegal live streaming sites are carrying the same matches for free, with the site owners often generating large amounts of money from advertising in the process.

While copyright-infringing sports streaming is nothing new the sites involved are becoming increasingly user friendly and the growth of high-speed fibre-optic broadband access means the streaming is becoming closer to broadcast quality.

The most popular UK sports streaming portal "Wizwig" is listed by Alexa as the 310th most visited site in the UK making it more popular than Match.com, Paddy Power and even Spotify.

Peter O’Rourke, director of Investigations and Intelligence of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), added that the problem with policing live streaming sites was “as soon as you take one down another pops up, it’s a moving feast.”

PIPCU is currently working with the advertising industry on a widespread crackdown on fraudulent sites and the advertising they generate known as Operation Creative. This has involved the creation of an illegal websites list which advertisers and agencies can now access and feed into their trading desks to ensure clients don't inadvertently appear on the sites.

It is working with trade bodies including ISBA to tackle the issue. ISBA's director of public affairs Ian Twinn said the rise of illegal sites is “completely unacceptable”, adding "the way algorithms work online brands have no control, it’s not like TV where you buy minutes, it’s a real concern to advertisers, we are taking what steps we can throughout the industry".

Last month PIPCU's detective chief inspector Andy Fyfe told The Drum the force is planning to widen its crackdown on fraudulent sites to other verticals such as gaming and cyber lockers.

It has now begun replacing ad slots on copyright-infringing sites with official force banners, warning the user that the site is currently under criminal investigation, in collaboration with content verification technology provider, Project Sunblock.

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