The Premier League has been given a helping hand in addressing the problem of illegal streams after the High Court approved a court order to block entire computer servers, signalling a step up in the fight against pirate enabling platforms such as Kodi.
High Court judge Richard Arnold approved an order which allows the UK’s top four broadband providers BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media to block connections to the servers that host pirated streams of matches.
Previously the league and its broadcast partners could only block individual streams, which could easily be re-established at a different link, however the new powers will allow for more precise targeting by blocking the source and preventing more streams from being accessible.
“For the first time this will enable the Premier League to disrupt and prevent the illegal streaming of our matches via IPTV, so-called Kodi, boxes,” said Dan Johnson, a spokesman for the league.
Internet Protocol television (IPTV) boxes, which allow users to run open source software such as Kodi, have been increasingly popular in recent years and have made pirated content, including live football matches, easier than ever to access.
The BBC reported that a recent survey commissioned by the security firm Irdeto found that 11% of Brits admitted to watching pirated streams on IPTV boxes.
The court ruling illustrates the league’s efforts to combat the decline in broadcast viewing figures which have plagued TV rights holders such as Sky Sports. While illegal streams are only part of the problem, their increasing popularity has coincided with a increase in the customer drop off rates for Sky.
TV rights for football have long served as a huge marketing platform for Sky and BT. Following the acquisition of Premier League and Champions League rights BT saw its broadband customer numbers grow from 6.3 million to 9.3 million and TV customers rise from around 700,000 to 1.75 million.
As part of its effort to remain competitive with rival Sky, BT recently retained the exclusive broadcast rights to the Uefa Champions League in a three-year deal costing it a reported £1.82bn.
The growing prominence of pirated viewing is likely to dent the value of the Premier League's TV rights deals with Sky and BT when the next round of contract negotiations for the Premier League comes around.
Commenting on the ruling, a Sky spokesman told the Telegraph: "We are pleased the Premier League’s application to crack down on illegal streaming has been granted. Content piracy is theft and the success of this application is an important step in tackling the issue.
"We’ll continue to work with rights holders, government, online market places and content creators to tackle today’s piracy and make people aware of the risks it presents and the damage it causes.”