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Europeans increasingly pirating live TV, sports, study shows

Legal streaming services are helping to curb the trend, but IP and media organizations still have a long way to go.

Legal streaming services are helping to curb the trend, but IP and media organizations still have a long way to go.

An anti-piracy billboard. (Image by Lord Jim via Flickr Creative Commons, Graphic: Descrier)
An anti-piracy billboard. (Image by Lord Jim via Flickr Creative Commons, Graphic: Descrier)

European sports fans have increased their use of illegal streaming services to watch key matches and tournaments, according to the findings of a new survey released this week.

The study, commissioned by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), found the use of pirate services to stream live sports and other television content increased by 30 percent between 2021 and last year.

The findings show Europeans are reverting to illegal sources of content after years of declines. The same study found fewer Europeans were pirating content on a year-over basis between 2017 and 2021.

“The new study shows that there is still much work to do to tackle piracy,” Christian Archambeau, the executive director of the EUIPO, said in a statement. “Stopping this phenomenon is complex as piracy is continuously evolving with technology. This is why understanding the underlying mechanisms of piracy is essential to adopt effective policies and measures that contribute to reducing it.”

While video-on demand services like Netflix, Prime Video and Disney Plus have proven popular with Europeans, live television content remains relegated to broadcast and pay platforms. Europeans in many countries are required to pay a television tax, called a license or remittance, if they watch any form of broadcast television, while those who watch only video on-demand content typically don’t have to pay the tax.

That might be the reason why live television content is pirated more than on-demand videos, or shows that can be watched later through so-called “catch up” services that are also popular with European viewers. According to EUIPO, 58 percent of piracy occurs via streaming — to include watching live sports content that either can’t be easily received in a country, or is relegated to a pay TV platform like DAZN, Canal Plus or Sky satellite — while just 32 percent of piracy occurs through downloading.

The EUIPO said an increase in the amount of content available via legitimate streaming services — to include upstarts like Paramount Plus, Sky Showtime and Peacock — and an uptick in the regional availability of services like Prime Video, RTL Plus, Viaplay and Disney Plus, have contributed positively toward a decline in download-based piracy.

The same is true with streaming music, as Spotify, Apple Music and regional variants of premium digital music services help cut into the frequency that music is stolen through illicit downloads.

The full report is available to view by clicking or tapping here.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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