Just over a decade ago this month, France adopted new legislation allowing the country to more easily crack down on Internet piracy.
The so-called Hadopi law, which also spawned a government anti-piracy agency of the same name, was initially focused on the threat posed by peer-to-peer file-sharing systems, BitTorrent in particular.
However, ten years is a long time and since then, live streaming has stormed onto the scene as a convenient way for the public to view both licensed and unlicensed content. As a result, Hadopi is now taking an increased interest in how the latter is consumed online.
The findings of a new study carried out by Hadopi in conjunction with market research company IFOP, reveals that almost a quarter of French Internet users (24%) now access live TV programming illegally.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, streaming sites are the most popular locations, with 17% of all respondents admitting to using them to access live TV. Social networks prove slightly less popular at 14%, with just 5% admitting to using a dedicated IPTV device or application.
Platforms falling into the streaming site category are web-based affairs, often with embedded players, such as RojaDirecta, StreamonSports, and FootStream.tv etc. Of those using these services, 52% say they do so more than three times per week.
The social network category is populated by services such as YouTube Live, Facebook Live, or Periscope, where Internet users share pirated streams of live content with each other. Six out of ten (61%) of these users admit to accessing streams more than three times per week.
The third category, IPTV, is defined as a service that’s accessible via devices including smart TVs, dedicated boxes, smartphones, tablets, or software. These provide users with access to often premium channels that would usually be available as part of a legal package from an official provider.
Almost three quarters (73%) of these users admit to using these services in excess of three times per week, something which is clearly bothering Hadopi, despite just 5% of respondents currently using them.
The agency says this relatively small IPTV usage figure is increasing and has a more damaging effect on legal consumption due to “cannibalization”. ‘Pirate’ IPTV services are the closest one can get to an official streaming package so people are more likely to switch.
“54% of illegal IPTV users have already unsubscribed from a legal offer,” the report notes.
Additional uptake of pirate IPTV appears to have been driven by World Cup and Champions League fans after only some of these matches were delivered unencrypted to the public.
While the study focuses on live TV, it acknowledges that IPTV services pose a broader threat, since many also offer a VOD (Video-On-Demand) service containing hundreds if not thousands of movies and TV shows to be consumed at a time and place of the user’s choosing.
It’s clear from the study that many of those using pirate IPTV devices and apps do so because of the cost. Of those who admitted using them, 66% pay less than 100 euros per year for a package, including some (9%) who pay nothing at all.
As a comparison, combined annual subscriptions to BEIN Sports, Canal+, SFR Sport and OCS amounts to more than 760 euros per year. However, even when a subscriber buys them all the offer can’t compete with the offerings of a regular IPTV provider.
“After this first phase of the study of the uses [detailed above], the Hadopi agency will continue its analysis of the ecosystem of the illegal supply of live TV programs in order to detect, anticipate and warn, against emerging illicit practices,” the agency writes.
“In connection with the rights holders, television channels, Hadopi brings its technical and legal expertise to promote the implementation of actions to ensure effective and efficient protection of sustainable creation on the Internet.”
Hadopi’s paper can be downloaded here (pdf, French)