One of the biggest threats that satellite pay-TV operators face is the threat of piracy. People accessing content through an illegal smart card and not paying the operator for the service is a billion dollar industry, according to industry analysts. Smart card piracy is big business and conditional access (CA) vendors who provide security systems are one of the first lines of defense for program operators in the fight against piracy.
Other key organizations in this battle against piracy are industry groups such as the European Association for the Protection of Encrypted Works and Services (AEPOC) and the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA), both of which count satellite pay-TV operators among their members. AEPOC members include BSkyB (U.K.), TPS (France), DigiTurk (Turkey), Premiere (Germany), Sky Italia (Italy) and Sogecable (Spain).
Here, we talk to the President of AEPOC, Jean Grenier and the CEO of CASBAA, Simon Twiston Davies about the piracy problem facing satellite pay-TV operators in Europe and Asia.
Grenier believes that satellite pay-TV operators remain pretty much the number one target for the piracy industry across Europe. "Historically pay-TV and encrypted services are more broadly available via satellite," he told Satellite News. "For this reason it can be said that satellite reception delivers generally more attractive targets for pirates than cable or terrestrial systems - also because direct-to-home (DTH) satellite reception can provide pay services originating from many different countries. Nevertheless any platform is threatened by piracy and all of these types of platforms have seen illegal access to their systems in Europe."
One of the main jobs of the AEPOC is to improve the job of tackling the piracy problem from a regulatory perspective. When asked what three regulatory steps he would like to bring in across Europe to tackle the piracy problem, Grenier said, "Firstly, we want to see the personal use and possession of illegal decoding devices punished. Secondly, we want to see an update of the conditional access Directive [EU Legislation], which takes into consideration the most recent innovations in terms of piracy. There also needs to be a more precise formulation in terms of CA-services concerning the upcoming Directive on Counterfeiting and Piracy. Thirdly, I would like to see stiffer penalties for convicted pirates, especially for those running commercial activities."
Critically, Grenier believes that Europe's regulators underestimate the problem of piracy, and believes that the media and general public need to be more aware about the negative effects of piracy. "Piracy destroys not only existing developed markets but also the emerging ones. More piracy means less new market opportunities, ultimately also reducing the numbers of personnel employed with companies active in pay-TV and the many businesses involved in this value chain, from television and movie production up to subscription and reception device resellers. The protection of intellectual property is the key to future prosperity, cultural diversity and democratic plurality - not only in Europe, but everywhere. For long enough piracy has been seen as an isolated problem of pay-TV operators - and not as a severe crime that puts the creative industry, economy and culture at stake," he said.
For satellite pay-TV operators staying on top of the piracy problem is key. Pay-TV markets are becoming more competitive. Most telcos are beginning to offer pay-TV services and with new ways of accessing video content, the last thing satellite pay-TV operators need is problems with people illegally accessing their services.
In 2006, AEPOC will once again be at the forefront of leading the battle against piracy across Europe. Grenier said the organization plans to "work intensively on the finalization of the EU Commission Report on the Status of Implementation of the conditional access Directive." This is expected for the second half of the year.
A larger European Union (EU) also is creating new opportunities for pirates, Grenier said. "In view of the recent enlargement of the EU, our concern is now to make the EU new member states aware of the risks and the overall negative effects of piracy," he said. "We are therefore continuing to focus on the approval of new anti-piracy laws and the implementation of the conditional access Directive, especially in those countries which have just implemented the acquis communautaire."
Grenier also said that AEPOC plans to support any European Commission legislative initiative addressed at enabling a coherent pan-European legal framework to combat Internet enabled piracy and to strengthen cooperation with the EU Commission in general with regard to public awareness.