Can the Saudi General Authority for Entertainment stop content piracy?
Saudi Arabia recently created a General Authority for Entertainment. NexGuard sales director Chrys Poulain looks at steps the Authority can take to prevent piracy in the country
The competition for entertainment hegemony in the Arab World is fierce. The regional TV and video market is growing at unprecedented speeds with most countries forecast to double the penetration of services by 2020. All eyes, however, are on Saudi Arabia at the moment and with good reason.
The Kingdom’s General Authority for Entertainment – in charge of managing the entertainment landscape from cinemas to indoors options and career perspectives – recently announced a new board. This move is a significant stepping-stone to raising its profile as an industry authority figure, much like its Emirati and Qatari neighbours.
$750 million lost
The move is significant for any company involved in the content industry – and even more so for content protection specialists. With the world’s highest YouTube consumption on mobile devices, faster internet speeds and an expected tripling of payTV penetration by 2020, the country is becoming very valuable for over-the-top (OTT) and PayTV service providers.
Unsurprisingly in the Middle East, Saudis tend to watch regional content alongside Chinese, Indian and European programmes indiscriminately. The Saudi content industry understands that in order to provide high value international content, it needs to implement robust content protection solutions.
Yet, the illegal redistribution of content on unauthorised streaming websites represents $750 million in lost revenue in the region every year according to IDC’s “Piracy in the Middle East and Africa” report, and Saudis are just as likely to consume illicit content as their counterparts in Algeria, Morocco, Qatar or the UAE.
Deterring the pirates
How can the content industry ensure that it provides legal platforms to consumers that are used to accessing high value content illegally or on YouTube?
The process is simple and consists of three steps:
1. Conditional Access (CA)/Digital Rights Management (DRM): both are integrated encryption technologies that control access to a variety of programming. However, it is important to note that they cover different elements of the content delivery system: in the CA model, the rights owner licenses networks to distribute content and take on the responsibility of determining the legitimacy of users who want content access – through subscriber management systems, subscriber authorisation systems and security modules. DRM is a software-based protection model that works best for OTT content delivered to multiscreen devices for consumers who want to watch content now or in the future.
2. Monitoring and takedown notices: Content becomes vulnerable to piracy the moment it is produced and the advent of live re-streaming is creating new windows for illegal redistribution. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was developed as a direct result of industry demand to implement copyright law to combat piracy. Addressing the rights of content owners and Internet service providers, takedown notices enable affected parties to legally mandate the removal of infringed content from unauthorised sources. A network-level watermark will help to automatically confirm the rights ownership per distribution path.
3. Forensic watermarking: the final piece in the content protection puzzle, forensic watermarking enhances content owners’ ability to detect and respond to any asset misuse. Watermarking embedding involves the insertion of a unique, invisible identifying code into a media asset to serve as contractual compliance between the content owners and intended subscriber regardless of how it might be transcoded, resized, downscaled or otherwise altered for distribution. Watermarking detection, the forensic component, identifies the source of unauthorised OTT, VoD and live TV re-streaming by a rogue subscriber. Both processes work across the entire quality spectrum from standard resolution live streaming apps to 4K/UHD and HDR.
Enforcing the law
Content piracy in Saudi Arabia reflects its consumers’ appetite for all forms of content. International live sports leagues like the English Premier League or Spain’s La Liga are re-streamed illegally alongside Chinese drama, Hollywood movies and Bollywood content, creating new challenges for content distributors in the country. By implementing this three-step approach, broadcasters, operators and providers can deter piracy across all points of prospective illicit redistribution, while helping educate the public on copyright issues.
As advocates for content protection at every step of the content journey, NexGuard welcomes this new announcement with open arms. We expect that the General Authority for Entertainment will work closely with content owners and distributors in the country – from Al Ekhbariya to ZEE Entertainment – and enforce the Copyright Law of 2003, enabling the content industry to invest in a young market hungry for high quality content.