Illegal streaming of football matches has been going on for years, as those pirating and streaming the content have always been two steps ahead while the leagues, broadcasters and internet service providers were not properly equipped (legally speaking) to fight back.
With the advances in technology making streaming easy and convenient, and broadband internet becoming the norm, it is no surprise an epidemic has occurred with illegal streaming. The average person does not like restrictions and inconvenience, and no longer requires significant skill and effort to access illegal streaming. Even the least tech savvy person who is not afraid of getting caught can easily use a plug-and-play device. This has grown the popularity of devices with Kodi software, one of the most popular media applications to watch streaming content on your TV.
Many fans find the fees associated with watching live football on TV too high, so a cottage industry of vendors selling devices loaded with Kodi software plug-ins has developed to fill the demand. These devices, dubbed “Kodi full loaded boxes” can access unlimited illegal content that has been uploaded, shared or streamed from all over the world.
Kodi is a free and open source media player application available for multiple operating-systems and hardware platforms. It can run on any computer, smartphone, tablet or set-top box. It allows users to play and view most videos, music, podcasts, and other digital media files from local and network storage media and stream movies, TV programs and sports over the internet.
Kodi maintains it has nothing to do with the content that streams through it, as many completely legal offerings exist.
Premier League crackdown
The Premier League has recently secured a landmark ruling that will help stop illegal streams of its matches. Whereas in the past they were limited in a cat and mouse game, targeting the illegal sites one by one, the new ruling gives the league the possibility to block entire servers. This makes it harder for those illegally sharing the content to re-connect.
This ruling broke new ground on a technical and legal manner. It is the first time major UK internet service providers agreed to block servers in real-time during a match. This will be done till the end of the current season in May. This is intended to enable an assessment of its effectiveness, and of any issues encountered, with a view to apply for a similar order to cover next season as well.
“There is increasing evidence of football fans turning to streaming devices which access infringing streams as a substitute for paid subscriptions”
The latest crackdown is targeting those involved in the sale and distribution of these illegal “fully loaded” Kodi devices, with a priority to disrupt and combat individuals manufacturing, importing, selling and re-selling these illegal devices.
This ruling should help slow down the availability of illegal streams but it will take a while to have an effect. A quick search on ebay reveals thousands of sellers offering various streaming devices “fully loaded” with Kodi. Roku, Amazon Fire TV stick, Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, and other brands of Android “boxes” are some of the most popular names associated with streaming devices for your television. The widespread availability of these easy to use devices, bypassing the broadcasters who have paid for the rights, has gone from the tech savvy internet user to the mainstream.
Piracy will never go away and keeping up with new technologies will be an on-going challenge. Making life more difficult for the illegal streamers with blocked servers is a start, but more needs to be done. On the flipside, there is both a lesson and perhaps an opportunity for the broadcasters to seize from all this – take into account the habits and preferences of the fans, make content easily available on demand on any device, and make it affordable.