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Arts & Entertainment Faultline: Latin America gets together at last to crack down on satellite piracy
Jan 31, 2013 – Rethink Research  

After many years of threatening noises Latin America’s leading DTH operators have finally clubbed together to tackle piracy through the newly formed Alianza Contra la Piratería de TV Paga (Alliance Against Pay TV Piracy or AAPP). This coincides with strengthening efforts in Africa spearheaded by the continent’s one dominant DTH operator MultiChoice, culminating in two arrests earlier January 2012.  
 
Latin American DTH operators have been enduring the problem for longer given some more mature markets there, but the rapid advance of DirecTV in the leading countries has led it to take the bull by the horns. DirecTV’s majority owned subsidiary Sky Brasil and DirecTV PanAmericana, which deals with the rest of South America (not Mexico where it has a 41.3% stake in Sky Mexico) have been joined by the other major DTH players in the region, Telefonica, VTR and Claro Peru, Claro Ecuador, Claro Colombia, and Claro Chile. The alliance is also crucially supported by the major content houses supplying the operators, that is Discovery, ESPN, FOX International Channels Latin America, Globosat, HBO Latin America Group, Telecine, Televisa, Turner Broadcasting System Latin America, and Win Sports. It is also supported by content wholesaler  
Media Networks Latin America, pan-regional trade association ABTA, and Nagra, which provides content security to some of the operators.  
 
Launched in Miami, the AAPP is targeting the scourge of Latin American DTH operators, FTA piracy, involving the illegal use of free-to-air satellite receivers to decrypt pay television audiovisual signals, accounting for about 20% of satellite TV consumption in Latin America by some estimates. FTA piracy is not confined to Latin America, with Dish Network notably suffering from it in the US around 2007 to 2008, culminating in several lawsuits against suppliers of equipment. This exploited legitimate FTA dishes designed to receive unencrypted transmissions from free services. FTA receivers lack the decryption modules of pay TV dishes, but incorporate the same transmission technologies such as MPEG2 and DVB-S.  
 
But if a given pay TV encryption systems has been compromised it is possible to reverse engineer the decryption software and emulate it in an FTA receiver. This involves just a firmware update rather than having to engineer a receiver and equip it with an altered smart card, as with traditional pirate decryption. This approach has greater flexibility and broader appeal to consumers, since the dishes can be adapted to receive any pay satellite service in principle, on top of all available free to air services. It also, as was the case for Dish Network, enabled relatively unsophisticated consumers to become do it yourself pirates by just downloading relevant decoding software over the Internet.  
 
Given that FTA piracy is difficult to combat technically once a system has been compromised, a large part of the AAPP’s efforts will be focused on chasing pirates and raising public consciousness, with stated goals including monitoring and investigation of the extent of FTA piracy, training regulators and law enforcement authorities, supporting and encouraging police action against FTA pirates, and raising public awareness of the threats.  
 
The initiative grew out of collaboration between DirecTV Latin America and Nagra a few years ago, both of which admit they have yet to develop a full plan to combat FTA piracy that includes effective metrics and technical measures, and therefore need the help of the whole industry to come up with a plan over the next year.  
 
AAPP has been watching events in Africa, which suggest that rigorous law enforcement, following covert action involving police and the pay TV industry may be a large part of the answer. In that case CA vendor Irdeto took a lead role in working with both the DTH operator MultiChoice Africa and the Botswana Police Serious Crime Squad to investigate and disrupt the illegal distribution of pay TV content across the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Irdeto’s Anti-Piracy and Forensics Unit and MultiChoice Africa Anti-Piracy Department have been monitoring continuously for signs of pirate activity and illegal broadcast redistribution across the continent for well over a year now. This led to the first breakthrough late in 2011 when it was discovered that a piracy operation sheltering behind a refrigerator sales and repair company had been extracting “control words” from MultiChoice Africa smartcards, and then distributing them to consumers who had bought receivers. This led over a year later in January 2013 to two arrests, when the Botswana Police Serious Crime Squad accompanied by MultiChoice Africa investigators raided the pirate operation’s premises that had been selling pirate circumvention devices from Magicbox to subscribers in five countries, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. During the raid, the police found and confiscated 1800 Magicbox pirate circumvention devices, along with computers, a laptop computer, a smartcard reader, MultiChoice Africa smartcards and a large amount of cash. This then was effectively the same type of piracy involving updates to existing boxes.  
 
Africa differs from Latin America in that MultiChoice is currently the only significant DTH operator away from the northern Arab states, and that has made it easier to focus the attack on piracy. But now the French Vivendi group is competing with DTH services through Canal Plus Afrique in French speaking African countries, and On Digital Media of South Africa is also in the market with TopTV, so a larger alliance similar to AAPP may yet emerge there. 





Courtesy Rethink Research



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