Cisco Moves to Stop Pirate Video Streams

The networking vendor, in conjunction with Friend MTS, has developed a service that can find the sources of illegal streaming and shut them down.


In the world of online video piracy, the streaming of live events is increasingly becoming among the most difficult challenges. Where once streaming was low resolution and delivered through websites that were rife with malware and advertising, they now offer a better user experience—high-definition resolution on multiple screens and multiple devices and with a broad range of options.

"The demand for premium content, in every language and into every market, has led to a surge in the supply of pirate services offering a high-quality user interface," Amit Wohl, video security product manager in Cisco Systems' service provider group, wrote in a post on the company blog. "The video quality offered is unprecedented, rivaling that on the Pay TV platforms themselves. Bitrates of 4 to 6M bps for HD channels are common, with 1M bps H.264/AVC for SD channels. Even an Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) channel being delivered in HEVC at 15M bps is on offer."

Cisco wants to put a stop to illegal streaming. The company has introduced its Streaming Piracy Prevention (SPP) service, which includes a technology that detects when there is illegal distribution of content on the internet and then closes the pirate networks. According to Wohl, SSP is a fully automated service that uses a "forensic watermark" to identify subscriptions or sessions that are being used to get the content, and then moves to shut down the source through a video security system in real time.

"Gone are the days of sending a legal notice and waiting to see if anyone will answer; SPP acts without the need to involve or gain cooperation from any third parties, enabling an unmatched level of cross-device retransmission prevention and allowing service providers to take back control of their channels, to maximize their revenue," he wrote.

Cisco officials pointed to figures from piracy monitoring specialist Friend MTS that showed that in the last month, it has found more than 12,000 unique instances of HD channels—1,280 x 720 frame size or higher) on pirate services that are being sourced from pay TV service providers worldwide. Expanding the search to include SD resolution—which is the resolution most often aimed at mobile devices—that number jumps to 22,000. The problem is hitting almost all service providers regardless of size and costing them money.

"To effectively monetize live content, both the service providers that distribute content and the rights owners that license it need to ensure that it is available exclusively through licensed channels," Wohl wrote. "Wide availability through illegal services or sites diminishes the value of the content, as paying viewers opt for the cheaper or free options made available by the pirates."

Rights owners are more frequently requiring licensees to deploy higher levels of platform security in order to get access to ultra-premium content. However, such measures don't always work, and they're not always possible or practical, especially on older platforms, he wrote. Also, traditional ways of stopping streaming piracy—such as sending legal notices and targeting infrastructure providers—often are ineffective. In some instances, there is no one to send a notice to. Targeting the infrastructure providers is usually a time-consuming process, and pirate services often are the largest sources of revenue for many of the platform providers.

With the SPP service, Cisco is partnering with Friend MTS to combine efforts. The service uses Friend MTS' piracy monitoring technology to find real-time pirated video feeds on the internet and deliver them into the SPP service, which finds the source of the illegal stream and shuts it down, Wohl wrote.