Illicit streaming in SG: 'No one silver bullet to deterring piracy,' says AVIA

Approximately 15% of Singapore consumers use a TV box which can be used to stream pirated television and video content. According to a survey, commissioned by the Asia Video Industry Association's (AVIA) Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) and conducted by YouGov, these TV boxes allow users to access pirated TV channels and video-on-demand (VOD) content.

These TV boxes, also known as Illicit Streaming Devices (ISDs) also usually come with a low annual subscription fee. Often pre-loaded with illegal applications, the survey found that MyIPTV, UBTV, WorldTV, MoonHD, and Infinity TV are some of the most popular illegal applications amongst Singapore consumers.

Neil Gane, the general manager of CAP said that the overt availability of ISDs in Singapore malls and IT exhibitions is a "major concern" for the content industry. However, he said that due to the fragmented nature of the ecosystem, there is "no one silver bullet to deterring piracy".

Out of the 15% of consumers who purchased a TV box for free streaming, more than 28% asserted that they cancelled their subscriptions to a Singaporean-based online video service as a direct consequence of owning an ISD. International subscription services, which include pan-Asia online offerings, were also impacted. The survey found that nearly one in five (18%) Singaporean users have abandoned those services in favour of ISD purchases.

More than half of respondents (62%) who own an ISD, claim to have purchased their ISD from two of the largest Southeast Asia-based e-commerce stores. More than one-fifth of ISD owners (21%) say they acquired their devices via one of the world's most popular social media platforms. Over one-third (38%) of ISD owners said they purchased their pirate TV box from IT Exhibitions or physical retail stores in Singapore.

"What is required is an holistic solution to include enforcement, cooperation with technology platforms and intermediaries, disabling access to pirated content through effective site blocking and consumer outreach," he added. Recently, the High Court ordered Singapore's internet service providers to block access to popular illegal applications that are frequently pre-loaded on ISDs sold in Singapore. According to Gane, consumers are wasting their money when purchasing new subscriptions to illegal applications as the new court order does not permit access to live sports matches or TV shows.

"CAP will continue to prevent and disrupt illegal feeds of live sports, TV channels, and VOD content through judicial blocking orders against piracy applications. ISDs can never provide quality programming and a service guarantee," he said.

A growing concern from the anti-cyber crime community remains the nexus between online piracy and pernicious malware such as spyware, malware mining and ransomware. In September 2018, the European Union Intellectual Property Office released a report entitled "Identification and Analysis of malware on selected suspected copyright infringing websites" which found that most of the documented malware on piracy sites were trojans or other malware which, when installed on an end-user's, computer would cause "not only financial losses, but also theft of personal data and other risks of unwanted access and control".

AVIA's Coalition Against Piracy includes video content creators and distributors in Asia. Its members are beIN Sports, Discovery, The Walt Disney Company, FOX Networks Group, HBO Asia, and several more.