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Hollywood group amps up its defense against live TV sports piracy

If you’re getting an unusually good deal on a streaming service that carries live sports, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment may have some tough news for you.

Unauthorized resales of live sports feeds is a growing problem for TV rights holders who pay billions to carry games. Fans hear a disclaimer on every contest they watch — such as, “Any rebroadcast, retransmission or account of this game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is prohibited” — for a reason.

Global sports piracy costs media companies $28 million a year in lost revenue, according to a recent study from Synamedia/Ampere . The study found that 74% of fans using illegal streams might be willing to pay to switch to a legitimate streaming provider.

It’s why ACE, an offshoot of the Motion Picture Assn. that aids law enforcement in cracking down on digital piracy, is stepping up its efforts to shut down sports TV feeds distributed on unauthorized streaming sites. The coalition is announcing Tuesday that the Qatar-based beIN SPORTS has signed on as a member, the first pure sports broadcaster to do so. ACE expects other sports leagues to join in the coming months.

“Threats to intellectual property rights is a major problem in many of the markets in which beIN operates, so we’ll be working closely with ACE to investigate and bring legal enforcement actions against major pirates who are seriously threatening continued investment in the world class sports and entertainment services and productions that consumers deserve,” said Cameron Andrews, who oversees the antipiracy efforts for beIN Media Group.

The broadcaster has channels in 41 countries, including North America, and is the rights holder for the Champions League and other UEFA tournaments across the Middle East and North Africa.

ACE was formed by the MPAA in 2017 to give its members — the major film studios, media conglomerates and tech companies Apple, Amazon and Netflix — a unified approach to attacking unauthorized streaming services. They typically use cease-and-desist orders, civil lawsuits and referrals to law enforcement agencies.

The value of sports TV has heightened in recent years as its the most coveted programming for advertisers because audiences will watch it live. It has also become a key part of the streaming strategies for Amazon, which has the exclusive rights to the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” contests starting this season, and Apple TV+, which now carries two MLBgames each week.

Soccer is also considered a driver for streaming sites because of its appeal to younger fans who are more comfortable watching on devices other than TV screens.

Jan van Voorn, executive vice president and chief of global content protection for the MPA, said ACE’s efforts have led to the shut down of hundreds illegal streaming sites in the U.S. since 2019, including a multimillion dollar operation based in Philadelphia that had hundreds of thousands of paying subscribers.

It’s not just the lost business for media companies that makes digital piracy an issue. Consumers who sign up for illegitimate streaming sites are likely giving their credit card information to organized crime outfits that can use the data in other fraudulent ways, such as identity theft.

“These are bad people — it’s really an exception when they don’t have a long rap sheet,” van Voorn told The Times . “We try to make consumers aware that there is a huge risk of malware, spyware and viruses, as well as giving these guys your credit card details.”





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