Sky: pirate streams of Premier League football slowing in UK, thanks to site blocking

Clarification: Sky has been in contact to clarify that its spokesperson Matthew Hibbert was expressing that a high percentage of illegal football streams – not all – have been blocked. The headline and quote from Hibbert in this post  have been updated to reflect this.

To watch a 'pirated' view of a Premier League football match used to mean visiting a friend living high up in a tower block overlooking a football stadium. But the internet has massively facilitated viewing football matches for free that would otherwise require a subscription to watch.

Sky claims that its onslaught to take down the pirates through legal action has worked so well in recent years however that it's now increasingly difficult to pirate live soccer in the UK.

In terms of the impact on piracy, server blocking has been huge,” said Matthew Hibbert, head of litigation at Sky UK, while speaking at the  Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) Conference 2017 in Macau.

“Live streams of the Premier League can no longer be easily found in the UK.” 

The claim extends to publically-hosted pirate stream viewings, with matches being illegally broadcasted in pubs being "decimated" by legal action brought upon landlords by both the Premier League and the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), according to Kevin Plumb, Director of Legal Services at The Premier League.

Playing catch-up

What's perhaps most interesting is the fact that, until relatively recently, it appears that rights holders did not see streaming boxes (known in the industry as 'illegal streaming devices' or 'ISDs') as a threat. 

“We first heard about the issues with ISDs from [local broadcaster] TVB in Hong Kong and we then consulted the UK rights holders who responded that it wasn’t a problem. Two years later the issue just exploded,” said Dr Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright & IP Enforcement at the UK Intellectual Property Office, also speaking at the Macau event.

And yet now Kodi streaming boxes are top of the hit list for IP holders looking to protect their content from pirates.

There's the suggestion too that Sky's statement that illegal football streaming is close to being defeated is a premature one. While it's certainly become more difficult to find dodgy streams of paid-for sporting content, it's still possible to find them with sporadic success.