One of the most shocking pieces of news I’ve heard this week comes from the Mexican courts, where Roku sales were banned in-country because pirates, hackers, fraudsters, soldiers of fortune, or whatever you want to call them, keep hacking the devices.
Cable provider Cablevisión, owned by media conglomerate Grupo Televisa, sued Roku to stop sales of the devices in Mexico, alleging that pirates were using them to illegally sell streaming access to TV channels distributed by Televisa. Last week, a judge ruled against Roku, which allowed the government to block sales of the devices throughout the country. Roku won a temporary stay of the order, but it was reversed a few days later by a court tribunal in Mexico City.
For those not familiar with Roku, it is one of the many streaming equipment that can be transformed in ‘kodi boxes’ available on the market that offer the ability to stream video from the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Sling TV and other online services. Its price starts at around $30 USD. (For those that want to know more about it, I’m going to put the link here to compensate for the sales lost in the Mexican Market :) ).
On top of Roku’s streaming capabilities, the device also delivers an ecosystem of apps that makes content available to its users. Along with a subscription to Roku’s App Ecosystem, comes the ability to access illegal streaming channels. The dark side of today’s app ecosystem is that this is a place where pirated content happily coexists with some of the biggest media content providers in the industry.
To access these illegal streaming apps, such as Popcorn Time or TorrenTV, users simply drag and drop a link to immediately start streaming a movie or TV show on their Mac, Windows PC, or Android box. But instead of just playing movies on a computer, these apps can now also be installed directly onto a television via a Roku device or, until recently, even an Apple TV.
Now I can finally address the main point of this article: Sorry guys, but forbidding Roku’s sales is not the way to stop illegal digital streaming and downloads. At its source, this is fraud, and by penalizing Roku, you are just shooting the (condescending) messenger. Of course, Roku could have forbidden these apps to run on their devices in the first place, but these digital pirates would certainly have come up with alternatives, given all the other streaming devices on the market. Not sure? Just have a look at this list of Kodi boxes available on Amazon.
But this isn’t a Mexican problem, digital content piracy is escalating globally. Sandvine recently issued a report that showed that 6% of North American households have at least one device in their home that is configured to access unlicensed live and on demand video content using Kodi, and open source software media player. Additionally, in a recent BBC study it revealed that in the UK 1/3 of Premier League fans say they watch illegal streams of matches.
As telco companies unleash Technology and Media (TMT) as part of their digital transformation, there is no longer any justification for simply analyzing call detail records (CDRs) and calling that a fraud management strategy. Service providers need to understand the value of digital content. Verizon’s $4.5B recent acquisition of Yahoo is an example of how the industry is shifting and why telco companies need to start protecting their digital assets from fraudsters. Digital disruption is reshaping the landscape of the cable-television industry on an almost daily basis, with yesterday’s competitors suddenly becoming partners, and new entrants looking more and more like power players.
At WeDo Technologies, we are deeply committed in preventing and detecting fraud. We are undefeated in being able to distinguish fraudsters from legitimate users, and it doesn’t require blocking access to legal devices that can stream illegal content. If you want to know more about what we can do to address digital content fraud, please fill in this form.
Head of Product Marketing & Analyst Relations