Sky Insists That People Can't Watch Pirate Football Streams in the UK Anymore [Updated]

By Tom Pritchard on at

Update (09/11): So it turns out the official report coming out of CASBAA wasn't quite accurate. And by that I mean it was missing a bunch of words that completely change the context of what Matthew Hibbert was saying. Here's the correct quote:

“In the UK you cannot easily now watch live Premier League content. It (the site blocking order) drives piracy back to the margins.”

Big difference! And a much more reasonable statement to make, even though TorrentFreak did report that it isn't actually that difficult. CASBAA has apologised for the error, and we pass that apology onto you.

Original story follows:

Rights holders are pretty worried about the whole Kodi piracy thing, and while they won't admit it they're probably scared about how easy it is to tune into a stream that doesn't involve a pricey Sky or cable subscription. But it's fine! Because Sky insists that people in the UK can't actually watch Premier League football using those streams anymore, and it's all thanks to the magic of site blocking.

Currently taking place in Macau is the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) Conference 2017, and Kodi/set top box streaming devices are high on the agenda. Illegal Streaming Devices, or ISDs as they're known in the anti-piracy industry, are a pretty hot topic because of their immense popularity. But it's fine all thanks to the Premier League, and its court approved powers to block illegal IPTV streams in real time.

Matthew Hibbert, head of litigation at Sky, even made the bold claim that they were winning, and that you can't actually use pirate streams to watch Premier League football in the UK anymore:

“Site-blocking has moved the goalposts significantly. In the UK you cannot watch pirated live Premier League content anymore.”

That was my initial reaction anyway, and TorrentFreak seems to be in agreement - albeit being a lot less blunt about it. It notes that progress against pirate streams has been good, the idea that it's impossible to watch them is "overly enthusiastic". Its sources notes that every Saturday there are dozens of sites offering pirate streams, and at least half of them have reasonable steady coverage. The rest are intermittent at their worst, even though there have been reports of premium IPTV streams cutting out mid-match in the recent past.

So Premier League piracy is nowhere near being wiped out, though progress has been made. Still as long as there is demand for it, and Sports services like Sky and BT insist ion charging obscene prices, people will find ways to watch their football. Especially matches that aren't actually being broadcast in the UK, thanks to stupid rules.

But the Premier League has noted that illegal streaming in pubs has dropped significantly, which I'm more inclined to believe. Mainly because it's far easier to police. That's involved prosecuting landlords and Kodi box sellers over the past 18 months "decimating" the problem.

Other points of interest to come out of the conference include how much it costs to run an IPTV service. Roughly €2,000 a month for  service running 1,000 channels to 1,000 customers according to the Federation against Copyright Theft (FACT), though that same service then has the potential to earn €12,000 in revenue.

It was also revealed how rights holders completely dismissed warnings of ISDs and Kodi add-on-based piracy as recently as two years ago. According to Dr. Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright & IP Enforcement at the UK Intellectual Property Office, rights holders in the UK first became aware of the problem thanks to warnings from Hong Kong's TVB. The response was, however, that ISDs weren't actually something to be worried about.

Then things exploded, and are particularly problematic here in the UK where it was recently revealed a million ISD boxes were sold over the past two years. Funny that. [TorrentFreak]